On Selvarasa Pathmanathan's
as LTTE Head of International Relations
D.B.S. Jeyraj in the Sinhala Owned
Sri Lanka Daily Mirror
7 February 2009
With the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
being cornered militarily in Northern Sri Lanka, there
has been much speculation about the future of the
movement that has been the determining force in Sri
Lankan politics for more than two decades.
Constant LTTE propaganda projected an impression
that the Tigers possessed around 15,000 experienced,
highly trained cadres, 10,000 new conscripts and about
25,000 civilians with military training.
The expectation was that the LTTE would set up a
defensive ring around key areas in the Mullaithivu
district and engage in a last - ditch stand against the
Sri Lankan armed forces.
Recent developments on the military front have
demonstrated that such expectations were wrong. Rapid
strides made by the army on multiple fronts have
resulted in Tiger controlled territory shrinking
With the seizure of Viswamadhu and Challai the LTTE
controlled areas have decreased to about 200 sq
kilometres which include some jungle patches,
grasslands, coconut groves and beachfront.
It appears that the army would be able to capture
the rest of Tiger territory within a short period.
Thereafter the LTTE would not have formal territorial
control over any part of the Island. Colombo's writ
will run officially in all parts of the Country.
Loss of territory
The loss of territorial control would also mean that
positional warfare by the LTTE would temporarily cease.
The LTTE fights like a conventional militia only to
retain or acquire territory.
The loss of territory would take away the need for
the Tigers to continue with positional warfare until
and unless they are able to launch an effective counter
strike or offensive and recapture lost lands.
.The LTTE would most likely adopt guerrilla tactics
in attacking the armed forces and Police patrols and
installations. They are also likely to commit terrorist
acts like assassinating political leaders, government
officials, perceived collaborators and also target
civilians in buses and trains.
The LTTE will not be given a free hand to engage in
guerrilla operations and terrorism. The armed forces
will start combing missions on an intensive scale with
the clear cut objective of "search and destroy". This
second phase could be as bloody and violent as the
first phase of anti - Tiger action.
An important factor in calculations about the LTTE
future lies in the ability of the organization to
continue with raising funds and procuring arms abroad.
The continuous supply of arms and ammunition from
overseas sources has been the lifeline of LTTE activity
in Sri Lanka.
A major cause for the LTTE's failure in recent
fighting was the rupture/strangulation of its supply
from abroad. While the army gets the lion's share of
praise for recent successes the role of the Navy and
Air force in restricting LTTE supplies cannot be
One of the main if not the sole reason for LTTE's
declining military fortunes was the scarcity of
military supplies necessary to continue full - scale
fighting. The success of the Navy and Air Force in
sinking several Tiger "cargo" ships and the constant
vigil against further Tiger maritime traffic has
contributed constructively in limiting Tiger
An army, they say, marches on its stomach. Likewise
an organization like the LTTE depends on continuous
supply of arms and ammunition. Since Sri Lanka is an
Island, the flow of arms has to be ensured via the
An arms supply network capable of procuring arms
from various shady sources and the capacity to
transport such purchases in ships to the northern coast
of Lanka is of paramount importance.
Moreover the Tigers also require finances for such
purchases and shipping. For this the LTTE has set up
various commercial establishments that provide funds
through profits. More importantly there is a widespread
overseas network to raise funds from the Global Tamil
Against this backdrop, it does not need rocket
science intelligence to conclude that the future of
Tiger resilience in Sri Lanka would depend very greatly
on the organization's ability to garner funds to
procure arms and transport such purchases back to Sri
The loss of territorial control means that the LTTE
is thrown back to the pre - 1990 era when the Tigers
did not have effective control of coastal areas.The
LTTE used to get down shipments amid tremendous
difficulty. This was more difficult during the days of
the Indian Army as access to Tamil Nadu was cut
In such a situation it is imperative for the Tigers
to ensure that supplies should continue reaching them
despite the adverse military environment. For this the
LTTE requires an efficient operative to mastermind and
supervise smooth procurement and supply.
The LTTE mouthpiece "Tamilnet" had an interesting
news item on January 30th.It said that "The leadership
of the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE) has
recently named Selvarasa Pathmanathan, a high profile
representative of the movement, as the Head of a newly
established Department of International Relations".
"Mr. Pathmanathan will be representing the movement
in any future peace initiatives and will be the primary
point of contact for engaging with the international
community, according to a letter sent to the various
international actors by the LTTE's Department of
International Relations"., "Tamilnet"
reported."Pathmanathan will be working abroad with
required mandate from the LTTE leadership, according to
the letter" , it further said.
"Tamilnet" also quoted LTTE's current political
Commissar , Balasingham Nadesan as confirming
Pathmanathan's appointment and also saying that the
latter had begun corresponding with International
At face value the news item seemed to indicate that
the LTTE was keen on bolstering its international
relations with the possible intention of initiating
peace discussions. But those knowing who the new global
Tiger chief was realised that there was more to it than
the innocuous announcement.
Selvarasa Pathmanathan was the real name of the man
known as "KP" in Tiger circles. He was at one time the
chief arms procurer of the Tigers. Now he had been made
the global Tiger chief. "international relations
department" was simply an euphemism for the LTTE's
global infrastructure .
The announcement was to publicise the fact that
there was going to be a single individual in charge of
all activity by the LTTE abroad. All the branch leaders
and front organization heads in the Tamil Diaspora
would be taking orders from Selvarasa Pathmanathan
better known as "KP".
With the LTTE losing territorial control and senior
leaders including Velupillai Prabhakaran being
compelled to go underground the new global chief would
have to make independent decisions. For this he must
have the full trust and confidence of Prabhakaran.
Above all he has to ensure that funds are raised,
converted into arms and shipped regularly to northern
Sri Lanka. Under present circumstances , KP is perhaps
the best choice for International chief as far as the
LTTE is concerned.
Earlier the mainstay of the LTTE in raising funds,
procuring arms and transporting them back was the man
referred to as "KP". He was the mastermind behind the
LTTE's global network. It would be no exaggeration to
state that KP was as important to the LTTE as its
supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.
One adverse consequence of the Oslo - facilitated
ceasefire in 2002 February was KP's semi -
Semi - Retirement
There was a time when KP was in charge of three
important functions in the LTTE. The first was overseas
fund raising and investment. The second was
macro-supervision of LTTE branches abroad. The third
was, of course, acquisition of arms, armaments,
ammunition and transport.
However, after the ceasefire came into force in
2002, Prabhakaran revamped the LTTE. KP was relieved of
two duties, namely overseas finance management and
general administration. This was because the work
involved had become too much for one man and the LTTE
Leader wanted KP to focus on what was most important to
Overseas finance management was entrusted to 'Aiya
Annai' and administration to Castro. Aiya, being a KP
disciple, followed in his mentor's footsteps and
performed his duty without much hassle. But Castro, in
his vanity, discontinued all the people installed by KP
in the overseas branches and appointed his lackeys.
Soon the Tigers abroad were in vast disarray and a
far cry from the times of KP, with different people
jockeying for control. Factionalism was rampant. Fund
raising as opposed to financial management was put
under Finance Chief Thamilendhi's control. This too has
resulted in confusion. When KP was in charge, things
But KP's sphere of control, known by the euphemism
Overseas Purchasing Department or simply as KP Dept.was
functioning efficiently. KP's ships were discharging
cargo at mid-sea without mishap.
KP himself did not travel much due to ill-health
(diabetes, blood pressure, cardiac trouble, etc..) and
also because he was a much wanted man in many
countries. But KP's deputies trained by him were doing
the fieldwork with KP directing and supervising.
Interestingly his seconds-in-command were changed
frequently for security reasons. But whoever was number
two to KP at any given time was always given the nom de
Though KP is 'officially' a citizen of at least four
countries, KP in recent times had confined himself to
Scandinavia and the ASEAN nations. He got married to a
Thai woman who worked at the export firm Palmax, run by
him in Bangkok.
Then came another colossal blunder by Prabhakaran.
Former LTTE political commissar Suppiah Paramu
Thamilselvan who died in aerial bombardment was known
as "thagadu" denoting "sneaker" among LTTE circles. One
reason for his rise in the movement was because he
"ratted" on comrades to the boss and got himself in
Prabhakaran's good books.
When Thamilselvan began travelling abroad frequently
during the peace process , the political wing head
began collecting information against "KP". This was
conveyed to Prabhakaran. As a result of Thamilselvan's
poisoning the supremo's mind , Prabhakaran penalised KP
by removing him as chief arms procurer.
This act by Prabhakaran at Thamilselvan's
instigation cost the LTTE dear. With KP and his
experienced assistants sidelined another batch of fresh
procurers got into action.
Even KP's former disciple "Aiya annai" had to dabble
in arms trade. Arms procurement and transhipment is not
an easy task and the replacements lacking "KP's
experience or at least his guidance fared
Gradually the smooth running arms supply scheme of
things went awry. Apparently the new procurers were not
up to the mark and many deals were botched with crooked
arms dealers taking the novices for a ride.
Foreign intelligence agencies were also able to make
inroads into the Tiger arms purchases set -up. Several
persons were arrested. More importantly valuable
intelligence was provided to Colombo..
As a result several Tiger vessels were detected and
destroyed. All this resulted in the LTTE being short -
supplied . This in turn has impacted on the course of
By the time Prabhakaran realised his mistake it was
too late.. Desperate, he wanted KP back. It was Sea
Tiger special commander Soosai's task to woo KP . This
he did and KP was restored to his former glory. He was
made in charge of arms procurement again.
According to sources close to KP he was reluctant at
first to take over as he felt that he had been given a
raw deal by the hierarchy and also because the arms
purchasing network had been spoiled by Tiger substitute
procurers. Still, being an ardent Tamil nationalist and
for old time's sake and loyalty to Prabhakaran, KP
started working for the Tigers again
It is said that KP succeeded in sending two or three
ships with arms to Sri Lanka after he took over. This
explained the marked resurgence in Tiger military
resistance at a particular time when the LTTE began
firing shells liberally. With more supply ships being
in the pipeline the Tiger resistance could have been
But the unexpectedly rapid advances by the army from
Dec 31st onwards altered the military balance
dramatically. Along with ground developments was the
effective naval cordon. Thus even KP was unable to send
supply vessels on time.. The quality of Tiger
resistance weakened greatly due to dearth of
With the LTTE in a beleaguered state the importance
of arms supply has become enhanced. Communication
between the Tiger hierarchy and operatives abroad is
likely to be difficult in the days to come. Thus the
LTTE needs a strong, capable person to be at the helm
abroad and coordinate affairs amid the Diaspora. KP
therefore would be a very important player in LTTE
affairs in future.
The man known as KP was born on April 6th, 1955 in
the northern coastal town of Kankesanthurai (KKS). His
name was Pathmanathan and his father's name was
Selvarasah. KP, though born in KKS, was a native of
Myliddy, also a coastal area in the Valigamam north
Pathmanathan was one of eight children. His father
was a fisherman from Veeramanickthevanthurai in
Myliddy. The traditional occupation of the people here
was fishing but they were not originally of a fishing
The place derives its name from a Maravar Chieftain
named Veeramanickathevan from Ramanathapuram in Tamil
Nadu, who settled in Myliddy with his clan centuries
ago. The Maravars are of the Mukkulathor warrior caste
and the people of Veeramanickthevanthurai also trace
their lineage as being Kshatriya.
Pathmanathan had his education at Nadeswara College,
KKS and Mahajana College, Thellipalai..
Pathmanathan's pet name at home was Kutty (pup or
cub). This was the name most Myliddy people called him
as well. During his childhood he was very thin and as a
result, he was nicknamed 'oosi' (needle) in school.
Pathmanathan was not a very bright student and required
more than one attempt to qualify for his O/L and A/L
examinations. He entered the Jaffna University in his
20s and he followed a BA course with political science
and history as main subjects.
It was during his campus days that the letters 'KP'
attached on to him. Apparently there were two
Pathmanathans in the same batch and in order to
differentiate among them, he became KP. Since he was
also known as Kutty, the K in Kutty and the P in
Pathmanathan became KP. The tall, light-skinned,
handsome KP was a big hit with the girls.
While at the Jaffna campus, KP was attracted to
Tamil militancy. Initially he joined the Tamil Eelam
Liberation Organisation (TELO) led by the legendary
Thangathurai and Kuttimani. KP doubled up as a TELO
militant while being an undergrad. His nom de guerre in
the TELO was 'Kumaran.' Kumaran participated as a
lookout in the Thinnevely Bank robbery where Rs. 1.08
million was robbed.
There was a major split in the original LTTE in
1980. Kandiah Umamaheswaran broke away with a large
number and formed the People's Liberation Organisation
of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). The residual cadres under
Velupillai Prabhakaran were a dejected lot. For about
two years the LTTE under Prabhakaran tied up with the
TELO under Thangathurai-Kuttimani. It was then that KP
began interacting with Prabhakaran.
The Neervely robbery on March 25, 1981 was a
watershed in the history of the Tamil militant
movement. The People's Bank van was collecting hard
cash from the branches in the Vadamaratchy sector and
returning to Jaffna along the Jaffna-Point Pedro Road.
It was waylaid at Neervely and a massive sum of Rs. 8.
1 million rupees was robbed.
This was a combined TELO-LTTE operation. KP's role
in this was to ride a motorcycle behind the People's
Bank van and its escort police vehicle. There were no
walkie-talkies or cellular phones then. At one point KP
had to speed up ahead of the vehicles and alert the
militants lying in wait that the target was
approaching. KP did his part and sped away. He did not
participate in the robbery directly.
But suspicious officials had noted down the
motorcycle number, which actually did not belong to KP
but to a fellow undergrad, Vijitharan, who had
absolutely no idea that KP had borrowed it to use in a
robbery. The motorcycle was traced and the innocent
Vijitharan arrested. This led to a massive varsity
demonstration demanding his release, but KP had
Fled to India
In what was perhaps the first of his many escapes
from the law, KP simply abandoned everything and fled
to India. He was then staying at 180, KKS Road in
Jaffna. KP was then in the BA final year but was
compelled to give up his studies. He never completed
After fleeing to India, KP dropped out of Tamil
militancy for a while. He teamed up with smugglers on
the fringes of the Tamil militant movement. Some other
militants like Sellakkili also joined. One motivating
reason was survival as they had no fundsAfter the July
1983 island-wide anti-Tamil violence, KP went down to
Madras, now Chennai, and enlisted himself in militant
ranks again.. This time he joined the LTTE and not his
former outfit, TELO.
After inducting KP into the LTTE, Prabhakaran did
not make him take up formal arms training. Prabhakaran
recognised that KP's talents lay elsewhere.. KP was
asked to use the contacts and experience he had gained
to raise funds and buy arms for the LTTE.
Together with helpers from the LTTE as well as the
Indian underworld, KP began acquiring arms and
equipment for the LTTE. As time progressed KP's duties
began expanding. He was required to travel to many
countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe,
Australia, North America and South East Asia and meet
Tamil expatriate groups to mobilise funds.
The overseas fund raising also involved the setting
up of LTTE branches and the appointment of Tiger
representatives abroad. This too became KP's
responsibility. In the '80s and '90s it was KP who
controlled and coordinated the LTTE overseas
In addition to raising funds and administering the
overseas branches, KP also had the daunting task of
scouring the international illicit arms bazaars and
shops. He travelled to many parts of the world and
bought up arms and armaments. He also had to make
arrangements to ship them clandestinely to to north
east Sri Lanka.
There was no beaten track or set procedures. It was
a case of playing it by ear. KP was a pioneering
pathfinder as he had to improvise and evolve on the
job. Much of the early accomplishments were through
trial and error.
It was astounding that Pathmanathan, a man of humble
origins from Myliddy, had metamorphosed into KP, the
transnational purchaser and transporter of arms.
Within the upper echelons of the LTTE there is
another name for him. It is 'Kazhuthai,' or Donkey.
This was a name bestowed affectionately on KP by
Prabhakaran himself. The donkey is an animal that
carries loads on its back. KP is a man whose efforts
result in loads of arms being supplied to the LTTE.
Hence, the name Donkey.
The new Tiger global chief is a man who has made
himself almost indispensable for the LTTE. He, like
Prabhakaran, was responsible in a large way for the
growth of the LTTE. His future role would be of crucial
importance in determining the fate of the LTTE.