Neutralizing KP must be a key national security priority -
Prof. Rohan Gunaratna
Head of International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism
Research, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Prof.Rohan
Gunaratna is an expert on LTTE affairs. He was interviwed by the Daily
News on the LTTE's defeat, Sri lanka's victory and beyond.
If you table the events/decisions and mistakes that caused the
The decline of the LTTE commenced when its leaders at home and
overseas lost their head. Extravagant lifestyles and corruption by LTTE
leaders both at home and abroad as well as wastage of Tamil public funds
by the LTTE to build an airforce and a maritime capability led to the
steadfast decline of the LTTE. Instead of remaining a lean and a mean
organization, the LTTE grew fat. The LTTE invested in aircraft, ships
and other expensive technology projects that had no appreciable gain for
Furthermore, using the hard earned money of the suffering Tamils, the
LTTE leaders both in Sri Lanka and overseas decided to live in luxury.
The LTTE built aboveground and underground structures that were
air-conditioned and purchased brand new vehicles including bullet proof
Some of the recovered weapons used by the LTTE
To maintain this high level of expenditure, the LTTE built a
systematic taxation system at home and abroad. By implicitly coercing
and at times explicitly extorting the Tamils, the LTTE lost public Tamil
support. Finally, in its last act to survive, the LTTE leader
Prabhakaran held over 100,000 Tamils as a human shield. The LTTE as a
group and Prabhakaran as a leader earned the anger of both the Tamils
and the international community.
What would you term as 'the' biggest/fatal mistake the LTTE made
during the final battle?
For two reasons, Prabhakaran was overconfident that the international
community will come to his rescue.
First, Prabhakaran engineered a humanitarian crisis to save himself
and the LTTE.
The very fact that the human shield was created by Prabhakaran could
not be properly explained by the Sri Lankan diplomatic missions.
Furthermore, the LTTE engineered demonstrations by Tamil diaspora and
migrants from Canada to London and Sydney. However, only a few heads of
Sri Lankan missions and staff in the foreign service were capable of
communicating the deceptive role of the LTTE.
Second, the LTTE had penetrated Tamil community organizations in
North America, Europe, Australia and in New Zealand. In return for pro
LTTE statements in parliament and other public fora, the LTTE supporters
approached Western politicians and promised them Tamil votes.
LTTE activists wore T-shirts of Canadian, Australian and New Zealand
politicians and campaigned. LTTE financers supported the election
campaigns of US and British politicians. When the defeat of the LTTE was
imminent, few Western politicians with Tamil constituencies urged Sri
Lanka to stop the fighting and agree to a ceasefire with the LTTE.
Although a few shameless British and other European politicians came to
the aid of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan Government did not fall into
How did Sri Lanka managed to conquer one of the most ruthless
terrorist organisations in the world in as a short period as 3 years?
The Government understood the importance of fighting the LTTE on all
its fronts. Towards this, Government engaged and locked the LTTE on all
its fronts, except the international front that needs to improve.
Unlike previous governments, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary of
Defence coordinated the armed forces, the police, the intelligence
service and other kinetic capabilities.
He was ably assisted by the army chief General Sarath Fonseka, Navy
Chief Admiral Wasanthta Karannagoda, and the Air Chief Air Marshall
Roshan Gunatillake. They had all suffered from the LTTE: their friends,
colleagues and family members were killed.
They were highly motivated and highly competent.
They had all experienced battle and knew what exactly the ground
commanders and troops needed to win. They worked hard, day and night,
and every day, supporting the front line warrior to fight to the end.
Three principal strategies worked against the LTTE. The strategy of
the army adopted by General Fonseka was to fight the LTTE in multiple
fronts. It was not a fight for territory but to reduce the military
strength of the LTTE.
The LTTE made a mistake by pouring in its fighters and resources to
challenge the advancing Government forces. Once the overconfident LTTE
was stretched out and weakened, the military started to dominate
strategic stretches of land and close in on the LTTE leadership.
The strategy of the navy was to detect and disrupt the flow of
weapons and other equipment to the LTTE fighting force. The strategy
adopted by Admiral Karannagoda was to go after the LTTE.
Unlike any previous commander, Admiral Karannagoda guided his fleet
to go out to the international waters and destroy LTTE ships supplying
the killing machine in Sri Lanka. In addition to destroying high value
targets, the strategy of the air force was to work closely and support
the army and the navy to do their job effectively and efficiently.
How do you rate International community's role in the context of
current op? What was their real objective?
There was a failure on the part of a few politicians in the West to
recognize the brutality of the LTTE. The LTTE invented the suicide
bodysuit in 1991. Today, a three dozen groups worldwide use this
technology. The LTTE pioneered the use of maritime suicide attacks.
Although the LTTE kills in Sri Lanka, its propaganda, fund raising,
procurement and shipping network is global. However, the foreign
ministry had not been 100 percent successful in formally and informally
educating foreign governments, international organizations and others
that have an international voice of the true nature of the LTTE. Like
the military, law enforcement and intelligence services, the foreign
ministry should be proactive - before the threat develops, it must
preemptively neutralize it.
What will be the LTTE's fate and KP's role hereafter?
(Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam alias Kumaran Pathmanadan (KP) is the
Head of LTTE's International Wing, he has an Interpol red notice in
connection with Rajiv Gandhi assassination. He is known to use 23
aliases and believed to have obtained Thai citizenship. This terrorist
was recently named the LTTE's international spokesperson and was issuing
LTTE media statements during final war).
If KP is not arrested or killed, he will revive the LTTE. In addition
to working with the Thai authorities, Sri Lanka must initiate its own
operation. More than ever before neutralizing KP must become a key
national security priority for Sri Lanka. The principal function of the
foreign service of Sri Lanka should be to advance its national security
and foreign policy goals. The Sri Lankan foreign minister and the head
of the Sri Lankan intelligence service must visit Thailand and remain in
Bangkok until KP is arrested and handed over to Sri Lanka.
KP claim that LTTE leader is still alive?
KP is as deceptive as Prabhakaran. There is no question that
Prabhakaran is dead. I have met him before and I saw the pictures of his
body. But a DNA test would clear all doubts.
Rehab and reintegration of ex-cadres, a challenge?
Terrorists are the worst human rights violators. Although they are
indoctrinated into believing that they are fighting for freedom, they
have killed, maimed and injured thousands of people. They have also
destroyed the dreams of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. To
prevent regeneration, we have to dispel their ignorance.
As LTTE is a conscript and not a volunteer group any longer,
Government should offer an amnesty to LTTE leaders and members.
Except for tier one leaders and others who have committed serious
crimes, every member of the LTTE should be entitled for an amnesty, a
job and security for the family. Government has appointed Suhada Gamlath,
a very capable leader to head the rehabilitation effort. However, the
rehabilitation authority needs resources. Foreign Governments, who are
so much concerned about Sri Lanka should be asked to assist in the
rehabilitation of LTTE members in the rehabilitation centres.