Nadarajah Matheenthiran ,chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) head in France was shot dead in Paris on Thursday November 8th night by “unkown” assassins . 49 year old Matheenthiran known as “Parithy” was in charge of the LTTE front organization -Tamil Coordinating committee(TCC). Matheenthiran known by the nom de guerre“Regan” when functioning as a tiger cadre in Sri Lanka was killed around 9.20 pm opposite the TCC office at 341, Rue des Pyrénées in Paris.
According to early Media reports emanating from France , Matheenthiran alias Parithy aka Regan was leaving the TCC office to go home when two men on a scooter drew close and fired at him. Though hit by a bullet the injured Matheenthiran tried to run away but fell down near a bus stop.
The assassins wearing helmets and scarves masking their faces turned the two wheeler around, came near him, fired again thrice at close quarters and sped away.Matheenthiran had reportedly died on the spot and was clinically pronounced dead upon admittance to hospital. Parithy was hit in the back,chest, abdomen and groin. A 9 mm pistol had been used.
French Police investigating the killing are working on the premise that the killing was due to an internal feud between two factions of the LTTE. Matheenthiran who was appointed head of LTTE operations in France by former tiger supremo Veluppillai Prabhakaran was head of the larger faction which controlled most LTTE activity in Paris.
Matheenthiran alias Parithy was in charge as the accredited “poruppaalar” or administrator/coordinator of the TCC in France. However due to legal issues on account of his earlier arrest and subsequent release on conditional bail ,he was not holding any post “officially” at the time of his death but was functioning “unofficially” as head of the LTTE.
French Police have arrested two suspects on Sunday Nov 11th and Monday Nov 12th.One was arrested in the Barbes neighbourhood and the other from Villeneuve –Saint – Georges (Val-de-marne). Police have emphasized that the arrested persons are only suspects and were taken into custody for further investigations.
The French Police have also recorded statements from Parithy’s friends and colleagues that are contradictory of each other. Some refute the intitial statement that the assassin or assassins had come on a two-wheeler.According to some conflicting statements Parithy and three of his comrades were standing at the bus stop to go home when a gunman had fired from behind shattering the glass panes.
The four had then started running with Parithy trying to cross the road but the gunman had fired and hit the LTTE activist. The gunman had then run up to the fallen Parithy and pumped more bullets in his body.He had then got into a car which arrived there and gone away. Apparently Parithy was returning by bus as his own car was being repaired .
Other statements are different saying Parithy had received a telephone call to meet someone outside and gone out alone. The person he had gone to meet was on a scooter near the bus stand and as Parithy walked up to him shots were fired which killed him.
Another statement reportedly was even more different. According to this version Parithy and another friend were walking on the road when a scooter with two men in helmets with visors had drawn up close. Shots were fired and Parithy was hit. He ran a few yards and fell. Thereafter one assassin got down and walked up to the fallen Parithy and fired at close quarters. He then got on to the pillion of the scooter which had then turned around and sped away.
Adding to the confusion are various reports in the overseas Tamil media. Some reports say that Parithy’s wife and daughter were at the Tamil Coordinating Committee office premises at the time of the shooting. These reports say that Parithy was not returning home but had gone down to meet someone quietly and had been killed. Other reports say his wife and daughter were at home and not in the office when the killing occurred.
The French Police are also receiving a lot of “complaints” from Tamil residents in France that Sri Lankan Intelligence operatives were responsible for the killing, Various statements by overseas Tamil organizations, Tamil politicians from Tamil Nadu and Tamil media reports also make such allegations. Some imply that the Vinayakam faction of the LTTE are controlled by Sri Lankan intelligence.
According to a news report in “The Sunday Leader” the Sri Lankan Embassy in France termed as “ridiculous” accusations that the military intelligence was behind the assassination of a former LTTE commander in France.Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to France, Dayan Jayatilleka, told The Sunday Leader that the French law enforcement authorities are investigating the incident.
“It would not be appropriate for me to comment on something that is obviously under investigation by the French authorities, except to say that the culture of lethal violence of the Tiger/pro-Tiger milieu seems to be very much intact. It is this culture of violence that exercises tremendous psychological coercion upon and within the Tamil Diaspora and prevents the emergence of truly democratic, pluralist politics. As for the ridiculous accusations by certain pro-secessionist propagandist websites, I am quite certain that the French law enforcement authorities will investigate this crime and identify, apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators as well as those behind it,” Jayatilleka said.
Meanwhile Tamil organizations in France and abroad are mobilizing public opinion against the Sri Lankan Govt through a systematic campaign which portrays Parithy as a “martyr” dying for the Tamil cause. It is being projected as an extension and continuation of the “war”.
A report in “MetroFrance” states as follows –
“A tribute to Nadarajah Mathinthiran gathered Monday(12th) afternoon 400 people, many of whom accused the Sri Lankan government of being behind the murder. The demonstrators gathered in a small square of the twentieth arrondissement, near the scene of drama, under heavy police protection. An altar draped in orange and red tissue has been installed, with candles and a picture of the victim overcome the word “Justice”. In the crowd, many men and women were in tears.
Unlike some other overseas LTTE leaders Parithy has a colorful history behind him. He was not one of those who became a “tiger warrior” after relocating safely to the west. Parithy was a tiger steeled in the battle-fields of Sri Lanka as a full-fledged member of the LTTE.
Nadarajah Matheenthiran hails from the Jaffna off-shore Island area Naranthanai which forms part of the Kayts electoral division.He studied at Jaffna Central College where he completed his GCE advanced levels but failed to gain University admittance.
When the anti- Tamil pogrom of July 1983 occurred a number of Tamil youths were emotionally roused and joined the various Tamil militant movements. Matheenthiran threw in his lot with the LTTE. He formed part of the LTTE second batch of cadres to receive arms training in India. Matheenthiran along with persons like Bhanu and “Ideas” Vasu received training in the North Indian state of Himachala Pradesh.
Matheenthiran assumed the nom de guerre Regan after the then USA President Ronald Reagan.However he spelled his name Regan without the “a”. After a brief stint in Tamil Nadu , Matheenthiran alias Regan returned to northern Sri Lanka.
Regan was assigned to the Mannar district command under Victor. He participated in the legendary Adampan battle where Victor was killed and the LTTE captured two soldiers alive as prisoners of war. After Victor’s death, Radha took over the Mannar LTTE command. Regan served under him too.
Radha was moved to Jaffna in 1987 after the bomb attack on ex-Jaffna LTTE commander Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias Kittu in which the ex-Jaffna LTTE chief lost a leg. Regan too went to Jaffna with Radha. Regan was injured in combat in May 1987 during the “Vadamaratchy” operation.
After the Indo-Lanka accord was signed on July 29th 1987 and peace prevailed Regan went over to Tamil Nadu for treatment. He had suffered injuries to the top of his calf behind the knee resulting in damage to his peroneal nerve. This in turn led to the condition known as “foot drop” or “drop foot”.
This is a condition that presents a limp-like, weak foot that causes difficulty when walking. With foot drop a person loses the ability to raise the foot at the ankle. The condition causes the person to lift the afflicted foot high to allow the toes to clear the ground.
While Regan was in Tamil Nadu he stayed with Castro who was in charge of the LTTE office in Chennai. They became close friends. War broke out between the LTTE and the Indian Army in 1987. Many of the tigers in Tamil Nadu were rounded up and detained.In 1989 all the LTTE members in India were brought to Sri Lanka by the Indian authorities.82 of them were detained in Kankesanthurai. Matheenthiran alias Regan was one of them
All LTTE detenues were released after the complete withdrawal of the Indian army in 1990.The short-lived peace ushered in through talks with Ranasinghe Premadasa was shattered in June 1990. Full –scale war erupted.
At this point of time Regan was assigned military command of the Northern Islands region .His regional political commissar was Castro. The LTTE was driven back from the Islands in August-September 1990 through a combined Army-Navy assault codenamed “Operation Major”.Regan was injured again.
He was clandestinely ferried across to India for medical treatment in Tamil Nadu.He stayed for many months there. It was then that the LTTE assassinated former Indian Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 21st 1991. There was a huge crackdown. Regan moved to Kerala and maintained a low profile.
Disgusted over these post –Rajiv developments,Regan decided to quit the movement.He cut off contacts with the leadership and reached France through his own initiative. He maintained a low profile in Paris and did not associate with the LTTE branches in France.
It was then that the former LTTE deputy –leader Gopalaswamy Mahendrarajah alias Mahathaya was charged with treachery by the Prabha-Pottu Amman duo and incarcerated. Later he was executed.Some LTTE dissidents in France protested at the treatment meted out to Mahathaya and put up posters in Paris. Regan was also involved in this.
The LTTE international spokesperson at that time was Lawrence Thilagar who was based in Paris. Thilaghar complained to the leadership in Sri Laka about Regan’s involvement. This resulted in Regan becoming insecure and moving away from Paris.Thereafter he led a reclusive life without any involvement in LTTE politics.
This stay away from Paris proved to be beneficial. After some years a “blemishless” Regan obtained citizenship entitling him to a French passport.
The Oslo facilitated ceasefire brought about conditions of peace in 2002. Matheenthiran now wanted to visit Sri Lanka particularly the LTTE controlled Wanni. He contacted his old comrade Castro who obtained approval from the LTTE leadership and provided a guarantee of safety.
Matheenthiran alias Regan then travelled to Sri Lanka from France. He stayed for some days in Kilinochchi where he met the LTTE police chief Balasingham Mahendran alias Nadesan. While conversing Nadesan came to know that Regan was a French citizen.
The overseas LTTE administration responsibility had been transferred to Castro from KP. Castro in turn was removing the existing branch officials as he felt they were all KP loyalists. The LTTE head for France, Velummayilum Manoharan alias Mano had also been removed.There was a vacancy in France.
Nadesan suggested to LTTE chief Prabhakaran that Regan could be appointed in charge of France. Castro too concurred. Despite the circumstances of Regan quitting the LTTE and the Mahathaya protest poster episode ,Prabhakaran felt Regan would be suitable.
Nadesan and Castro met Regan and made the offer but Matheenthiran was reluctant.Later his former comrades and senior commanders Bhanu and Jeyam met Matheenthiran and persuaded him to accept. Regan however wanted to hear directly from Prabhakaran.
A meeting was arranged where Regan met the leader one to one. When Prabhakaran made the offer directly,Matheenthiran could not refuse.He accepted and became the new LTTE chief for France.
The LTTE due to the efforts of Ilankumaran and Thamilendhi was now “Tamilising” names and nomenclatures in the movement. So when Matheenthiran was re-absorbed into the movement the nom de guerre “Regan” was replaced with “Parithy” meaning sun.
Matheenthiran now known as Parithy returned to the city of lights in late 2003 and assumed control of the LTTE in France.The LTTE functioned under the front organization Tamil Coordinating Committee(TCC) in France. Its headquarters was at 341, Rue des Pyrénées in Paris.Parithy became the new TCC head in France.
In a significant departure from earlier norms,Parithy threw caution to the winds and began to issue news releases ,make announcements and stage events under the title of LTTE –France instead of using TCC as cover. This was welcomed by Prabhakaran and Castro who failed to realize the long –term implications of such rash moves.
But this was not all.The LTTE in France began acting in an unprecedented manner. Oblivious to the fact that they were in France the country which made the concepts”Liberty ,Equality and Fraternity”universally famous ,the tigers began replicating methods and tactics used in North-eastern Sri Lanka. A “reign of terror”sans the guillotine of revolutionary France was unleashed on the Tamil population.
The French Police cracked down on the LTTE in 2006 and arrested several tiger operatives including Matheenthiran in a series of raids. It was in October 2008 that 22 LTTE operatives went on trial in France. Most of the accused were charged with criminal conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, financing of terrorism or racketeering to finance terrorism. The chief accused was Parithy.The LTTE, was charged with extorting five million euros from the country’s 75,000 Tamils. Also in the dock was the Tamil Coordination Committee in France the LTTE front.
After protracted trial n November 2009 the LTTE operatives in France were sentenced. 20 out of 21charged were convicted.. An AFP report said the leader of the group Nadaraja Matheenthiran has been sentenced to seven years in prison for extorting USD 7.4 million (5 million Euros) as taxes from the Tamil community living in Paris and other surrounding areas to finance LTTE terrorist activities in Sri Lanka. The other 19 defendants were sentenced to six years imprisonment or less while one was acquitted. The court also ordered that the Coordinating Committee of Tamils-France be dismantled after ruling that it was a front for the LTTE.
Parithy and others appealed against the ruling and were out on bail. The TCC is also functioning pending its appeal against the ban.The French courts are expected to issue a ruling on the appeals very soon.Meanwhile Parithy himself was subjected to several conditions that entailed frequent reporting to Police. He was also debarred from holding office in the TCC but continued to flout it. French police were about to introduce a strict monitoring system to keep tabs on Parithy and his activities when he was killed.
Incidently Matheenthiran was the victim of an attack in Paris on Octoer 30th last year. Parithy and two of his aides had come out of the Tamil Coordinating Committee(TCC) office in Paris and were heading out to their parked vehicle when a gang of six surrounded them.
Three were wearing balaclavas ,a form of cloth headgear covering the head and exposing only the eyes,mouth and parts of the face.The balaclava wearers had weapons and began using them.The other three simply watched. Parithy later identified two of them as “former”members of the LTTE in Paris.The assailants apparently did not intend killing Parithy but only wanted to inflict wounds.
Apart from steel rods the assailants also used a “katana” a type of Japanese Samurai sword. The Katana is a moderately curved, slender, single edged blade with a circular or squared guard, and a long grip to accommodate two hands. The blade length is usually greater than 60 cm or 23.6 inches
The assailants slashed Parithy with the Samurai sword and also dealt a few blows with rods. The two aides were also beaten with rods but not hacked . Parithy sustained deep cuts and had to be hospitalised incurring 27 stitches.The attack on Parithy was considered to be of serious significance then because he was a high ranking tiger leader who headed the LTTE in France for many years. The attack was a warning to Parithy that he back off.
Against that backdrop the killing of Parithy is a serious development as he is the most senior LTTE leader to be assassinated due to overseas intra-tiger rivalry.There have been several such attacks elsewhere but the killing of Parithy assumes greater importance because of the nature of the assassination as well as the victim’s seniority in the movement.
The incident also effectively illustrated the nature and scope of the power struggle going on within the overseas LTTE. There are two broad factions swearing allegiance to two senior tiger operatives. One is Perinbananaygam Sivaparan alias “Nediyavan” based in Norway. The other is Segarampillai Vinayagamoorthy alias “Vinayagam” who operates from France and Germany.
A brief re-run of events after the fall of the LTTE in Sri Lanka is necessary to understand the current intra-tiger power struggle going on within the Tamil Diaspora.
The military debacle in May 2009 at Mullaitheevu saw LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran and a very large number of senior commanders being killed. Thousands of other LTTE cadres and supporters surrendered to the Armed Forces. This resulted in the virtual decimation of the LTTE in Sri Lanka.
The overseas structures of the LTTE however remained intact. The LTTE’s former chief arms procurer Selvarasah Pathmanathan who had been appointed head of LTTE international relations donned the mantle of leadership. KP’s attempt to become overseas LTTE leader on account of his seniority was strongly opposed by sections of the LTTE within the Diaspora.
Earlier the various branches and front organizations of the overseas LTTE were controlled by Veeragathy Manivannan alias Castro who was based in the Wanni.When the war escalated and communication between the headquarters in Wanni and the Diaspora LTTE structures became difficult, Castro appointed Nediyavan in Oslo as his representative. The overseras structures came under Nediyavan’s control.
KP had been at one time in charge of the overseas tiger branches. So when KP tried to take over LTTE leadership after Prabhakaran’s demise, Nediyavan and his cohorts resisted it as they did not want to relinquish control of the overseas structures. After much feuding and haggling a temporary truce was effected mainly through the efforts of some influential tiger leaders from the LTTE intelligence division stationed abroad.
The new arrangement saw KP assume leadership in a re-structured overseas LTTE. With the LTTE defunct in Sri Lanka the overseas LTTE was now “The LTTE”.The new leadership comprised several secretaries in charge of different departments and functions. KP was “Thalaimai Seyalar” or chief secretary with a “Thalaimai Seyalagam” or Chief Secretariat. Nediyavan was the secretary in charge of administering the LTTE branch network called “Kattamaippu”.
Even before he could assert his leadership forcefully in the re-structured LTTE,KP was captured in Malaysia and brought to Sri Lanka. This was a windfall for Nediyavan.With KP out of the way , it was easy for him to re-establish his hold over the overseas structures or “kattamaippu” of the LTTE again.The Nediyavan faction now condemns KP as a traitor and tries to undermine him through false allegations.
There were however some hiccups for Nediyavan. Chief among them was the emergence of Vinayagam in Europe. Segarampillai Vinayagamoorthy alias Vinayagam was a senior leader of the LTTE intelligence division. He was not in the Wanni when the Mullaitheevu debacle occurred.
Vinayagam later escaped from Sri Lanka and after spending some time in South and South –east Asia made his way to France where he reportedly applied for political asylum. He now shuttles between France and neighbouring Germany.
Vinayagam was one of those responsible for the temporary truce between Nediyavan and KP and also helped re-structure the overseas LTTE.He was then operating under the alias Kathirgamathamby Arivazhaghan. Vinayagam began interacting with various LTTE intelligence operatives scattered throughout the world and moulded them together as a cohesive group.
Initially Vinayagam and Nediyavan worked together but soon the alliance fell apart. The main reason for this was that the finances, businesses, properties and money-making ventures of the LTTE were under the overall control of Nediyavan who refused to “share” these with Vinayagam.
Vinayagam now revived the re-structured LTTE set up under KP’s leadership. He claimed that the “chief secretariat” set up then was the accredited hierarchy of the overseas LTTE. From that position Vinayagam and his group are now trying to establish greater control over the entire tiger overseas structure. Naturally Nediyavan and his loyalists resist.
This then is the crux of the power struggle. With the annual November 27 “Maaveerar Naal” or “Great Heroes Day” drawig near both factions are competing to stage celebrations and exert their respective grips on the Tamil Diaspora. Parithy who remained within the folds of the Nediyavan faction was an important tiger activist in Europe. Hence the French Police as well as knowledgeable sections of the Tamil Diaspora suspect Parithy to have been killed due to this power struggle.
This intra-tiger power struggle has seen several LTTE leaders being attacked in various parts of the world. Some incidents are reported but many go unreported. The attack on Parithy is not only the latest but arguably the most high-profile and serious incident in this overseas intra-tiger conflict.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at ~ firstname.lastname@example.org