Two days after being taken into custody, the arrest of the new LTTE chief Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam, Kumaran Pathmanathan or KP being one his many aliases, remained as much shrouded in mystery as his shadowy life with the Tigers’ had been.
But what is gradually becoming clear is that the arrest of KP -- known to be the nucleus of LTTE’s complex world wide web of arms procurement and financing -- dealt another blow to the already deflated LTTE. And since he was flown to Colombo on a special aircraft on Thursday night, authorities here are rubbing their hands in anticipation about the kind of inside information he could divulge about the LTTE’s global network.
There are pending warrants against the 55-year-old, issued from Chennai and Colombo. In India he is wanted for involvement in the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi and there are cases against him under the arms act among others. Sri Lanka said on Friday that if there was any demand for extradition of KP by India, it will be considered in line with the International norms and conventions.
Information about KP had been scarce; under the category distinguishing marks and characteristics of KP, all that the Interpol – on his lookout for a while now -- has is ``hair combed sideways.’’
Before LTTE founder-chief V Prabhakaran died in May, Jaffna-born KP was the group’s international relation chief, carrying out diplomacy over email and telephone. He was in touch with top UN officials in May attempting to coax out a third-party ceasefire as the remains of the LTTE gasped for breath surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered by the Lankan army. He became the LTTE chief soon after. But not before a section of the pro-LTTE diaspora made it clear that KP might not be the right person for the job.
On Friday, the Sri Lankan government remained tightlipped about the sequence of events leading to the arrest. Initial reports on Thursday night had said he was arrested in Bangkok; on Friday morning, after Thai authorities denied it, it was claimed that KP was arrested in Kuala Lumpur jointly by Lankan and Malaysian police. He was then flown to Colombo via Bangkok. A purported statement from the LTTE, according to AP news agency, also said he was arrested in a hotel in the Malaysian capital. But Malaysian officials have declined to comment.
Lankan defence spokesperson, Keheliya Rambukwella, too refused to provide details of KP’s arrest, saying only that ``he was arrested within the Asian region’’ and was being questioned in Sri Lanka.
When asked whether New Delhi had been informed about the arrest of the fugitive LTTE leader and if India had made any observations in this regard, Rambukwella said, "it is known through reports that Pathmanathan was arrested"
Rambukwella said KP’s arrest showed that Sri Lanka was capable of defeating LTTE whenever it emerges.
Lately, KP had indicated in his writings that a peaceful approach to a Tamil homeland was needed.
In a blog entry, he wrote “As our liberation movement has decided to silence the guns and follow a politico-diplomatic path, our cadres in the homeland would follow this decision. Since we do not have an open political space in the homeland to engage in political activities, our cadres cannot openly engage in any political activities at this point in time.” At the same time, KP said it was expected by “certain sections” that the LTTE had to work with the government, and not confront it for the benefit of the people who were kept in the “internment camps.” For the time though, it would only be his interrogators confronting him.