Lanka told ‘No KP here’
High-level team rushed to Bangkok but hits blank wall
A three- member official delegation from Sri Lanka that flew to Bangkok after reports of the arrest of Tiger guerrilla procurement head Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP) has returned to Colombo with only a declaration from Thai authorities that he has not been "arrested."
The delegation comprised a senior intelligence official, an investigator from the Criminal Investigation Department and an official from the Attorney General's Department. They were told to proceed to the Thai capital by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, following reports that Thai authorities had taken in Mr. Pathmanathan, head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Military Procurement Wing.
Despite media reports, both in Colombo and abroad about Mr. Pathmanathan's arrest, Thai authorities have vehemently denied the incident. The first denial last Tuesday came from officials in the Thai Foreign Office. Joining in later were spokesmen from the Thai Police.
Both Colombo-based diplomatic and intelligence sources believe Pathmanathan was in fact taken in to be interviewed and the use of the term "arrested" was inappropriate. Said a western diplomatic source: "the Thai Government was upset Sri Lanka did not maintain confidentiality over this move until matters were sorted out."
Though some Government officials went public, a Foreign Ministry official denied the Government was responsible for the media leaks that received wide play both locally and abroad. According to a foreign intelligence source, "if not for the hurry to grab headlines, KP would have been singing about the LTTE's weapons procurement network worldwide, something that would have been a great victory for the anti-Tiger guerrilla forces. All that has been put paid to."
Colombo Foreign Ministry officials, who did not wish to be identified, said the Sri Lanka delegation had meetings with Thai authorities over the reports of Mr. Pathmanathan's arrest. They were unable to meet with him since the Thai authorities were firm in their assertion that he was not in custody. "They have therefore ended up giving a document in writing to that effect to the Sri Lanka team," the official added.
Mr. Pathmanathan is a key LTTE member in charge of weapons smuggling and is wanted by India also in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
He is known to have been operating from several countries including India, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Britain, Switzerland and France.
In 1989 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Mr. Pathmanathan floated a company "Vikram Holdings Pvt Ltd" in partnership with three Malaysians of Sri Lankan origin. During the same period, he opened another company - "Point Pedro Shipping" - registered at Panama. This company was operating two ships "Sun Bird" and "Elicia". The financing was done by K P. "Sun Bird", flying the flag of Cyprus, was caught in Penang in December 1990, along with boat engines, communication equipments, etc. A case is pending in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, Thail Prime Minister General Surayud Chulanont said his government had no information about Mr. Pathmanathan’s detention Bangkok when he met India External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Hindustan Times reported yesterday.
“We have been informed that the person concerned (Pathmanathan) is not yet detained... We are informed that he is not in possession of Thai authorities... We are depending on that,” Mr. Mukherjee told newsmen when asked about reports of the LTTE leader’s detention this week.