The ongoing investigation conducted by the Police Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) into the assassination plot targeting Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Jaffna district MP Mathiaparanam Abraham Sumanthiran has unearthed more details about the conspiracy hatched by “Tigerish” elements in the Global Tamil Diaspora.
Five former members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) now in custody have divulged much information about how three individuals living overseas had conspired, instigated and instructed them on how to execute the assassination plot on Sumanthiran. All communication between the overseas “handlers” and the five ex-Tigers in Sri Lanka had been through the telephone. Police were authorised by courts to send the telephones used by the five suspects to the Moratuwa University for further decryption and analysis.
According to information provided by security related sources, the would-be assassins had attempted thrice to target the TNA parliamentarian. Their efforts had proved abortive due to circumstances beyond their control. All three attempts were aimed at assassinating Sumanthiran MP by using explosive devices while he was travelling along the B-402 Soranpatru-Thaalayadi road. The TNA parliamentarian was unaware of all three attempts until the arrest of suspects afterwards.
The first planned attempt was to have occurred on December 12, 2016 when Sumanthiran MP was on his way to a cultural festival held in Maruthankerni in the Jaffna peninsula. The plot had failed because the MP had been travelling in the vehicle of TNA Northern Province Councillor Kesavan Sayanthan instead of his own vehicle. This had confused the would be assassins.
The second attempt was to have taken place on Dec 26, 2016. The suspects were aware that the TNA parliamentarian was in Jaffna on Dec 24. They had expected him to attend the Tsunami anniversary event in Maruthankerni-Thaalayadi on Dec 26. Sumanthiran however had returned to Colombo on Dec 25 to be at home with his family for Christmas. Thus he did not go for the Tsunami event as anticipated by the suspects.
The third attempt was to be on Jan 13, 2017 when Sumanthiran MP was expected to participate at a forum on setting up a de-salination plant at Maruthankerni. Initially he was scheduled to travel along with his wife. However, he was forced to cancel his plans to go to Jaffna at the last minute due to unexpected reasons. Therefore the suspects could not go through with their plot as envisaged.
Two payments of Rs. 800,000 and 600,000
Informed security related sources opine that the three persons from overseas who interacted with the five ex-Tigers in Sri Lanka to execute the assassination plot against Sumanthiran belonged to the Diaspora LTTE organization headed by Norway based Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias “Nediyavan”. They are “Maran” from France, “Vetri” from Australia and “Amuthan” from Malaysia. Detailed instructions on how to go about the assassination were issued regularly by Vetri from down under. Maran from France was the distributor of cash. Police have so far traced two payments of Rs. 800,000 and Rs. 600,000 being sent by Maran to Lanka.
Amuthan also known as “Yarl Amuthan” is reportedly the mastermind behind the plot. He had been in overall charge coordinating matters. Amuthan though based in Malaysia had been using a Brazilian SIM card. Initially, the TID suspected that the nom de plume Amuthan was another name for the senior LTTE intelligence operative whose nom de guerre was “Chiranjeevi Master” and was suspected of being in a South East Asian country. A voice test done on a telephone conversation with Amuthan revealed that Amuthan was not Chiranjeevi. Malaysian officials feel that Amuthan is no longer in Malaysia.
TID officials have also recorded statements from the five ex-Tigers arrested in connection with the assassination attempts. Four of the five were first produced at the Kilinochchi District magistrates court before District Judge. A. A. Anandarajah and were remanded to fiscal custody. They are being held at the Anuradhapura prisons.
The case was next heard on January 30, 2017. The name of one more person was included as a suspect on that day. All five were remanded until February 13, 2017. The case was taken up again before Judge Anandarajah who re-remanded all five suspects until Feb 27. Police informed court that investigations were not over yet and that further information was expected to be uncovered. Though the Terrorism Investigation Dept in Vavuniya is conducting the probe it is reliably learnt that TID Director DIG Nalaka de Silva himself is directing his officials in this case. The TID is very keen on uncovering more details about the overseas LTTE link in this matter. There is also suspicion that some Tamil politicians in Sri Lanka may have had a role in trying to get Sumanthiran killed. It is expected that after the investigation is concluded, an indictment would be filed in the High Court.
Kulendran alias “Master” the ring leader
Police feel that the first suspect Karalasingham Kulendran alias “Master” is the ring leader of the ex-Tiger group tasked with the mission of assassinating Sumanthiran. He was a senior member of the LTTE who was involved in training new Tiger recruits when the LTTE was active while the war was on. Since LTTE trainers were addressed as “Master” by other cadres, Kulendran is still called by some as Master. Several of the ex-Tigers in custody as suspects along with “Master” were reportedly trained by him.
37-year-old Kulendran “Master” resides at 43/1, Thiruvaiyaaru in Kilinochchi. He is known to be closely associated with TNA Jaffna District MP Sivagnanam Shritharan whose political base is the Kilinochchi electoral division. Kulendran works as a senior executive at a leading finance company in Kilinochchi which specialises in loans, leasing and hire purchasing. Kulendran’s duties enable him to travel around in the North. A powerful claymore mine was recovered from Kulendran’s possession in Kilinochchi by the Police. The second suspect in custody is Gnanasekaralingam Rajmathan alias Vasudevan. Rajmathan is from Naduppirappanthidal in Thambalagaamam in Trincomalee district. Though Rajmathan has a wife and children in Trincomalee, he has been staying continually for many months in the north shuttling between Kilinochchi on the northern mainland and Thaalayadi in the Jaffna peninsula. Police recovered a locally manufactured explosive device and detonators from the place Rajmathan was staying in at Kilinochchi.
The third suspect is Murugaiya Thavendran, also from Kilinochchi. Thavendran who lost a hand in an explosion when he was active in the LTTE resides in a house near the 3rd mile post on Wilson street in Thiruvaiyaaru in Kilinochchi. 32-year-old Thavendran known also as ‘Thavam’ surrendered to the Army at Oamanthai on May 18, 2009. He was detained at the Nelukkulam camp for 10 months and released on March 7, 2010 after undergoing rehabilitation.
Clandestine sea passage to India
The fourth suspect is Velayuthan Vijayakumar also known as Vijayan. Vijayan was arrested on January 19, 2017 but was not produced in courts along with the other arrested persons on Jan 20, 2017. He was produced at the Kilinochchi courts with the others when the case was taken up on Jan 30. Vijayakumar alias Vijayan is a native of Vaettiaiyaanmurippu in Mannar. The powerful claymore mine in Kulendran’s possession was reportedly supplied by Vijayan to master. Inquiries have revealed that Vijayan had been earlier involved in arranging clandestine sea passage to India for LTTE suspects wanted for a different offence. Investigators believe that Vijayan would have helped fellow suspects to go to India by boat after the assassination.
The fifth suspect is from Thaalayadi on the eastern littoral of the Jaffna peninsula. He is a rehabilitated former LTTE member now driving a trishaw. The man whose name is Mariyanayagam Lewis Ajanthan is also known by the nom de plume Jana. His nom de guerre while in the LTTE was Kadalavan. Inquiries have revealed that it was Kulendran master who provided finance to Mariyanayagam Ajanthan to buy his three-wheeler via a hire -purchase scheme. Ajanthan drove his vehicle in the areas of Thaalayadi, Maruthankerni, Sembiyanpatru and Maamunai. Since he stays indefinitely at all these places at times, the Police in their “B” report have mentioned all four areas as Ajanthan’s addresses. TID also recovered a locally manufactured explosive device and detonators from Ajanthan’s possession.
An interesting aspect of this case is the fact that no charges have been filed under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Since the Government has decided to repeal and replace the PTA with new counter-terrorism legislation. The concerned TNA parliamentarian Sumanthiran who is also a leading lawyer has also been opposed to the PTA. The MP too has approved the decision to dispense with the PTA in this regard. Thus the suspects are not being detained for indefinite periods under the PTA for interrogation. They have been produced in courts and remanded to fiscal custody. The TID officials have no access to the suspects and if they want to record further statements the Police have to seek the court’s permission for it. Moreover, the Police can record statements from suspects only in the presence of prison guards.
Kilinochchi district Judge Anandarajah
When the assassination plot case (B 85/17) was taken up at the Kilinochchi courts before Kilinochchi District Judge A. A. Anandarajah on February 13, the Police filed a further addendum that provided more information about the assassination conspiracy. Police requested the court’s permission to take the suspects physically to certain places linked to the investigation and record further statements after ascertaining relevant facts. This was strongly objected to by lawyers representing Kulendran, Thavendran, Vijayakumar and Ajanthan. The lawyer representing Rajmathan after consulting him stated that his client was prepared to cooperate.
Thereafter Judge Anandarajah ordered that the Police could escort Gnanasegaralingam Rajmathan to places and conduct further investigations on February 20, 21 and 22. It is expected that the Police would take Rajmathan to different places in the Mannar, Kilinochchi and Jaffna districts in the North and also to the Trincomalee district in the East. Apparently Police suspect a greater “Trinco link” in Diaspora Tiger activity aimed at fomenting violence in Sri Lanka.
Besides Rajmathan’s family is in Thambalagaamam in Trinco. Police also requested courts to grant permission to record further statements from the other four suspects held at the Anuradhapura jail. Judge Anandarajah acceded to the request and ordered that Police could record further statements on Feb 14, 15 and 16 from Kulendran, Thavendran,Vijayakumar and Ajanthan. The case will be next heard on Feb 27 after the statements are duly recorded.
Inquiries and related legal proceedings so far have firmly established that three overseas LTTE operatives believed to be members of the Diaspora Tiger organization headed by Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan have plotted, financed and instigated five former members of the LTTE in Sri Lanka to engage in the conspiracy and execution of a plot to assassinate TNA Jaffna district MP Sumanthiran. This has put a lot of egg on the faces of those who described the assassination attempt on Sumanthiran as a “drama”. While the existence of a definite plot and related preparations to implement are conclusively proved what needs to be ascertained is whether the attempted assassination of Sumanthiran is part of a larger conspiracy to revive the LTTE or just an isolated plot targeting him alone.
Against that backdrop, it would be pertinent and important to delve briefly into the recent past. The LTTE was militarily defeated in May 2009. The Tigers ceased to be a viable or active entity in the Island. Over 12,000 former LTTE cadres were released from custody after undergoing a period of rehabilitation. However, the overseas structures of the LTTE remained intact but were seriously undermined by the fall of the LTTE in Sri Lanka. The Diaspora Tigers though active abroad could do very little damage in Sri Lanka as their capacity to engage in large scale violence on Lankan soil had virtually ended.
Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias “Nediyavan”
The Diaspora Tigers led by the Norway-based Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias “Nediyavan” or tall man has persisted with its efforts to engage in violence in Sri Lanka despite the end of war. The overseas Tigers have been trying to foment violence in Sri Lanka by utilising the ex-Tigers as their agents or instruments on Lankan soil. “Mazhai Nindraalum Thooral Nitkavillai” is a saying in Tamil which means although the rain has ceased the drizzle has not ended. Likewise the Diaspora Tigers have been repeatedly attempting to revive the LTTE and foment violence in Sri Lanka even though the war is over. The latest Sumanthiran- assassination attempt is not the first instance of overseas Tigers promoting violence in the post-war years. It is not likely to be the last either.
There have been many attempts by the Diaspora Tigers to foment violence in Sri Lanka after the war ended. Some of these happened during the time Mahinda Rajapaksa was president and his sibling Gotabhaya, the all powerful Defence Secretary. The first instance was in the Trincomalee district. On March 17, 2012, the body of a Tamil youth with his throat slit, was discovered at Periyakulam in the Kuchaveli region of Trinco district. The dead person was Velayudhan Ragunathan alias Muthu, a member of the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) led by former Cabinet Minister Douglas Devananda. A handwritten note saying “death to traitors” and a small LTTE flag with the tiger emblem was placed by the side.
The Sri Lankan State reacted in a state of panic. An intensive search-and-arrest operation was conducted in the Trincomalee district. Over 200 youths of both gender were arrested. Almost all of them were ex-LTTE cadres who had surrendered and been rehabilitated. Some former Tigers who had not been rehabilitated were also discovered and detained during the round up operations. They were sent to the Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centre (PARC) at Welikanda for rehabilitation.
Information gleaned through interrogation of arrested persons sent alarm signals through the defence establishment. Further interrogation and investigation revealed information about an attempt to revive the LTTE in Sri Lanka with backing from tiger and pro-tiger elements from the global Tamil Diaspora.
Kamalanathan Sadheeshkumar alias “Kumaran”
It was learnt that a Tiger operative from France named Kamalanathan Sadheeshkumar alias “Kumaran” had arrived in India in November 2011. He had gathered some ex-Tiger cadres living in Tamil Nadu State and organised clandestine meetings aimed at reviving the LTTE. Kumaran had recruited 15 members in Tamil Nadu and divided them into three cells comprising five members each. Members from one such cell were sent to Trincomalee on March 6, 2012.The objective was to carry out executions in the Trincomalee district. The killing of Ragunathan alias Muthu on March 17 was the first in this plan. Sadheeshkumar alias Kumaran is yet living in Paris but is apparently inactive now
The excessively hard crackdown by the Sri Lankan State saw this LTTE revival pilot project going awry. While a few of the cell were arrested the others fled back to India. The widespread round-ups in different parts of Trinco district and resultant mass arrests caused much alarm in the community. The TNA, which then had (and has now) the most number of Sri Lankan Tamil MP’s from the Northern and Eastern provinces protested vehemently against the large-scale arrests.
Two Parliamentarians from the TNA met with Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in this regard. Gotabaya explained what had happened and informed the TNA of the revival attempt. He even offered to play recordings of purported telephone conversations between suspects in Sri Lanka with Diaspora elements. The Defence Secretary assured the TNA that the bulk of those arrested would be released in due course. The TNA went back apparently satisfied. Within a few days most of those arrested - except for a handful - were released.
The second LTTE revival attempt was detected in December 2012. The arrest of an non-rehabilitated ex-LTTE cadre in Colombo during the first week of December 2012 and subsequent interrogation resulted in a disturbing discovery. Details of an organized LTTE network operating in Chennai, Tamil Nadu with funds from Tiger elements in Europe came to light during preliminary inquiries.
Tamil Nadu Tiger network links
Further investigations led to the arrests of six more youths in Jaffna who were suspected of having links to the Tamil Nadu Tiger network. Two of the six were former women Tigers who had been released after undergoing rehabilitation. Subsequently the arrested suspects, except for two were released.
More information was garnered from the suspects in custody. The information revealed was shocking. According to the detained youths a clandestine campaign was underfoot in Tamil Nadu to recruit from among refugees in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lankan Tamil youths sympathetic to the Tamil Eelam cause and indoctrinate them with extreme LTTE ideology. They were to be trained in electronics and explosives. The ultimate objective was to infiltrate the island and conduct explosive attacks against key installations and important individuals in Sri Lanka. The project was being financed by Tiger elements in Europe.
Sri Lankan officials conveyed this information quietly to their counterparts in India. Great care was taken to avoid information leaking to pro-LTTE politicians and officials in Tamil Nadu. A team of Police officers from the Tamil Nadu State Police Special Intelligence Unit known as the “Q” branch launched a sudden raid after nightfall on December 19, 2012 under the command of a Senior Deputy Superintendent of Police. A house on Nallathamby street in Pammal near the Chennai suburb of Pallaavaram was surrounded and stormed by a Police contingent. Four occupants in the rented residence were arrested. They were S. Suresh Kumar, D. Udaya Doss, T. Maheswaran and K. Krishnamurthy. At the time of their arrest in December 2012, they were aged 34, 39, 33 and 29 respectively.
According to a news report published then in the “Times of India” an investigating officer said Suresh Kumar lost his legs in an explosion during the Eelam war and now moves around on a wheelchair. “Two of the men came to Tamil Nadu as refugees in 2001 and 2003, and the others as the war was in its final stages in 2009,” the officer reportedly said.
LTTE electronics expert Suresh Kumar
The news report further said that as an electronics expert, Suresh Kumar headed an LTTE wing that made explosives. “He specialised in making electronic circuits,” the officer said. “We recovered two laptops, incriminating documents, wires, cables and electronic circuit boards and panels from the house.” Investigators said Krishnamurthy, who supplied water cans in the locality, befriended the Sri Lankan Tamils and took them to Suresh Kumar. The former LTTE operative trained them to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and electronic circuits for a variety of bombs. During questioning, the arrested men said.
The arrested men were produced before a Magistrate’s Court in Tambaram and were remanded in judicial custody.
With Sri Lankan security sleuths uncovering details of a “Tamil Nadu Connection” in two different attempts to revive the LTTE in Sri Lanka there was much suspicion about the sinister motives of the Indian External Intelligence Agency the Research and Analysis Wing referred to as RAW. It was felt that RAW may have had a hand in these LTTE revival attempts. Against that backdrop, the threat posed was also over estimated. News reports appeared in Sri Lanka about training camps being conducted for hundreds of tigers in Tamil Nadu with the blessings of the RAW. These were stoutly denied. Continuing interaction between Sri Lankan and Indian officials put to rest the paranoia over RAW in Sri Lanka relating to this issue.
LTTE revival attempt in 2014
Then came the LTTE revival attempt in 2014 spearheaded by a trio comprising Suntharalingam Gajatheeban alias Theiveegan, Navaratnam Navaneethan alias Appan and Ponniah Selvanayagam Kajeepan alias Gobi. This was the most serious well-organized effort to resurrect the LTTE in Sri Lanka after May 2009. This too was thwarted by the concerted efforts of the Police and Armed Forces. A crucial factor in this exercise was the close cooperation of State Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Police TID in combatting a common threat. This and other matters related to attempts by the Diaspora Tigers to foment violence in Sri Lanka would be related in detail in a forthcoming article.
D.B.S.Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org