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Defeated Tamil rebels name new leader – Channel 4 News

[MISC, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 15:44 No Comment]


23_srilankaleader2_p Sri Lanka’s vanquished Tamil Tiger rebels name a man accused of running a huge arms smuggling operation as their new leader, two months after government troops crushed the separatist movement. Jonathan Miller reports.

The new leader has promised to remake the rebels into a peaceful separatist movement.

Selvarasa Pathmanathan was the rebels’ chief of international relations and allegedly ran a global weapons smuggling ring.

The Sri Lankan government has asked foreign governments to track him down and arrest him. Pathmanathan "will lead us into the next steps of our freedom struggle according to the vision of our esteemed leader," said the Tiger’s executive committee on Tuesday.

He replaces Velupillai Prabhakaran, the man who led the Tigers for years before being shot dead by Sri Lankan forces in May.

The Tigers said they have set up a head office and an executive committee to push for their dream of an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have claimed unfair treatment at the hands of Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese.

Pathmanathan said earlier the Tigers would give up their military struggle and use peaceful means to achieve their objectives, and he pledged the group would become democratic — a huge shift from Prabhakaran’s dictatorial leadership.

"Like all liberation struggles, we will modify the form and strategies of our struggle according to times and demands," the statement said.

The government said in May that its forces had defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and ended the civil war that started in 1983.

The rebels used to have control of a shadow state across northern Sri Lanka supported by thousands of guerrilla fighters, a navy and even a nascent air force.

In the last days of the war, the military killed much of the senior Tiger leadership, including Prabhakaran. About 10,000 ex-rebels are government prisoners.

It was not clear whether Pathmanathan would get the backing of the 800,000 Tamil expatriates in the UK, Canada, Australia and in other nations.

It is clear that they are divided over whom to support. The LTTE’s website, TamilNet website, does not have any statements from Pathmanathan.

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