By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE)organization was virtually demolished in May 2009 by the Sri Lankan armed forces in a series of battles in the Karaithuriapatru AGA division of Northern Mullaitheevu district.
The LTTE leader Veluppillai Prabhakaran and almost all his senior deputies and commanders were killed along with thousands of cadres in the fighting that also incurred a large number of civilian casualties.
More than ten thousand LTTE members surrendered to the armed forces and were detained at special camps. A few thousands of these ex-tiger cadres have been rehabilitated and released. The rest will be released gradually. Legal proceedings will be initiated against hard-core members numbering about a thousand.
The important outcome of the Mullivaaikkaal debacle in May 2009 is that the fighting has come to an end. It is noteworthy that the tiger brand of violence has ceased in Sri Lanka. There has been no LTTE sponsored violence in any part of the Island for the past Eighteen months.
Even as the Country heaves sighs of relief over the absence of tiger inspired violence and moves forward sluggishly to heal the wounds and scars of war there does loom large the question of whether the current peace is permanent or merely an interlude.
At the heart of this question is the concern or apprehension that there could be a resurgence of the Liberation Tigers in the near future leading to a resumption of violence again.
What is worrisome is that a revival of LTTE violence could upset the slow but steady return to normalcy being experienced by the Country in general and the Tamil inhabited regions in particular. The limited progress towards lasting peace and true reconciliation would receive a major setback.
A man in a wheelchair moves along the A9 near Paranthan ~ pic: courtesy: IRIN
More alarming and dangerous is the irredeemable harm such an eventuality could cause to the Sri Lankan Tamil people. Decades of war conducted in the Northern and Eastern provinces has battered and shattered the Tamil people. They are now pitifully struggling to rise from the ashes and dust and emancipate themselves economically and socially.
A resumption of political violence spearheaded by the LTTE could alter the situation drastically. The Sri Lankan state would most definitely crack down hard and resort to iron – fisted rule again. Apart from the process of normalisation being reversed the state could also embark on some extreme measures aimed at transforming the current demographics of the North and East.
Walking along the A9 near Paranthan, 3km north of Kilinochchi
Ground realities however are against a tiger revival. Given the fact that the security apparatus in the North and East remains intact and that the relationship between the people of those areas and the armed forces has improved considerably the prospects of a LTTE resurgence seem remote.
Also the priorities of the Tamil people are rehabilitation, re-settlement and revival of economic conditions as opposed to resumption of violence. After decades of armed conflict that has left them in ruins the debilitated Tamil people are in no mood for violence again though a few irresponsible Tamil Parliamentarians do engage in chest thumping rhetoric.
What is troubling however is the Diaspora factor.
Even though the LTTE received the death blow in Sri Lanka, its overseas structures were not affected. LTTE branches, fronts, businesses and media organs functioned as usual. Despite internal squabbling the tiger and pro-tiger sections of the Tamil Diaspora continue to espouse the Tamil Eelam cause and fly the tiger flag wherever possible.
In a deceptive move the claim is made that the tiger flag is not that of the LTTE but that of Tamil Eelam. Misrepresentations are made to sections of the mainstream media abroad and a new generation of non – Tamil speaking Tamil youths that the roaring tiger is the Tamil national flag.
Rallying in Ottawa ~ Mar 2009: pic: Mike G
The LTTE and pro-LTTE elements abroad have lost considerable power and clout after the military defeat of the LTTE in 2009.Internal dissension and factionalism has caused much damage to the movement. A striking example of this is the pronounced antipathy displayed by the one –time tiger media flagship “Tamilnet” towards the Transnational Tamil Eelam Government of its self – styled Prime Minister Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran
Gone are the days when the LTTE could mobilise thousands of flag waving demonstrators at short notice in important Western cities. A large number of tiger media organs have ceased to operate. Fund raising has not completely dried up but has certainly dwindled. Many “benami’s” holding or managing property and enterprises owned by the LTTE have begun “appropriating” them or selling them and running off with the money.
Hilarious too is the overnight transformation of many “educated” tiger supporters with impressive academic and professional qualifications. These people who justified every action of the LTTE including the assassination of those with different opinions have now become champions of human rights. They shamelessly align themselves with reputed human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group and talk of human rights violations by the Sri Lankan state
Another two-legged feline species that has emerged abroad after the decline of the LTTE in Sri Lanka are the “Internet warriors”. A whole range of websites and e-mail groups have been formed. The websites publish mostly fabrications and outright lies about the situation in Sri Lanka. The e-mail warriors continue to exchange fiery missives among themselves hoping and yearning for the collapse of the Rajapaksa regime and resurrection of the LTTE.
Amusing as these antics are the prospects of a LTTE resurgence and resumption of violence are not dismissed lightly by Western Law enforcement agencies. These agencies are concerned that there is some method in the Diaspora madness and that the spectre of a resurgent LTTE fomenting violence again cannot be ruled out.
These agencies opine that a resumption of tiger violence cannot achieve any worthwhile objective and would be ruthlessly crushed by the Sri Lankan state. Nevertheless the possibility of a violent resurgence is not ruled out. There is also concern about the potential impact of such an abortive impact on the current climate of normalisation.
Western law –enforcement agency concerns about a tiger revival are shared by their counterparts in India too. A top level delegation of security and intelligence officials was in Sri Lanka some weeks ago for talks with Sri Lankan officials. A key issue discussed was about the possibilities of LTTE re-grouping and eruption of violence.
The Indian delegation also conducted a lengthy interview with Selvarasah Pathmanathan alias KP in Colombo. The former chief arms procurer of the LTTE now in the custody of Sri Lanka was asked a lot of questions about the possibility of a tiger resurgence and the role of the pro-tiger Diaspora. India seems quite concerned about the possibility of Indian soil being used for such an attempt. Sri Lankan officials were present during this interview with KP.
Currently legal proceedings are on about the extension of the proscription on the LTTE by India. The ban has been in force since 1992 and is periodically extended evey two years. This time the pro-LTTE lobby is putting up a spirited fight in courts against the ban extension. The Central and Tamil Nadu state governments are firmly arguing for an extension as they entertain legitimate fears of a potential LTTE re-grouping and resurgence in India.
There is however an important difference between Western nations and India over the possibility of a LTTE resurgence.
Western nations too are for a united, undivided Sri Lanka but would be tolerant of Tamil Eelam advocacy on their soil by Tamil Diaspora members as long as such activity remains democratic and non – violent. The Transnational Tamil Eelam Govt for example has held two open conventions in Philadelphia and New York even though the LTTE is proscribed in the USA as a foreign terrorist organization.
In the case of India it is different. Given bitter experience of the past it is highly unlikely that any tolerance would be shown to the LTTE or its sympathisers. If any loophole is provided the anti-state adherents and lunatic fringe separatists of Tamil Nadu would exploit it to rally their fortunes. The Naam Thamizhar Iyakkam (We Tamil Movement) formed by Film director/actor Sebastian Seeman has the tiger as its emblem.
Apart from the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi the past stupidity of the LTTE in training and providing arms to Manipur extremists is something India cannot overlook or condone. It is in India’s long term interests to prevent the growth of an organization like the LTTE.Thus even democratic,non – violent espousal of Tamil Eelam and propagation of tiger ideology is not likely to be allowed beyond a certain point in India.
It is a moot point as to whether concerns and suspicion shared by some western nations and India about a possible LTTE resurgence and consequent violence are valid in the current situation. How potent is the LTTE within the global Tamil Diaspora and what are the chances of the tigers unleashing violence again in Sri Lanka?
The Tiger and pro-tiger structures abroad can be broadly classified into two categories. One is the group consisting of organizations that are either fronts or sympathetic to the LTTE. Since the LTTE is banned in most western countries and the LTTE itself has been demolished in Sri Lanka many of these organizations do not openly support the LTTE now. Some even try to distance themselves from the tigers overtly while retaining covert loyalty.
The organizations in this category are of three types. One is the Transnational Tamil Eelam Government (TGTE) and organizations,media and individuals aligned to it. New York based Lawyer Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran known generally as Rudra is the driving force behind the TGTE. Earlier Rudra was the legal adviser to the LTTE international secretariat and participated in the Oslo brokered Govt-LTTE peace talks as a resource person of the LTTE delegation.
Rudra was unanimously elected as the TGTE “Prime minister” and has recently announced a Transnational cabinet of three deputy –premiers, seven ministers and ten deputy-ministers. Two ministers and three deputy ministers are from the fairer sex. The TGTE assembly has a male speaker and female deputy speaker.Rudra is also planning to set up a Senate or second chamber.
While “Prime minister” Rudrakumaran and his ministers and deputy ministers provide comic relief to a number of observers, senior officials of some western nations are somewhat receptive to the TGTE concept at present. These officials feel that such democratic activity could wean emotional members of the Diaspora away from potential violence.
Some members of the TGTE harbour illusions of their self-importance and status. One “cabinet” minister is awaiting an official invitation from Colombo to touch down at Katunayake as a state guest of the Rajapaksa government on par with Indian Foreign minister SM Krishna. Others anticipate invitations for official negotiations with representatives of the Sri Lankan government.
The reality is that all identified members of the TGTE are black listed by Colombo and there is no prospect of the organization being treated seriously as a legitimate negotiating partner. Still the TGTE members delude themselves and deceive their supporters through these grandiose hallucinations.
Western officials however are willing to humour TGTE officials and would even have low-level unofficial talks with them because they perceive the Rudrakumaran set-up as a harmless joke and lesser of the evils.
The greater evil in western security perception are the structures controlled or guided by the Nediyavan faction. Those within the Nediyavan orbit of influence are the various LTTE branches, the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) and its constituents and the newly formed Peoples fronts and national councils in different countries.
The Global Tamil Forum consists of fourteen organizations in different countries. Chief among these are the British Tamil Forum(BTF) of UK and Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC)of Canada. The BTF has been quite active and has established contact at high levels with many British politicians and media personalities. The CTC has not done as well and is constantly embarrassed by the bombastic pronouncements of its chief spokesperson and public face David Poopalapillai whose brothers in law were Vasudeva former deputy leader of PLOTE and journalist “Taraki” Sivaram.
Constituent members of the GTF enjoy a certain amount of autonomy and adopt contrary positions on issues. There are divisions within member constituents too. The GTF is headed by Rev Fr. SJ Emmanuel, former Catholic Vicar-General of the Jaffna diocese. Fr. Emmanuel now based in Germany speaks out in a moderate, pious manner that is most becoming of a man of cloth.
However it is open knowledge that the clergyman holds rigid, hawkish views on the Tamil national question and is the ideological “Godfather” to Nediyavan and his minions.
Much has been written in these columns about Nediyavan whose real name is Perinbananayakam Sivaparan. He had been earlier appointed co-ordinator of overseas LTTE branches by Manivannan alias Castro the former LTTE leader in charge of tiger operations abroad. After Castro’s death last year, Nediyavan has been in de-facto control of LTTE overseas branches.
Perinpanayagam Sivaparan’s nom de guerre “Nediyavan” means Tall man. In recent times he has changed it to “Nediyon” which means the same but is in chaste Tamil and has a ring of respectability about it.
Thirty-four year old Nediyavan had joined the LTTE when he was 18. He was sent to Russia for higher education by the LTTE but apparently Sivaparan did not complete his degree there.
Nediyavan functioned in the LTTE’s political wing and accompanied former LTTE political commissar Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan for the 4th round of peace talks in Thailand. Thereafter he re-located to Europe.
The LTTE during the peace talks period from 2002-2005 had sent a number of operatives abroad. Most of these cadres were from the political and intelligence wings. Nediyavan took up residence in Norway.
Sivaparan alias Nediyavan married Sivagowri Shanthamohan. Her father’s brother was Gnanendramohan alias Ranjan Lala. Gnanendramohan was one of the pioneering members of the LTTE and a trusted confidante of Prabhakaran. Ranjan Lala was shot in Jaffna by the Army when riding a motor cycle.
This matrimonial alliance strengthened Nediyavan’s clout within the LTTE.With Castro’s authority he resisted KP taking over as global tiger chief. After KP’s capture in Malaysia last August, Nediyavan or Nediyon was able to establish greater control of the LTTE overseas branches.
The TGTE concept was originally a brainchild of KP. Rudrakumaran regarded as a KP loyalist was entrusted with the task of steering the TGTE project even when KP was a free man. After KP’s capture all contact between KP and Rudra was lost. Rudrakumaran took over the project in full and devoted his time and talents towards implementing it.
The Nediyavan cabal perceived Rudrakumaran and the TGTE as a KP projection. It tried in many ways to obstruct its progress. One was to set up a rival network of transnational Tamil organizations. Another was to gain directional control of the Global Tamil Forum by exerting influence on Fr.Emmanuel.
The Nediyavan faction set up a network of organizations in the countries with large concentrations of Tamils. They were called Peoples Assemblies and/or national councils. As in the case of the TGTE where democratic elections were held in each country the Nediyavan network also held polls.
Despite these endeavours the TGTE concept grabbed the popular imagination and attracted people of a qualitatively higher calibre. So the Nediyavan faction changed tactics and began infiltrating the various TGTE chapters. A brazen attempt to topple Rudrakumaran was made by backing former Batticaloa TNA Parliamentarian Jeyanandamoorthy as a challenger to Rudrakumaran. The “mathiyuraingar” or adviser to Nediyavan in these matters is Jeyachandran Gopinath alias Jeya the Norway based editor of “Tamilnet”.
TamilNet & TGTE
That attempt failed miserably as Jeyanandamoorthy was no match for Rudrakumaran. Realising that Rudrakumaran was unassailable the Nediyavan cabal revised its approach again and conspired to reduce or restrict Rudrakumaran’s powers as Prime Minister. That attempt too was foiled and the Nediyavan faction is licking its wounds and preparing for the next onslaught against Rudrakumaran
While the internecine rivalry between the Rudrakumaran and Nediyavan factions does cause some concern, Western law –enforcement authorities do not perceive it as a serious source of worry. There have been several incidents of low-level violence among supporters and activists of both groups in different countries. Even the TGTE conclave in New York witnessed friction between two violent groups and brandishing of pen knives.
Despite these signs the western law enforcement authorities do not fear a serious threat to law and order. In fact some officials see the intra- Tamil “competition” as a healthy sign of inner democracy flourishing amidst the Tamil Diaspora. They are also not hostile to activity such as hunger fasts, public demonstrations, sit-in’s, marathon walks, effigy burning etc as they are all perceived as legitimate forms of democratic dissent and protest.
While public protests and demonstrations by visible and accountable entities are not viewed with disfavour there is much concern about the less visible , non – accountable shady forms of activity. What is feared most is a resurgence of the LTTE and resumption of violence in Sri Lanka with its related consequences and repercussions. There is a general feeling that the Diaspora should not be permitted to sponsor and finance violence in Sri Lanka.
There has been a general consensus among western nations for quite a while that their soil should not be allowed to be used to raise funds for “terrorism” anywhere including Sri Lanka. It was as part of this consensus that the screws were applied on LTTE fund raising activity a few years ago. Countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, Britain, France and Switzerland took action against prominent LTTE leaders and fundraisers.
After the Mullivaaikkal debacle there was a short lull in these actions as most Western nations were sympathetic to the plight of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the war. The expectation was that these tiger and pro-tiger outfits claiming to be concerned about the Tamil predicament in Sri Lanka would garner as much money as possible and channel it for constructive purposes such as rehabilitation and resettlement.
That did not happen. Instead the tiger and pro-tiger organizations are conducting a vicious campaign against anyone helping the Internally displaced Tamil people of the North and East. If this was a disgusting exhibition of callous disregard for the Tamil people there was also disturbing information about fund raising for different destructive objectives.
This sent alarm bells ringing and the recent months have seen a crackdown in several countries on LTTE fund raisers and prominent activists again . Netherlands, Germany and Italy have taken a number of tiger activists into custody at different times. Some more arrests and detention of suspected LTTE fund raisers in other countries are expected in the near future.
LTTE fund raising has dropped drastically after the events of May 2009. Money is being collected mainly from hard core LTTE supporters and activists now. The volume of funds raised has dropped to 10 – 15 % of what it was a few years ago. Despite this sharp drop what perturbs security officials are the ostensible purposes for which some of these funds are being collected.
At one level funds are being raised for purported legal action against the Rajapakse regime and senior military officials. There is much talk of hauling the President, Defence secretary and high ranking officers of the armed forces before International tribunals as alleged war criminals. There is also talk of collecting evidence of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Fund raising for these purposes are being done at one level among relatively sophisticated sections of the Tamil Diaspora. To those educated Tamils with high qualifications the notion of legal action against president Rajapakse and other senior officials is an alluring prospect no matter how unrealistic the proposed project is.
So appealing is this scenario that quite a number of Diaspora professionals and academics have been contributing large sums for these plans. Some western lawyers and experts have been minting money off these gullible Diaspora suckers. One legal eagle was being paid 1000 US dollars per day as a retainer for more than three months until recently. There is a Tamil saying about the “all knowing Gecko (arappadicha Palli)falling into the pot of Kool (stew)”. These antics remind one of that saying.
What is sad about these things is that thousands of deprived Tamils are eking out a miserable existence in the North and East. These funds could be used to help them rather than being squandered on quixotic projects. The Tamil Diaspora which funded and fuelled the war that has caused misery to Tamils bears a moral responsibility. It needs to express remorse and make amends .Instead these sections go on in the same old way claiming now to seek justice for the dead while ignoring the pitiful condition of affected people who are like the “living dead”.
However comical and unrealistic these attempts may be the western law enforcement authorities are not too concerned about fund raising for legal purposes. What is of concern is the other type of fund raising being done clandestinely among sections of the Tamil Diaspora. These relate directly to the resurgence of the LTTE and resumption of violence.
Currently LTTE activists and fund raisers are going around collecting money in different Western countries. They have a common story with variations in recital depending upon the target audience and narrator. The story in essence is something like this-
“LTTE leader Prabhakaran and Intelligence chief Pottu Amman are safe in a secret location with 2000 experienced tiger cadres. They broke through the military and naval cordon and reached safety a few days before the Mullivaakkal debacle.They are keeping a low profile for obvious reasons. But plans are afoot to launch a concerted attack on the North and East of Sri Lanka and capture strategic territory after annihilating or driving the armed forces away”.
“Meanwhile 10,000 cadres are being trained at other secret locations in different batches. The idea is to launch an all out assault under the overall command of Prabakharan and Pottu Amman. The combined force of 12,000 LTTE cadres will wrest back the territory of Tamil Eelam and reverse the prevailing military situation”
“As part of this military strategy we are also planning to conduct a series of coordinated landmine and bomb attacks in various parts of the seven Sinhala majority provinces. For this we are enlisting several Sinhala ex – service personnel through hefty bribes and payments. They will get into action at the right time in concert with our main attack”.
“For all these plans to bear fruit we need money. We can’t ask each and every person. Neither can we issue a public appeal. We can only depend on a few trusted and committed persons like you. So please give what you can”
This then is the basic story being told by tiger fund raisers to collect money.
When I first heard this story I burst into laughter. I realised however that the narrator of this story seriously believed it and was trying to convince me of its bona fides. So I put on a straight face. Subsequently I heard the same story being repeated by different sources from different countries.
Later I exchanged notes with a Western journalist who specialises in “terrorism” and has wide contacts with several national security and intelligence officials. This journalist told me that many security officials too had been dismissive of the story when they first heard it but were baffled by the intensity of those believing it to be true. They are also perturbed by the fact that some people at least are providing funds for this “mission impossible”.
The fact that an idiotic story like this is being circulated so widely and for so long is indeed a cause for concern. This shows that a large number of people are prepared to believe this story and contribute money. If people had raised doubts and refused to contribute the story-tellers would have either stopped spreading it or related a different tale. Since this story continues to be told it can only mean that it is yielding dividends.
This Columnist firmly believes that Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman are no more and that the bulk of the LTTE has been destroyed. Those who surrendered are being detained and released in stages after being rehabilitated. There may be some LTTE operatives and members of the supportive network who have evaded capture so far in Sri Lanka. But these people too are being systematically hunted and apprehended.
Given current global realities there is no country in the world that would tolerate the LTTE training 12,000 cadres for a military assault against Sri Lanka. Besides a launching pad for such an operation can only be in the South Asian or South East Asian region. This is impossible given India’s position.
The prospect of paying ex- service personnel to place landmines and trigger bomb explosions in a coordinated manner is also a soaring flight of fancy. Intelligence chief Pottu Amman had reportedly paid off many people in the defence services to engage in sabotage earlier. Such attempts were thorough failures. The level of genuine patriotism among members or ex-members of the armed forces would negate such attempts. Even an ex –soldier angered over the treatment meted out to Sarath Fonseka will not take LTTE cash and explode a bomb.
More importantly the security situation in the country is firmly under control. No large scale sabotage is possible. Equally impossible is a naval invasion envisaged by these LTTE remnants. Given the disparity of numbers between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the assault force estimated to be 12,000 and also the lack of naval and air support, the proposed tiger invasion would turn into a wholesale massacre if ever it occurred
Even if a small assault force was able to land and infiltrate or penetrate into the interior such a force would not be able to survive for long. That is the prevailing military reality today.
Inside the makeshift home of a returnee family in Jaffna district in Sri Lanka’s north
Against such a backdrop the attempts by LTTE activists abroad to garner funds for a military assault on Sri Lanka can only be termed as part of a gigantic hoax to hoodwink Diasporic gullibles out of some money. Given the level of blind hatred and irrational anger among sections of the Diaspora, a certain quantum of funds is likely to be procured for the invasion project. The stark reality is that such a project cannot take off or materialise.
To the question posed “will there be a violent resurgence of the LTTE soon”? the emphatic answer can only be a resounding NO!
Although the grand project of an all out military assault is an impossibility the tiger and pro –tiger Diaspora is certainly capable of continuing to be a source of trouble and irritation.
It would be interesting and informative therefore to scrutinise the tiger and pro-tiger sections of the Tamil Diaspora more closely in a forthcoming article.
TO BE CONTINUED
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org