Foreign mediated efforts  won’t bring reconciliation:KP



… reveals how he was taken to Gota’s residence from BIA

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The late LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s successor, T. S. Pathmanathan aka KP says Sri Lanka should strive to deal with domestic issues on its own without involving external elements. Former head of LTTE procurement section, the soft-spoken, KP points out that all previous attempts by foreign governments to address Sri Lanka’s problems failed.

In an exclusive with The Island, in Colombo on Wednesday, Prabhakaran’s one-time confidant recalling how their attempt to negotiate a settlement with the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa (May 1987-June 1990) had failed, revealed that he along with the then international face of the LTTE Anton Balasingham and Mannikkasothi had initiated a move that led to a secret meeting with the then UNP stalwart A. C. S. Hameed in Bangkok. "We had the opportunity to meet President Premadasa at Sucharitha for discussions on few occasions."

The LTTE resumed hostilities in the second week of June 1990. In some of the bloodiest fighting in the eelam war, the LTTE had the wherewithal to force the army to vacate its bases in the Vanni.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: Were you in contact with the LTTE during the last few months of eelam war IV? Did the LTTE leadership trapped in the Vanni ever openly acknowledge that the army could not be stopped?

A: Prabhakaran, his key commanders and an influential section of the Tamil Diaspora felt that Tamil Nadu would come to their rescue. They believed Tamil Nadu political parties could exploit a dicey political situation to compel Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene in Sri Lanka. We also sought the assistance of some UN officials and President of East Timor to arrange for a truce before the Army overran the last few sq km of territory held by the LTTE in the third week of May 2009.

Q: Do you believe the Tamil Diaspora can reach an understanding with the government due to the absence of LTTE’s military muscle?

A: There is a need for changing our attitude. The destruction of the LTTE’s military capability has not left room for us to do anything other than reviewing our position. The Diaspora must realize the ground situation in a post-war era and act accordingly.

Any fresh attempts to revive separatist sentiments would only cause trouble and therefore a tangible action plan is necessary to re-build the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The absence of military power would make things easy on the negotiating front.

The North-East Rehabilitation and Development Organisation (NERDO) is ready to facilitate those living abroad to visit Sri Lanka. They should not ignore this opportunity. About a year ago no one would have believed that freedom of movement in the Northern and Eastern provinces was possible.

Q: You are widely credited with running a highly successful procurement operation overseas? But some have claimed that you were replaced several years ago by another senior cadre? When did Prabhakaran replace you and why?

A: I was taken out in 2003. Prabhakaran personally handled the network through Castro. I had to play a low key role due to increased surveillance mounted by intelligence services.

KP acknowledged that Sri Lanka’s premier intelligence service had brought LTTE overseas network under heavy pressure.

Q: Why did LTTE engineer Ranil Wickremesinghe’s defeat at the November 2005 presidential election?

A: Prabhakaran felt that the then Prime Minister wasn’t strong enough to meet the challenging task of solving the national issue. Prabhakaran had successfully dealt with several Sri Lankan leaders before the advent of President Rajapaksa.

Q: Did LTTE consult you before resuming hostilities in August 2006.

A: I was not consulted by Prabhakaran before launching a massive multi-pronged attack on the security forces. Prabhakaran wanted me to help acquire urgently needed armaments and also explore the possibility of bringing international pressure to bear on Sri Lanka during the last few months of the war.

Prabhakaran never felt the need to consult anybody as long as he believed his military machine could help him pursue the eelam project.

Q: Some Tamil politicians feel threatened by your presence in Colombo and the possibility of you (LTTE rump) reaching an understanding with the government. Is there any likelihood of all Tamil political parties both in and out of parliament seeking a consensus on a common programme?

A: No one should feel threatened by my presence in Colombo. The need of the hour is a practical approach to the post-war issues. Let us take tangible action to provide assistance to the war displaced and help re-build the Northern and Eastern Provinces. I have absolutely no intention of competing with any politician or any other faction. For the benefit of the Tamil community, the Diaspora and political parties and groups active in Sri Lanka should forge a common alliance to uplift the living standards of the people. I have no political agenda or expect propaganda mileage at the expense of the long suffering civilians.

KP defended his decision to work with the government following his capture in the first week of August last year. He said it was ludicrous if anyone though anything could be done without engaging the government of Sri Lanka. Depending on the circumstances, he said "we would have to work with the relevant ministries, including Defence, External Affairs and the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation".

Q: Would you mind commenting on LTTE fund raising activity during the CFA?

A: The CFA gave a mega boost to our fund raising activity. There was no shortage of funds as we received vast amounts of money from various sources. Tsunami, too, brought us funds, though I could not comment specifically as I wasn’t involved in procurement. Castro, who ran our international branches from his base in Vanni, never cooperated with me. Following Prabhakaran’s killing in May last year, the Tamil Diaspora discussed all the issues including funds. Some of those who had controlled funds declined to cooperate, thereby causing a great deal of friction.

Q: How did your first meeting with the Defence Secretary go?

A: When I was apprehended and flown to Katunayake, I felt demoralized. I was anxious and believed my end was near. The collapse of the LTTE fighting formations in May and my capture in the first week of August 2009 caused me immense heartache. From Katunayake, I was driven to the residence of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya in Colombo, where I had the opportunity to meet the man widely believed to be an indefatigable and brilliant strategist. But within minutes, he allayed my fears and we had some tea and cake before I left the place. There were a few others including those who had planned my capture and brought me to Colombo.

As I entered the Defence Secretary’s residence, I saw a Buddha statue and felt confident that nothing bad could happen to me there.

With the blessings of the Defence Secretary, I brought nine Diaspora activists from Canada, UK, France, Switzerland, Australia and Germany to explore the possibility of cooperating in relief efforts. There is an urgent need to bridge a big gap between the ground reality and the thinking of the Diaspora. I had many sleepless nights before I went ahead with a plan to bring in the Diaspora activists to facilitate an understanding with the government. A section of the Diaspora is opposed to our move but at the end of the day there’ll be no way out. We’ll have to come to terms with an unprecedented situation in which the LTTE no longer wield military power. To the credit of the government, we were allowed to meet senior officials, including top Security Forces Commanders to exchange views. We never expected the army to welcome us warmly, particularly at Palaly, the main air base in the Jaffna peninsula. (Final part will be published tomorrow)

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