‘Peter Ibrahim’ arrest triggers KP
On the eve of the 6th anniversary of the 9/11
terrorist attack, the LTTE on Monday suffered its biggest material
destruction in two decades of war.
Not only were three ships destroyed, but also the arms and ammunition
for arguably the biggest battles ahead.
The Navy destroyed three LTTE ships MV Manyoshi, MV Kyoshi and MV Seshin
within 24 hours.
Navy Commander Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda announced that there
was no connection between the alleged arrest of Kumaran Pathmanadhan
also known as K.P. and the destruction of the ships coincidentally on
the same night.
Granted that it was not based on the information provided by K.P. that
the three ships were destroyed by the Navy, which had been having close
tabs on the vessels for at least a couple of months. In fact it was the
information provided by four LTTE cadres in the custody of the Maldivian
authorities that helped destroy these ships.
So KP’s alleged arrest in Thailand had nothing to do with the
destruction of the ships.
But, there could be a different connection between the two incidents.
Was it an inspired leak?
The LTTE could have caused an inspired leak that KP was arrested in
order to overshadow the Navy’s successful strike.
The leak would have been to minimize the damage to the Tiger image when
it was eventually found out that the man responsible for a massive
international shipping operation is still at large teasing the world to
catch him if it could.
Born on April 6, 1955 at Myliyddy, Kakesanthurai in the Jaffna
peninsula, KP is one man who dared those on his trail to arrest him if
they could. His outstanding work for two decades has made him one of the
most important people in the organization.
Kumaran who traversed the world and South East Asia in particular for
two long decades, heads the KP Department that is responsible for
international procurement of arms and ammunition.
The inspired leak could have been to cushion whatever damage the
destruction could have caused vis-à-vis the Tamil expatriate community
that funds (voluntarily or forcibly) the organisation that purchases
The LTTE’s fleet that rose to 21, has been has been gradually reduced
over a period of time, especially during the tenure of this government.
The LTTE however has at least a dozen merchant ships that are continuing
operations. It is believed that the LTTE has bought a number of second
hand trawlers that are used to unload weapons in mid sea.
The first ship MV Ahat was actually destroyed by the Indian Navy on
January 16, 1993. After sailing freely for three years, the Sri Lankan
Navy destroyed three LTTE ships- MV Horizon, MV Fratzescom and MV
Mariamman in 1996, ’97 and ’98 respectively.
The destroying of LTTE ships continued during the UNF peace process. Two
ships, suspected of carrying arms and ammunition, were destroyed by the
Navy in 2003. The late Anton Balasingham was learnt to have conveyed
LTTE leader’s anger over the destruction of the MV Koimer on March 10 to
the Sri Lankan peace negotiators just before the March 2003 round of
talks. This was the first time the LTTE threatened to pull out of peace
talks before it actually did on April 23 on some other grounds.
On June 14, 2003 another ship MV Shoshin carrying weapons was destroyed.
The trend continued after the new government came to office. And during
the last two years, several Tiger ships were destroyed. (An unidentified
ship was sunk on September 17, 2006 and another on February 28, 2007
while two more were destroyed on March 28, 2007).
Destroying three ships within 24 hours was a unique feat. On the part of
the LTTE, it would have liked to minimize damages and perhaps take away
the attention away from the Navy.
The Navy has decided to feat its men involved in the attack that saw it
pursue the LTTE vessels well into international waters. Top Defence
officials will be at hand on Monday at a ceremony in Trincomalee to feat
the naval personnel involved in the attack.
Parallel: Prabha’s demise
The Boxing Day Asian tsunami too had caused much damage to Sea Tiger
resources (personnel and otherwise) in Mullaitivu and other places in
the North. The LTTE again had to minimize the negative impact.
So, it deliberately allowed reports that Tiger Supremo Velupillai
Prabhakaran had died in the tsunami to go unchallenged. In the end,
after the hype (luxury coffins and all that), when Prabhakaran
resurfaced, the negative impact on the organisation’s actual loss was
If the arrest of KP was an inspired leak by the Tigers, it then was an
exercise in damage control. The entire week was dominated with the news
of the arrest of KP and denial of such an arrest by the Thai
authorities, not to mention the chief of Thai Interpol, Col. Apichart
Suribunya who said: According to immigration records for the past two
years, there is no record of him (Pathmanathan) entering the country. He
also said there had been no arrests of Sri Lankans in the past three to
Interestingly, officials from the Interpol headquarters in Lyons, France
had contacted their local counterparts to inquire about the veracity of
the arrest of KP.
Interpol had posted a notice dated November 22, 2004 to the effect that
there was a warrant for the arrest of Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam
issued in Colombo and Chennai for twin offences - Organised crime and
terrorism. This was the name given on the Interpol notice for the LTTE
Obviously, KP would not enter a country under any of the known names and
certainly would not even resemble the pictures posted on the Interpol
notice which themselves look different.
Obviously, he would not be sporting the same mustache and his hair which
was wavy would most probably be straightened and eyebrows made to look
different. It is possible that he would have undergone plastic surgery
to afford him a new look.
Many experts believe that the system is so corrupt in Thailand that KP
would have preferred to have made it his base.
They suggest that when he had first entered the country military
vehicles had come to the airport to accompany him.
They even say that if some military or police officers were sent to
arrest him, Pathmanathan would offer them money to the tune of a million
dollars and get away.
They refer to the arrest of Sujith Gunapala, Sasikaran Thevarajah and
Satiyapawan Aseerwathan in May 2003. Subsequent to this arrest 14 Thai
nationals including eight police and military officers were taken into
custody. These experts who feel the Thai military and police could be
bribed rule out the possibility of KP being arrested in Thailand. (The
three local gun runners Sujith, Sasakaran and Satiyapawan who completed
a five year sentence, were recently handed over to a local CID team that
This week even before a Sri Lankan team, comprising senior police
officers including two senior DIGs and an Additional Foreign Secretary
enplaned, the Thai authorities had discouraged the Government from
sending a delegation. The team returned on Friday night without much
success, after eating humble pie.
Top local defence officials feel the LTTE had cultivated the Thai
authorities over a long period of time, while the Sri Lankan Embassy
there in the past had not been effective enough.
Western and Indian diplomats, on the other hand, have recognised the
importance of Thailand as a trading partner and given the country its
Indian External Affairs Minister and former Defence Minister Pranab
Mukherjee, who flew to Bangkok on Thursday night for a three day visit
to enhance economic cooperation and trade, was expected to take up the
issue of the arrest of KP, a wanted man in India in connection with the
assassination of former Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi. Previously, the
Central Bureau of Investigations had asked their Thai counterparts to
hand him over and the Indian Government, too, made a request to
Senior officials of Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external
intelligence agency, had told IANS that KP was detained while travelling
with an Eritrean passport.
“We know he is a big catch that could cripple the LTTE’s logistics. We
are moving carefully on this and are in touch with the Thai authorities
to ascertain more details of him. Let us get more details before we
decide to send out a team,” a senior intelligence official had
reportedly told IANS.
But, Mukherjee was quoted as saying that the Indian Government would
have to accept the Thai Government’s position.
A member of the Sri Lankan delegation to Bangkok said yesterday the Thai
Government’s position has not changed and the team was forced to return
A western diplomat from Bangkok, who was contacted by The Nation, also
maintained that the arms procurement chief KP was not arrested according
to information by the Thai authorities.
US interest after Thavarajah’s arrest
But, top officers in the Sri Lankan defence establishment are
convinced that the Americans who conducted an undercover sting operation
had planned to take it to its logical conclusion.
In August 2006, the FBI netted in 11 people, including Sri Lankans and
foreigners, involved in procuring weapons. But, they had deliberately
kept out Pratheepan Thavarajah’s name in the press release for fear that
he would become a fugitive.
When the original 34-page complaint was unsealed on August 21, 2006 in
US District Court in Brooklyn, New York, Thavarajah was a wanted man by
the FBI, but sleuths deliberately kept his name out.
Information however was passed on to Interpol to seek international
assistance to track him down. He was eventually arrested by Indonesian
intelligence operatives at the Sukarno-Hatta international airport in
Jakarta on January 4 as he was about to board a plane to Kuala Lampur.
The US, which has been working closely with the Indonesian authorities,
was able to take over Thavarajah, who was grilled by Indonesian
authorities for a week. Some officers feel, a similar pattern would
befall Kumaran Pathmanathan as the US authorities would want to get at
the bottom of the LTTE network. This would help unravel the network of
other terrorist organisations, they believe.
The arrest of one Peter Ibrahim sparked off the information that he was
actually Kumaran Pathmanathan. While the name of Peter Ibrahim was not
mentioned, the name of Pathmanthan was in the Bangkok Post, the Asian
Tribune and the Defence Ministry website.
The news was promptly denied by the Thai authorities but the Indians too
believed it to be Pathmanathan.
In the case of the Indian request to extradite him, officials feel, the
purpose was to try him in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination and possibly
send him to gallows. Unlike in Sri Lanka, in India and the US those
wanted in connection with a criminal case cannot be tried in absentia.
So the order would be to try and allow the US, which has systematically
been netting Tigers involved in weapons purchasing and money laundering,
to conduct a comprehensive probe before handing the LTTE kingpin to the
Grilling Pathmanathan for the whereabouts of the elusive LTTE leader
Velupillai Prabhakaran would be futile, as he had made just a solitary
visit to Sri Lanka after he left for India in the early eighties.
Establishing whether the person arrested is KP would not be a difficult
task as the Indians have fingerprinted him back in 1983 when he was
arrested in Bombay for gold smuggling from Singapore.
KP who speaks fluent French was believed to have been arrested after
that in Europe with false travel documents. He was deported back to
After the Indo Lanka Accord failed and the LTTE’s Indian patronage
ended, he is learnt to have moved to Malaysia and taken to an unusual
business dealing with various aspects akin to his LTTE nickname donkey
and symbolic of his new role where he carried the weight of the
He also mastered the art of related sports and posing off as a scribe he
would move easily from one country to another in the region to carry out
According to unconfirmed reports during his frequent travels to
Singapore, KP is also learnt to have got involved with a Singaporean
girl who was divorced in 1997. She had a Sri Lankan father and a mother
of Chinese decent.
After an initial run in Singapore, using this new connection, he later
got married to a Thai girl working for his export company in Thailand.
She who was also a professional sportswoman was later to support him in
his endeavours. He is learnt to have started a company in Malaysia in
1999 and made his wife a co partner in the business.
He had established a network of weapons purchasing using his connections
through marriage, business and his shipping network. Even if he was
actually arrested, the operation would continue uninterrupted as the
right people have been trained and placed to take over and, in fact,
during a long illness, he allowed them to run the show.
To take a leaf from Karthikeyan’s volume
Former head of the Special Investigation Team of
Rajiv Gandhi assassination case D.R. Karthikeyan, in his latest book
Triumph of Truth referred to the emergence of the Tiger shipping lines
in the following lines.
“Experienced men and those reliable and wedded to the LTTE’s objective
were needed to run LTTE ships and to train cadres who would man future
shipping lines. There were many merchant navy officers, sailors and
engineers from Velvettithurai (Velupillai Prabhakaran’s home town) and
other parts of northern and eastern Sri Lanka. Some of them had done
training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Nautical Engineering College in
Bombay (now Mumbai). On Prabhakaran’s instructions, his Jaffna Commander
Kittu sent an emissary to meet Captain David, a merchant Navy officer
who was on holiday at his home in Jaffna in February 1984. Captain David
was asked to meet Prabhakaran regarding establishment of an LTTE
shipping service. He was introduced to Kumaran Pathmanadan alias ‘KP,’
the LTTE’s Chief procurer of arms, communication equipment and other war
“Captain David met Prabhakaran in Chennai in March 1984. Together with ‘KP,’
they chalked out an elaborate strategy to float maritime companies in
Southeast Asia, based mainly in Singapore and Malaysia. ‘Arasu Maritime
Private Ltd’ was one of their first ventures. The support of
Singapore-based Tamils was enlisted for this purpose. An old Chinese
vessel, ‘Sun-Hing,’ was registered in Panama in October 1984. The name
of the ship was changed to ‘MV Cholan.’ Meanwhile, several firms were
floated to make enquiries about military wares. ‘Captain David and
Associates’ was one such firm.
“The ship ‘MV Cholan’ started its voyage in 1985 with general cargo from
Southeast Asia to Vishakhapatnam in India. It also carried powerful boat
engines, communication equipment, machine guns, tinned food, packet
food, camouflage uniform items, tents and rain coats.”