Newspaper offices were wrapping up their editions when the news of the new LTTE chief Selvarasa Pathmanathan’s arrest crackled on state radio and television on Thursday night. Phones began to ring incessantly across Colombo as bureaucrats, politicians, police and the military – many unaware of the significant development – started calling each other to find out details of the arrest of Pathmanathan, a man with a convenient alias `KP’.
For the Lankan government, KP was turning out to be inconvenient since the military defeat of LTTE in May. He was operating out of an Asian country and doing his bit to keep the Eelam dream alive. KP became LTTE chief with the help of a section of the Tamil diaspora, had begun to talk of a `transnational government’ and had indicated that the new struggle would attempt to shun violence.
KP was also wanted by India and the Interpol. He had several passports and fluent in Sinhala, Tamil, English and French and in ways to make the international network of gun running and black money work for the LTTE.
All his fluency however failed to prevent his arrest outside the Tune Hotel in Kuala Lumpur as he stepped out to take a phone call. Malaysian authorities denied it and Lankan authorities were not willing to name the country of arrest. It was reliably learnt that the Lankan military intelligence was involved in the stakeout and the country was not being named to avoid complex extradition norms.
Where does his arrest leave the LTTE? It is not only now without a leader but KP is also likely to reveal enough inside information to cripple the organisation permanently.
But then not everyone believed that KP would have turned the tide for the LTTE.
"We must see the LTTE as a bubble that was waiting to burst. KP's leadership was another bubble even more fragile than the earlier LTTE," Rajan Hoole of the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) told HT over email.
The LTTE bubble could have burst but now it is up to the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime to bring back the lakhs of Tamils into the mainstream and ensure that Sri Lanka was not brought to boil once more.