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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam > On Selvarasa Pathmanathan's Appointment as LTTE Head of International Relations

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

On Selvarasa Pathmanathan's Appointment
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 dramatically.

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 underestimated.

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 firepower.

Continuous Supply

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 sea.

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 Diaspora.

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 Lanka.

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 off.

Selvarasah Pathmanathan

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 actors.

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.

International Chief

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 - retirement.

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 the Tigers.

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 ran smoothly.

Overseas Purchasing

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 guerre 'David.'

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.

Colossal Blunder

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 miserably.

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 war.

Important Player

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 progressively stronger.

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 supplies.

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 region.

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 caste.

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.

Tamil Militancy

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 flown.

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 his degree.

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.

Expanding Duties

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 branches.

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.

Crucial Importance

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.

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