Rudrakumaran emerges as Diaspora leader -island
The US-based Rudrakumaran Viswanathan aka ‘Rudra’ has now emerged as the leader of the Tamil diaspora with a section of the NGOs backing his call for a referendum in Sri Lanka on the lines of the recent UN led referendum in Sudan. Following the arrest in Malaysia and deportation to Colombo of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s successor, S. Pathmanathan aka ‘KP’ in early August 2009, various diaspora operatives had been trying to take over the leadership of the Tigers. ‘Rudra’ succeeded in overcoming all opposition.
Authoritative sources told The Sunday Island that ‘Rudra’ had bolstered his position primarily through the setting up of Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), which won the recognition by South Sudan, the newest country in the UN system.
They said that some of the NGOs, which had been supportive of the LTTE’s war, had raised the possibility of the UN stepping in to force Sri Lanka to agree for a Sudan type referendum to divide the country on ethnic lines.
Ambassador John Gooneratne, formerly of the Sri Lanka Government Peace Secretariat, said that ‘Rudra’ had referred to Sudan even during negotiations the LTTE had with the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government in 2003.
Responding to several questions by The Sunday Island, the retired career diplomat, who had been involved in Wickremesinghe’s peace process said that superficially one could see similarities with Sudan in the pre-May 2009 Sri Lanka situation where the LTTE had control over some parts of the North and Eastern provinces.
"Then a minority national group in conflict with the majority group, waging a war to gain separate statehood. But, beyond that the comparison does not stand because the histories of the two conflicts are so different. But the LTTE always had their eyes fixed on what they wanted in the GOSL-LTTE negotiations that took place in 2002-2003," he said.
"At the Hakone, Japan, meeting (2003) one of the points discussed was a federal constitutional structure for Sri Lanka. In fact, the GOSL side gave a very "learned" paper titled "Exploring a federal solution based on internal self determination within a united Sri Lanka," which outlined the basic elements of a federal structure as well as 16 principles which provided an overarching framework for discussion.
Gooneratne also said: "Anton Balasingham’s (read LTTE) response was that he was not in a position to endorse an outline of a federal structure at that juncture. He stated that such an issue had to be discussed with the Political Affairs Committee (which, incidentally, had not met even once since it was formed) that had been appointed to study and research matters relating to political issues.
“In the away-from-the- main- table, and informal discussions that ensued on the subject, among the advisers of both sides, I recall that Rudrakumaran made a reference to the case of Sudan. And the reaction was – Jeez, what kind of an idea is this?"
"In hindsight, my thought is – Man! This Rudrakumaran guy was no fool. He is, as the Americans will say, one smart cookie. And he is now Prime Minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE)!!"
Intelligence sources said that ‘Rudra’ could be planning long term strategy to exploit the division of Sudan to force UN intervention in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government is banking on ‘KP’ to woo the Tamil Diaspora as part of an overall strategy to undermine ‘Rudra’ , while seeking an understanding with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which could help President Mahinda Rajapaksa to consolidate peace won through military means.
They said that the government had assured KP’s North-East Rehabilitation and Development Organization (NERDO) its fullest support to implement welfare programmes in war devastated areas.
Those living abroad could now throw their weight behind post-war recovery in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka by getting in touch with the NERDO without being deceived by three or four diaspora groups still promoted Prabhakaran’s macabre Eelam project in spite of having lost their military muscle, they said.
It is no secret that ‘KP’ had been deeply involved in a desperate attempt with ‘Rudra’ to force Sri Lanka to halt the offensive on the Vanni east front. While ‘KP’ had cooperated with the government following his extradition to Colombo from Malaysia in Aug. 2009, "Rudra’ had taken the upper hand in the battle for control of the diaspora, it was pointed out.
The self-appointed Prime Minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), ‘Rudra’ had assured the diaspora that his project would pave the way for Eelam in spite of the LTTE losing its conventional military power in May 2009. ‘Rudra’ had asserted that the TGTE could create conditions necessary for foreign intervention similar to that of UN managed referendum in Sudan to pave the way for a new country in Southern Sudan, the sources said.
Intelligence sources said that Rudrakumaran had earned the wrath of some of his former colleagues for seeking to exploit his links with those in control of Southern Sudan (Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement) for his advantage. They acknowledged that ‘Rudra’s’contribution to the LTTE could be second only to ‘KP’, though various others were now trying to re-assert themselves.
‘Rudra’ had represented the LTTE at Thimpu way back in 1985. The LTTE high flyer stood in place for Chief LTTE negotiator Anton Balasingham at Geneva (second round) talks in the early part of 2006, though the meeting hadn’t materialized. Sources said that ‘Rudra’ credentials seemed impressive with leading role in formulating the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) in 2003. His father had been a one-time Mayor of Jaffna representing the TULF.
‘KP’ and ‘Rudra’ were fighting for supremacy with Norway-based Nediyavan’s Tamil Eelam Peoples’ Assembly making a strong bid to enhance its position. A recent statement attributed to Norwegian Minister Erik Solheim that Oslo could be Sri Lanka’s dialogue partner with the diaspora should be viewed in the backdrop of ongoing battle among various LTTE factions, the sources explained.
Other contenders for LTTE leadership include the Global Tamil Front based in UK under Father S.J.Emmunuel living in Rosendhal, Germany. Emmanuel, 77, had been a former Vicar General of the Jaffna Catholic Diocese.
Rudra’s technique, at the time he was the International Legal Advisor and in charge of International & Diplomatic affairs of the LTTE prior to the TGTE, was to equate Kosovo and East Timor situations to Sri Lanka. This was a healthy tonic to a depressed diaspora waiting long and impatiently to reach Eelam.
He made a valuable contribution to the LTTE, that endeared him to Prabhakaran, by coordinating lawyers in the defense of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, assisting in Suresh Manikkavasagam trial in Canada and challenging US decision to name LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization under Federal law.