by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
(CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK)
Writing in these columns last week about the state of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) overseas network I noted that “the Tiger and pro-tiger structures abroad could be broadly classified into two categories”.
The first category is the group comprising organizations that are either fronts or sympathetic to the LTTE.
This category about which I wrote extensively last week ,consists of organizations such as the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) headed by New York lawyer Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, Global Tamil Forum(GTF) umbrella group under Germany based Catholic clergyman Fr.SJ Emmanuel and the network consisting of LTTE branches/fronts controlled by Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan living in Norway.
What I want to focus on this week is the second category of LTTE structures which is basically non-transparent and less accountable. This category is far more dangerous because of it’s secretive style of functioning and radical aims. It is in a sense the “real LTTE” within the Tamil Diaspora milieu.
Furthermore it seems to have acquired a new leader in the form of a senior tiger “Colonel” who was reported as being killed in February 2009 during the fighting.
Before elaborating further on this “resurrected” tiger leader and the re-grouping of the “real LTTE” under him I would like to emphasise some salient points about the three main groupings comprising the first category of LTTE or pro-LTTE structures abroad.
This category despite its relationship to the LTTE functions openly in various parts of the world. The TGTE and GTF activities are generally visible and transparent and even subscribe to a modicum of accountability in certain respects.
The TGTE which held two public conventions in Philadelphia and New York has a transparent administrative structure consisting of a 135 member assembly, Speaker, deputy speaker, Prime minister, three deputy premiers, seven cabinet ministers and ten deputy ministers. A second chamber of representatives will also be formed very soon. It is very likely that the TGTE would set up a permanent office in New York very soon within close proximity to the United Nations.
The TGTE has formulated an impressive program including that of rendering assistance to the affected Tamil people of North –eastern Sri Lanka. With all identified members of the TGTE being blacklisted and the Sri Lankan government having registered its opposition to the TGTE it remains to be seen as to how the organization hopes to implement its agenda. The TGTE is also under heavy pressure from the Nediyavan controlled faction.
The GTF umbrella network president is former Vicar-General of the Jaffna Catholic diocese Fr. S. J. Emmanuel. The GTF functions openly to a reasonable extent. Though comprising fourteen different organizations, the livewire of the GTF is the British Tamil Forum (BTF). Thanks to the efforts of the BTF the GTF has been able to set up a secretariat in London.
In what was perhaps a remarkable achievement the GTF has enlisted the services of former British Labour Party Parliamentarian Joan Ryan to be in charge of the GTF secretariat in London. Ryan will have two young researchers to assist her on a daily and weekly basis. The GTF is in the process of acquiring a full –fledged staff including public relations and press officers.
The GTF through its constituent members has engaged in dialogue with government ministers, legislators, high level administrators and media personnel of several western nations. The GTF claims that it is trying to help exert international pressure on the Colombo government to evolve an acceptable political solution while cooperating with international efforts to hold the Rajapaksa regime accountable for alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.
The network led be Nediyavan or Nediyon is somewhat different to the TGTE and GTF in the sense that it primarily consists of active LTTE branches and front organizations. With the LTTE being proscribed as a foreign terrorist organization in most western nations many of the identified tiger branches became dormant or transformed themselves into new entities. New fronts were also established.
The LTTE cabal headed by Nediyavan is guided by the self –styled “Mathiyurainjar” (Political adviser) Jeyachandran Gopinath alias Jeya Annai the Editor of LTTE website “Tamilnet”. Nediyavan’s group is firmly opposed to the TGTE led by Rudrakumaran and also all loyalists of former LTTE stalwart Selvarasah Pathmanathan alias KP. There is however some affinity between GTF President Fr. Emmanuel and Nediyavan with the former being regarded as the ideological godfather of the latter.
In a bid to counter the country –based chapters of Rudrakumaran’s TGTE the Nediyavan group also established a network of “elected” organizations in different countries among the Tamil Diaspora. These organizations were called either “Makkal’ Peravai” or “Thesiyap Peravai” (peoples or National Assemblies) in each country. These organizations held a series of referendums in different countries among the Tamil Diaspora to re-iterate support for the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) Vadukkoddai resolution which formally raised the demand for Tamil Eelam on May 14th 1976.
There has been in recent times strong moves within the GTF and the Nediyavan network to forge greater unity in a bid to isolate the TGTE faction led by Rudrakumaran. Unity talks between Fr. Emmanuel and Nediyavan’s representatives were scheduled to be held in Norway on Friday November 12th. “Tamilnet” Editorial board members based in Norway are the accredited facilitators of these talks.
Although I have placed the Nediyavan controlled network in the first category of Tiger and pro-tiger structures there are difficulties in rigidly compartmentalising it as such. This is because of an inherent duality. While these functionaries try to project themselves as democratic political activists at one level many of them at other levels are involved in shady activity. This is because these outfits are fundamentally LTTE branches pretending to be legitimate political formations
Thus the Nediyan network despite its pretensions to the contrary is not transparent or accountable when compared to the TGTE or GTF. It’s democratic credentials leave much to be desired.Many of Nediyavan’s followers are not committed to non – violence.
Moreover the Nediyavan network is shrouded in ambiguity with many activists having shady, controversial pasts. Many of the key office-bearers in different countries are members or ex-members of the LTTE and have arms training as well as battlefield experience.
Also in recent times many members of the Nediyavan faction have allegedly been involved in criminal activities such as drugs, smuggling, credit card frauds, currency counterfeit, passport forgery etc.
Much has been written in these columns about Nediyavan, his background and circumstances leading to his leadership position among the tiger and pro-tiger elements of the Tamil Diaspora. Nediyavan who joined the LTTE as an eighteen year old has obtained arms training and battlefield experience. After working as an intelligence operative , Nediyavan was sent abroad by his departmental head Veerakulasingham Manivannan alias Castro to be the chief co-ordinator of overseas LTTE branches.
Castro though paralysed from the neck downwards due to injuries sustained at the Elephant pass battle of 1991 was functioning until his death in May 2009 as the head of LTTE overseas administration. With communication between the LTTE headquarters and overseas branches becoming constricted because of the conflict escalating , Castro assigned Nediyavan greater autonomy in administering the overseas branches.
After Castro’s demise and the Mullivaaikkaal debacle in may 2009, Nediyavan took over overseas administration of the LTTE in full.Consequentially Nediyavan resented and resisted the leadership of Selvarasa Pathmanathan. This was in a sense a continuation of the rivalry between Castro and KP. As a result the LTTE structures in the Diaspora became sharply divided between factions loyal to KP and Castro.
The sensational capture of KP in Malaysia resulting in him being transported to Sri Lanka changed the scenario. Thereafter Nediyavan became dominant again.KP loyalists however rallied around Rudrakumaran and focused on setting up the TGTE. Serious efforts of the cabal led by Nediyavan to undermine, scuttle or capture the TGTE have failed and “Prime Minister” Rudra retains control of TGTE though relations between Rudra and KP are ruptured.
What is disturbing about the Nediyavan network is the preponderance of LTTE or ex-LTTE cadres among its key functionaries. For many years the overseas LTTE branches and fronts had been run or administered by supporters and activists who had not been members of the LTTE in Sri Lanka. Most ex-tigers who came abroad as refugees “hid” their tiger connections for obvious reasons and opted to integrate themselves as law abiding residents of host nations rather than identify with LTTE structures.
When the ceasefire came into force during the Oslo-brokered peace process from 2002 – 2005 the LTTE hierarchy took a decision to replace the overseas LTTE leadership with trained cadres from Sri Lanka. It was felt that the overseas branches were not functioning effectively because those administering them lacked the guts and qualities necessary to take risks and be dynamic functionaries.
As a result of this decision the LTTE utilised the ceasefire period to send a number of cadres overseas to take over the tiger set up there. The LTTE also got down to the Wanni some ex –tigers who had gone abroad earlier and obtained citizenship or permanent residence . The LTTE provided them with some leadership training and sent them back to their countries to take up leadership positions.
The LTTE also got down a number of overseas Tamil activists and gave them “all –round” training and sent them back to be in the forefront of pro-LTTE actions. A large number of these were youths.
As a result of these moves the LTTE branch leadership of at least 23 Countries was taken over by LTTE or ex-LTTE members with special training and field experience. Nediyavan was one of the forerunners in this enterprise and located himself in Norway . Being Castro’s blue –eyed boy he was placed in overall charge as chief co-ordinator of the overseas network.
Given the inherent attribute of secrecy and clandestine nature of the LTTE these overseas branches too generally adopted that mode.The ban on the LTTE in the west aggravated this tendency further. Moreover many operatives were involved in fund raising prohibited by the law. There was also the intimidation and physical violence. Adding to this was the involvement in crime.
So by its functional style and organizational structure the Nediyavan controlled network belong more to the second category of shady outfits even though I have placed it in the first category along with the TGTE and GTF. In short the Nediyavan network IS but not OF the first category.
Nediyavan’s primary task has been that of retaining control of the overseas LTTE network. He has succeeded to some extent in this after the capture of KP. Most of KP’s loyalists have given up the fight to control the overseas LTTE.
Instead they are now involved in supporting KP’s efforts to help rehabilitate and re-settle affected ex-LTTE cadres and civilians in the North and East through the NERDO . Rudrakumaran’s TGTE is more of an elitist organization without grassroots support among LTTE overseas branches.
Despite coming out on top, the Nediyavan network has been struggling to keep up LTTE morale within the Diaspora and continue with fund raising activity after the May 2009 debacle. The Nediyavan group has resorted to lies, fiction and myth creation to retain control and collect cash.
Chief among these is the tale that LTTE leader Prabhakaran and intelligence chief Pottu Amman are alive. In recent times there has been the bizarre story about an invasion of Sri Lanka by 12,000 LTTE cadres.
In spite of these efforts and incessant Tamil media propaganda the fund raising has shrunk to about 10 – 15 % of what it was two years ago. Many of the “benamis” running LTTE enterprises are appropriating them. Some are selling the LTTE property bought in their names and pocketing the money.
The singular drawback of the Nediyavan cabal in the past has been its inability to inspire faith and enthusiasm among the Tamil Diaspora that the LTTE is not a spent force and galvanise supporters into action.
This scenario however is undergoing a transformation due to a new development.The overseas tigers seem to have found a “leader” around whom key LTTE activists are rallying around. This is none other than Vinayakam a senior sea tiger leader who was reported as being killed in battle in February 2009.
The 55 division then led by Brigadier Prasanna de Silva launched a successful operation against the Sea tiger base in Challai on the Mullaitheevu coast in the first week of February 2009. Prasanna was later given command of 59 division and led the decisive attackk against LTTE positions in the Vattuvaagal area in May 2009. Subsequently promoted as General he is now serving at the Sri Lankan high commission in London
On Wednesday February 4th 2009, Gemunu Watch 4 of the 55-2 brigade overran sea tiger positions to the north of the base after crossing the lagoon. Lt. Col Sinnakkannan and Major Annavelan were among the notable tiger casualties on that day.
On the following day the soldiers demolished tiger defences and overran the sea tiger base with most LTTE defenders retreating. It was officially announced that among those killed were Sea tiger deputy -commander Vinayakam and senior sea tiger leaders Pahalavan, Kathir and Kannan. It was stated that Vinayakam was third in command of the Sea tigers next to Special commander Soosai and Commander Chezhiyan.
Both the Army spokesperson at that time Brig. Nanayakkara and Navy spokesman Capt. Dassanayake told the media about Vinayakam’s death. The incident was widely reported in Lanka and abroad.It was also said that the death of Vinayakam became known by monitoring the LTTE communications channels. It was also said that the body was not recovered.
The LTTE did not confirm or deny Vinayakam’s death then. But after the fall of Kilinochchi the LTTE had stopped relaying battlefront news in a systematic manner. It had also stopped honouring the dead fighters publicly or denying govt statements about tiger casualties. Nothing was heard about Vinayakam thereafter and it was generally assumed that the senior sea tiger commander was no more.
This apparently was not so. It is now being said that Vinayakam was not killed in the fight at the Challai sea tiger base. The story being told now is that Vinayakam had actually been secretly sent to India for a clandestine assignment a few weeks before the Challai sea tiger base fell. Vinayakam’s communications identity code was “Mike Four”. The LTTE had deliberately misled the security forces monitoring tiger communications into believing that mike four had been killed. It is alleged that the security forces had been deceived and announced to the world that Vinayakam the No 3 Sea tiger had been killed.
It is not known as to what Vinayakam’s mission in India was but it is being said that he had been assigned that task by Intelligence chief Pottu Amman with the approval of tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran. Apparently Vinayakam had been “transferred” to the Intelligence wing from the sea tigers in January 2009 on explicit instructions from Prabhakaran and entrusted with the Indian assignment.
Again it is not known as to how much or how well Vinayakam implemented the duties he was allegedly entrusted with in India. But after the comprehensive military defeat of the LTTE in May 2009 , Vinayakam had left India and reached Europe after spending some time in a South – East Asian country. He has now sought political asylum in a liberal Country on the Continent.
Even though the overseas LTTE claims that the senior sea tiger leader “Colonel” Vinayakam who was reported dead in February 2009 is alive and has surfaced in Europe doubts are entertained in some quarters about the claim. Some suspect that the LTTE is promoting another person by the name of Vinayakam in Europe as the new leader of the LTTE . The sea tiger leader Vinayakam is really dead it is stated.
The name Vinayakam refers to Pillaiyar or Ganesh the Elephant headed God in the Hindu Pantheon. Some of the finest “Bhakthi” or devotional songs are dedicated to Vinayakan the son of Lord Shiva and Parvathy and elder brother of Lord Muruga. (My favourite is “Vinayagane vinai theerpavane” by Seergali Govindarajan). Hindus generally begin any new task or commence journeys after worshipping Pillaiyar or Vinayakan.
The sea tiger leader with the nom de guerre Vinayakam hails from a sea-faring family in the Maruthankerny – Uduthurai sector in Vadamaratchy east division of Jaffna peninsula. He suffers from vision impairment in the left eye and is married to a girl from Vallipunam near Puthukkudiyiruppu in Mullaitheevu district
Vinayakam had joined the LTTE as a teen ager in the late eighties of the last century. He received local training in Northern Sri Lanka and first served at Chavakachcheri in the LTTE Thenmaratchy division . Former LTTE political commissar Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan known then by the nom de guerre Dinesh was the Thenmaratchy area commander with former sports division chief Pappa his second in command.
Vinayakam was transferred later to the intelligence division under Pottu Amman in the nineties. Vinayakam operated from a house close to Pottu Amman;s ancestral home off Anantha Vadali (AV) road in Ariyalai- Nayanmarkatttu. He became very close to Pottu Amman then.
When the sea tigers division was upgraded under Thillaiambalam Sivanesan alias Soosai in the early nineties, Vinayakam was transferred to that unit . It was in the sea tigers division that Vinayakam made his mark. He was reportedly a courageous fighter with tactical acumen. Vinayakam rose up steadily in the ranks.
When the ceasefire came into force in 2002 Vinayakam was also part of a tiger delegation that toured Europe and travelled under a false passport. It is said that he spent considerable time in visiting different dockyards and inspecting marine vessels of various types then.
The rivalry between Sea tiger special commander Soosai and Intelligence chief Pottu Amman is well-known among LTTE circles. Vinayakam was one of the few high-ranking sea tigers who maintained cordial relations between both Pottu and Soosai.
In 2007 there was an accident at sea where Soosai’s younger son was killed. Soosai himself was injured and went out of sight for a while. This made the rumour mills work overtime and there was much speculation in the media that Pottu Amman had gotten rid of Soosai and that Soosai wont be heard of again. This caused much confusion and even friction between Soosai loyalists and Pottu supporters abroad.
It was at this point that the LTTE attempted some damage control and broke its silence. An official acknowledgement was made that Soosai had met with an accident. The occasion was a release of a video No 11 in the series on sea tigers. It was senior sea tiger commander Vinayagam who referred to the accident in his seech and said Soosai was recovering fast. Vinayagam said that Soosai had planned the Video release ceremony while being in hospital. He predicted that Soosai will appear publicly very soon. As Vinayakam predicted Soosai was to appear a few weeks later in September 2007.
Vinayakam achieved prominence and recognition within LTTE folds when he led the attack on “MV Cordiality” off Pulmoddai on July 9th 1997. The Chinese crewed ,Panama registered vessel had been contracted by the Lankan government to ship out the mineral Ilmenite in large quantity. It was a combined operation done together with the LTTE commando uni “Leopards” or Chiruthaigal. The Naval flotilla providing security to the ship was attacked by the seatigers and leopards. The LTTE claimed three Naval gunboats were damaged and one destroyed.
Vinayakam also played a prominent role in transporting LTTE cadres by sea for two major land operations by the tigers.
One was the famous coastal landing near Maamunai-Kudaarappu off the Vadamaratchy east coast in April 2000 when an expeditionary force led by Brig. Balraj was dropped off by sea tigers. Balraj then moved inwards and in a historic battle interdicted supply lines at Ithaavil along the A – 9 highway or Jaffna –Kandy road.Troops at Elephant pass and Iyakkachchi were cut off as a result and ultimately both camps were overrun by the tigers.
The other was the offensive launched against revolting Eastern cadres led by Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan alias “Col” Karuna in April 2004. The LTTE shipped out cadres from the North by sea and landed them at various points along the Paalsenai-Vaagarai coast and the Thirukkovil coast. This successful shipping operation by the sea tigers helped immensely in the rout of Karuna then.
It is also said that it was Vinayakam who led the maritime attack on a Chinese trawler “Fu Yuan Ya 225” on March 20th 2003. At least 17 crew members comprising 15 Chinese and 2 Sri Lankans were killed. The ceasefire was in force then and this was a blatant violation. The LTTE brazenly denied responsibility.
Another of Vinayakam’s feats was the attack on the Naval flotilla escorting “MV Pearl Cruise II” in may 2006. The Merchant vessel had 710 security personnel on board who were being transported by sea to the North. In the sea skirmish off the Point Pedro coast a Dvora gunboat ( P- 418) belonging to the Navy was destroyed and all crew members killed. Another Dvora gunboat (P-420) was heavily damaged.
Vinayakam has held various positions in the sea tigers and was at one time its offensive operations commander. He was also in charge of the intelligence unit of the sea tigers and worked in harmony with Pottu Amman. At one stage Vinayakam was placed in charge of the sea tigers along the Western and North – Western coast.
It was during this time that the Sea tigers launched a successful combined operation in Neduntheevu or Delft on May 24th 2007. It was Vinayakam who planned, coordinated and led the attack. Naval posts on the off-shore Island were attacked and the LTTE captured two anti aircraft machine guns, two machine guns, one RPG launcher and eight rifles in the Delft operations. The LTTE also managed to carry away the radar unit at Delft in addition to seizing the weapons.
It was perhaps this track record as a senior sea tiger commander that made the LTTE hierarchy entrust Vinayakam with a secret assignment in India in early 2009. It appears that Vinayakam relocated to Europe after the May 2009 debacle.
What is important however is the fact that Vinayakam has not been content to simply lie low after seeking refuge in a western country. He has established links with several LTTE and ex-LTTE cadres and activists and is engaged in the formidable task of reviving LTTE fortunes. Vinayakam is now claiming leadership of the LTTE or what is left of the LTTE.
It also appears that Vinayakam has a sound working relationship with Nediyavan who is actively promoting the senior sea tiger commander as a rallying point.Vinayakam’s active combat experience and reputation as a successful maritime commander are assets being utilised to project an impressive image among hawkish tiger supporters abroad.
In Nediyavan’s perception “Colonel” Vinayakam has the stature to galvanise and mobilise demoralised tiger activists abroad without being a threat to his position. So Nediyavan too is promoting Vinayakam as the new leader. What Nediyavan and Vinayakam are striving to accomplish is the re-grouping and revival of the LTTE abroad.
While the first category of LTTE or pro-LTTE structures comprising the TGTE and GTF proceed with a comparatively moderate, transparent agenda the second category consisting of the Nediyavan network and LTTE cadres under the sway of Vinayakam will emerge gradually as the “real LTTE” with a more radical agenda. With a lot of LTTE and ex-LTTE cadres preferring Vinayakam to Nediyavan or any other person the stage is being set to install him as the new chief of the LTTE.
Vinayakam is not averse to this but does not want to be in the limelight for now. He would prefer to interact with tiger supporters and activists discreetly in tandem with Nediyavan in a strategic partnership. Already Vinayakam is contacting various LTTE supporters,activists and ex-cadres quietly, saying he is alive and that he has taken over. He is also telling “all is not over” (Ellam mudinju pohavillai) and that “something will happen soon” (Kethiya Etho nadakkap pohuthu)
Interestingly there are doubts, as stated earlier, in certain circles about the real identity of Vinayakam. There is a school of thought within the overseas LTTE which believes that the senior sea tiger Vinayakam was indeed killed in the Army attack on Challai during February 2009. They opine that the Vinayakam who has surfaced in Europe is a different person who held a high ranking position within the LTTE intelligence division.
According to this view this Vinayakam of the intelligence division who had been sent to India for a special assignment by Pottu Amman on the instructions of Prabhakaran had relocated to Europe after the Mullivaaikkaal debacle. It is felt that he has now emerged as the new leader of the LTTE in Europe and is trying to regroup and revive the tiger movement with the full support of Nediyavan and his network.
The attempt to portray the intelligence wing Vinayakam as the senior sea tiger leader Vinayakam could be a deliberate move to create confusion it is felt.Apart from misdirecting authorities who may be on Vinayakam’s trail, the mix up of identities could also reinforce the myth of Prabhakaran being alive. If Vinayakam who was reported dead in February 2009 could be alive and surface in Europe then the leader Prabhakaran reported dead in May 2009 could also be alive and emerge would be the line of argument.
Whatever the truth in this viewpoint about sea tiger leader Vinayakam being killed and the Vinayakam active in Europe being another person from the LTTE intelligence wing, there is no doubt that the Vinayakam being projected as the new leader of the LTTE is firmly backed by Nediyavan. It is in a sense a mutually beneficial strategic partnership for Vinayakam and Nediyavan
The implications of this strategic partnership between Vinayakam and Nediyavan and its consequences for the Tamil Diaspora, Tamils in Sri Lanka along with its possible impact on the security situation in the Island would be examined in detail in a forthcoming article
TO BE CONTINUED
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org