13 May 2011,
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Prabhakaran’s successor, T. S. Pathmanathan or simply ‘KP’ as he is known, says the controversial ‘Darusman Report’ will not help the ongoing national reconciliation process. Instead, it can cause irreparable damage to ambitious reconciliation efforts, he asserts.
Pathmanathan asserts the report commissioned by UNSG Ban Ki-moon will only strengthen the hands of those hell-bent on undermining the post-war recovery process. The UNSG’s move received the backing of the US, UK, EU comprising 27 countries and South Africa in spite of Sri Lanka strongly disputing the ‘Darusman Report.’
Pathmanathan was responding to ‘The Island’ in the wake of Tamil Diaspora groups planning to hold a major rally and protest next Wednesday (18) at the United Nations, New York, to coincide with the defeat of the LTTE on May 18, two years ago.
Excerpts of the interview:
The Island: The war ended in May two years ago on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. You were taken into custody abroad and brought to Colombo in August 2009. Were you given an opportunity to meet LTTE combatants undergoing rehabilitation in government custody? Are you satisfied with ongoing rehabilitation efforts?
Pathmanathan: I was given an opportunity to speak with ex-LTTE combatants held in the North. On the invitation of the government, a group of Diaspora representatives, too, joined the meet. We met only combatants undergoing rehabilitation. We are happy with the progress made since the conclusion of the war, though we believe the rehabilitation process can be further improved and stepped up. Of some 11,600 in custody, several thousands are now living with their families following rehabilitation. We should appreciate the support given by various countries and other international agencies to rehabilitate those who once took up arms.
The Island: Do you think the Tamil Diaspora could help rehabilitation efforts undertaken by the government?
Pathmanathan: Now that the war is over, rehabilitation of those who fought for the LTTE and resettlement, reconstruction and restoration of civil administration remain key priorities. The Diaspora can play an important role in the process to provide relief to those affected by the war. I’m also involved in an attempt to attract Diaspora activists and their expertise to assist war weary people.
The Island: The government and a section of the Opposition strongly oppose UNSG Ban Ki-moon’s move targeting SL over unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. UNP MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe on Apr 25 wrote to UNSG Ki-moon urging him to drop his anti-SL plans. The UNP MP alleged that the UNSG’s action would undo national reconciliation efforts. As LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s successor, could you comment on the crisis caused by the UN?
Pathmanathan: There is absolutely no point in living in the past. The conclusion of hostilities gave us an opportunity to develop areas devastated as a result of fighting. The UNSG’s move couldn’t have come at a worse time for those genuinely interested in going ahead with post-war recovery plans. The ‘Darusman Report’ is nothing but an obstacle to national reconciliation. The bottom line is that it will not benefit any community, except to cause fresh wounds, leading to further divisions among the people.
The Island: There is a simmering controversy over Ragaven Paranchothy contesting May 2 federal polls in Canada on the Conservative ticket. A section of the Canadian media has accused him of being an LTTE agent on the basis of his alleged association with you (last person to call you on Aug 5, 2009 before you were arrested). Ragaven has strongly denied LTTE links, insisting that he was in touch with you only as a journalist. Was he involved with the LTTE? What was he talking with you when foreign agents pounced on you?
Pathmanathan: Paranchothy is an LTTE supporter. He is still working with for an ‘LTTE radio station.’
The Island: Do you follow LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) process? Is national reconciliation possible in spite of continuing disputes among political parties? Do you think talks between the government and the TNA can settle contentious issues
Pathmanathan: Dialogue is the only way forward. Contentious issues such as power sharing can be discussed and understanding reached through dialogue. Nothing can be as important as confidence building measures to facilitate a relationship between the majority community and the Tamil speaking minority. In spite of a 30-year-war, we should be patient and strive to achieve maximum possible benefits for the Tamil speaking people through negotiations. We should follow veteran politician, the late S. Thondaman. Thondaman worked tactfully to secure citizenship rights for upcountry Tamils. The great CWC leader’s efforts took several decades, but he doggedly pushed towards his target amidst severe hardships. We’ll not get anything by being emotional or playing to the gallery. What the TNA should know is that the national issue, which couldn’t be solved for many decades couldn’t be settled in two months. So, patience is the name of the game. And nothing could be achieved by adopting a hostile approach towards the government or trying to undermine the incumbent administration. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is sincere. Failure on our part to reach an understanding with the President will be a tragedy, as we’ll not get another opportunity. This is our last chance and every effort should be made to bring ongoing consultations among the government and various Tamil political parties and groups to a successful conclusion.
The Island: Throughout eelam war IV (Aug 2006 to May 2009) you were abroad. Were you constantly in touch with the British Tamil Forum and other LTTE front organizations, including the ‘Nediyawan faction’ to explore ways and means of forcing SL to stop military offensive
Pathmanathan: We tried hard to stop the war. It was a difficult task which we failed to achieve, in spite of having support among a section of the international community.
Wiki Leaks recently revealed how Pathmanathan, three days before the conclusion of the war, had phoned the then Norwegian Ambassador Hattrem to arrange unconditional surrender of LTTE leaders to a third neutral party. According to a US diplomatic missive originating from Colombo, Hattrem had got in touch with the then US Ambassador Robert O’ Blake, who in turn discussed the issue with the ICRC, though the plan never materialized.
The Island: You are widely believed to be the person responsible for giving the LTTE wherewithal to wage war by procuring arms, ammunition and equipment over the years. Were you ever involved in actual fighting or handled weapons?
Pathmanathan: I wasn’t involved in combat operations at any level.
The Island: When did you last visit Sri Lanka before Aug 2009? How did you arrive in the Vanni and leave?
Pathmanathan: During negotiations between the LTTE and the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s government (Apr 1989 to June 1990) I arrived in Sri Lanka through the Bandaranaike International Airport. I accompanied Anton Balasingham, who led the LTTE negotiating team.
The Island: Are you making an attempt to bring Diaspora groups under one umbrella? Do you think the Diaspora groups will listen to you at the time they are pushing for an international war crimes tribunal
Pathmanathan: The vast majority of Diaspora Tamils understand the ground situation. They now realize the futility in waging war, as other means exist following the battlefield defeat. Unfortunately, there are some elements, who still believe the incumbent administration should be taught a lesson for finishing off the LTTE.