The Sri Lankan defence establishment has successfully accomplished the feat of renditioning a senior leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) functioning abroad with the aid and cooperation of Iranian and Malaysian authorities. The “Daily Mirror” learns reliably that the senior LTTE leader Nanthagopan was brought to Sri Lanka exactly one month ago on March 6th2014.
The senior LTTE leader known as Nanthagopan has been functioning as one of the two deputy leaders of the LTTE overseas network controlled by Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan.
Nanthagopan whose real name is Kapilan and another person Aravindhan alias Irumporai have been the two deputy leaders of the Nediyavan group in the Diaspora. While Irumporai has been functioning in Europe, Nandhagopan has been based in South East Asia.
Nanthagopan travelling under a false passport had left Malaysia a few months ago on a flight to London via Teheran when Sri Lankan authorities monitoring the LTTE leader’s movements were alerted by a tipoff from a South east Asian source to the fact. Iranian authorities when informed were extremely cooperative and apprehended Nanthagopan at the transit passenger lounge in the Teheran airport.He was then refused permission to continue his journey on the basis that he was travelling on a false passport.
Given the choice of either being detained indefinitely in Teheran or turning back to Kuala Lumpur, Nandhgopan opted to return to Malaysia. When Nediyavan’s key deputy arrived in KL he was promptly detained by Malaysian authorities.He was then indicted according to Malaysian laws and imprisoned for a period of time.
Meanwhile Sri Lankan officials also had gone to Malaysia to interact with their counterparts in that country over the Nanthagopan affair. Thereafter Nandhagopan was “released” from custody after deportation documentation being finalised. He was then transported to Colombo by Malaysian officials with Sri Lankan officials accompanying.He was formally handed over to Sri Lankan officials at Katunayake airport on March 6th 2014.
Nanthagopan who sustained injuries from shelling during the war in Sri Lanka is crippled and limps with the aid of a walking stick like former LTTE political commissar Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan.
Sri Lankan authorities are treating Nanthagopan with tactful compassion it is learnt. He has been detained in a comfortable residence and is being looked after by medical doctors including specialists. His detention period in Malaysia had affected his health it is learnt.He has also been allowed to communicate with his wife in Europe and inform her of the situation.
Nanthagopan was on his way to join his family when he was stopped in Iran.His wife and four children are currently in Germany. According to informed sources the Preliminary discussions between Sri Lankan officials and Nanthagopan have proved very successful. Apparently Nanthagopan being very much a captive of circumstances has indicated great willingness to cooperate with Sri Lankan authorities and disclose required information.
Sri Lankan defence officials are said to be elated by the capture of Nanthagopan as he is a key LTTE functionary with firsthand knowledge of current overseas LTTE operations. Since LTTE leader Sivaparan alias Nediyavan is compelled to adopt a low profile in Norway due to pressure from Norwegian authorities, it has been the task of his trusted deputies Nanthagopan and Irumporai to look after day to day administration of LTTE overseas branches and front organizations.
Irumporai carrying a New Zealand passport shuttles between European countries and is reportedly based in Germany at present. Nanthagopan is registered as a “refugee” under the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Thailand.He has however been moving around Thailand,Malaysia and Indonesia on false passports.
While Irumporai has been in charge of fund raising Nanthagopan has been essentially focusing on propaganda. He has been issuing official statements on behalf of the LTTE under the aegis of “Viduthalaippuligal Anaithulaga Seyalaham”(Liberation Tigers International Secretariat)
Nanthagopan has been coordinating propaganda activities of the LTTE worldwide. Apart from directing various LTTE media organs abroad such as TV networks, radio stations, newspapers, magazines and websites. Nanthagopan has also communicated with several Tamil politicians and media personnel in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan officials are optimistic that Nanthagopan would be able to provide a wealth of information about current LTTE activities in Sri Lanka and abroad. “The info he will give about Diaspora tigers will be really up to date and valid because he has until being captured been in regular contact with LTTE structures abroad”an authoritative source told the “Daily Mirror”.
Sri Lankan officials have acquired a lot of documents relating to LTTE international activity in the latter stages of the war in 2009. The LTTE had abandoned the International secretariat office run by Castro and withdrawn as the army advanced in the Puthukkudiyiruppu – Kaepaapulavy region. Among items seized by the army were everal barrels of documents pertaining to communications between the LTTE in Sri Lanka and overseas operatives.Nanthagopan is expected to be of great assistance in perusing these documents and updating information.
The source also clarified to “Daily Mirror” that no input from Nanthagopan has been used in compiling the names of 16 entities and 422 individuals designated by Gazette Extraordinary dated March 21st 2014 that was issued last week.
The source explained that the information in the Gazette had been finalised on February 25th this year though the Gazette had come out in March. Nanthagopan himself had been captured only on March 6th pointed out the source.
“Presently he is being de-briefed and medically treated after which systematic inquiries will begin. We expect a whole lot of new and valuable information then. Even a new Gazette with more names may be issued as a result of fresh details gained from Nanthagopan” emphasised the source.
Subramaniam Kapilan alias Nanthagopan hailing from Earlaalai in Jaffna is the son of Subramaniam a village headman/Grama sevakha popularly known as “Maniam Vidhaanai”. He was born on November 4th 1969.This youth from a very respectable orthodox family joined the LTTE in 1989 when the Indian army was stationed in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. He passed out from the fourth batch of LTTE recruits trained at a secret location in the Manal aaru/Weli Oya region of Mullaitheevu district.
After the Indian Army left in March 1990 and the LTTE took over the North , Nanthagopan was sent to Jaffna where he served as chief deputy cum bodyguard to Veerakathi Manivannan alias Castro who was then in charge of the offshore Islands and islets of Jaffna. These Islands however were wrested back by the Armed forces through a successful military operation conducted in mid-1990.
Thereafter Nanthagopan relocated to the Jaffna peninsula and functioned as part of Castro’s group heading security. Castro hailing from Valvettithurai was an old student of Hartley College, Point Pedro. He was injured during the attack launched by the LTTE on the military camp in Elephant Pass in 1991. The attack ended in failure with over 700 LTTE cadres being killed.
Castro himself was seriously injured and paralysed from the neck downwards as a result. Thereafter he was confined to a wheelchair and given the responsibility of interacting with the LTTE overseas branches and also Tamil expatriates visiting LTTE controlled territory.
Selvarasah Pathmanathan alias KP was at that time in overall charge of three key functions namely arms procurement, global fund raising and overseas LTTE branch administration.There was much friction between KP and Castro as their powers over the LTTE overseas network often overlapped.
Subsequently a separate LTTE department was created by the LTTE to handle overseas LTTE administration and placed under Castro. The duties of this office was to maintain and coordinate links with overseas branches and key individuals among the Diaspora. A system of passes akin to visas was also introduced for Diaspora individuals and families visiting the North which was then very much under the control of the LTTE.
A separate office known as “Nanthavanam” was set up for overseeing matters concerning overseas branches and Diaspora members. Nanthagopan was in day to day charge of the office reporting directly to Castro. After KP was removed from his post in 2002 ,Castro’s stock began to rise. Castro dismantled the KP network and appointed his loyalists and acolytes in their place.
The 2002 ceasefire brought about by Norwegian facilitation saw large numbers of Diaspora Tamils visiting the north. This resulted in Castro’s department expanding to the extent of forming its own separate intelligence unit. Nanthagopan was in charge. Many overseas Tamils were interrogated by him at the Nanthavanam office .
Nanthagopan continued to serve under Castro in the overseas administration division after the ceasefire collapsed and war escalated in 2005. At one stage he was injured in the Wanni by a shell in early 2009. Nanthagopan was clandestinely ferried to India via the Mannar coast. After receiving medical treatment he relocated to Thailand and was registered as a refugee by the UNHCR. He also made arrangements to relocate his wife and four children to Europe.
After recovering from his injuries to the extent of being able to walk around with the aid of a Walking stick, Nanthagopan acquired false passports and shuttled between South east Asian countries.
Meanwhile Nediyavan had acquired control of the LTTE overseas branches and fronts. Since his functional abilities were cramped due to pressure from Norwegian authorities , Nediyavan began to rely on Irumporai and Nanthagopan to administer and coordinate overseas LTTE activities. Incidently Nanthagopan is more senior to Nediyavan in the tiger movement but served as deputy to him in the overseas LTTE
While Irumporai a New Zealand citizen functioned from Europe, Nanthagopan operated from South East Asia.He focused more on propaganda and had extensive contacts with media organs and media personnel amidst the global Diaspora.He also has links with some Tamil politicians and media persons in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.
Nanthagopan planning to reunite with his family was travelling to Europe from Malaysia via Iran when he was captured and transported to Sri Lanka. As stated earlier he is regarded as a mine of information on the current structures, operations and activists of LTTE branches and fronts within the global Tamil Diaspora.
Sri Lankan authorities are adopting what is described as the “Angulimala approach” towards Nanthagopan. As is well known to Buddhists , Angulimala was a “ruthless killer who was redeemed by a sincere conversion and is seen as an example of the redemptive power of the Buddha’s teaching and the universal human potential for spiritual progress, regardless of one’s background”. According to the tale , Angulimala says, “Some prisoners are tamed with punishment of a stick, or a hook or a whip. I was tamed without a stick or a weapon. I was tamed by the kind words of the Compassionate Buddha.”
According to Sri Lankan officials the Angulimala approach has already been adopted towards some key LTTE leaders in custody. Chief among them is Selvarasah Pathmanathan alias KP who was for a brief period the leader of the LTTE after tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran’s demise. Instead of penalising him the Sri Lankan officials have let KP redeem himself by doing social service to the community. KP is now running three orphanages with over 250 children in Muthiyankaddu, Mulliyavalai and Kilinocchchi named “Anbu Illam” ”Bharathy Illam” and “Senchoalai” respectively.
Another lesser known example is that of Subramaniyam Sivakumar alias Malaysia Rajan who was in charge of the LTTE in Malaysia. Earlier he was functioning as an LTTE intelligence operative in Colombo under the names of Kannan and Santhalingam. Malaysia Rajan had also been involved in arms purchasing abroad.He was arrested in January 2010 in Malaysia and brought to Colombo. Today he is a relatively free man leading a peaceful life in suburban Colombo.
Interestingly Malaysian authorities played an important role earlier in the capture and renditioning of KP, Malaysia Rajan and currently Nanthagopan. It is equally interesting that the “Angulimala approach” was adopted towards both KP and Rajan and is likely to be adopted in the case of Nanthagopan. All three are persons renditioned with the help of Malaysian officials.
According to authoritative sources the adoption of such a restorative rather than retributive approach towards remorseful LTTE leaders was a brainchild of Defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. This policy has been approved and sanctioned by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
It is expected that Nanthagopan will disclose a lot of valuable information about the overseas LTTE in the days to come. The consequences of such revelations are likely to be felt in the future.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article written for the “DBS Jeyaraj Column” appears in the “Daily Mirror” of April 08th, 2014. It can be accessed via this link: http://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/dbsjeyaraj-column/45616-sri-lanka-captures-senior-ltte-leader-nanthagopan-with-help-from-iran-and-malaysia.html