Colombo - Selvarasa Kumaran Pathmanathan, the former head the international secretariat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was released on Wednesday, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence announced at a press conference at the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS). Lakshman Hulugalle, the MCNS' director general, said that Kumaran would not be prosecuted for lack of evidence, and that his release constitutes a "major victory" for the government. However, many Sri Lankans are critical of the move, calling it "irresponsible".
Known by his initials of KP, Pathmanathan smuggled billions worth in weapons for the Tamil rebels. Interpol wants him for his smuggling operations across Asia, Canada, United States and Europe. India wants him for the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
Sri Lankan authorities caught him not long after the death of the LTTE's supreme leader, Thiruvenkadam Velupillai Prabhakaran (in May 2009), and brought him first to Colombo, then to an undisclosed location.
After his arrest, Kumaran began cooperating with the authorities, acting as a mediator with the Tamil Diaspora, providing intelligence about the LTTE's organisation and information about LTTE operatives still on the run. However, he was never brought before a court.
Kusal Perera, journalist and political analyst, is critical of the case's lack of transparency. "First, Kumaran was never arrested. He was never produced before any court of law and we have never heard of any legal detention or remand order for him; therefore, we don't know of any investigation. Yet, he was kept under tight security."
For Perera, the former LTTE leader bargained his freedom to avoid Interpol and LTTE rebels who had rejected his leadership claim.
For Jehan Perera, executive director of the National Peace Council, Kumaran's release is a major problem because he is still "wanted by Interpol" and was slated to "become LTTE supreme leader. For this reason, it is hard to believe that the government does not have any evidence against him. If they want to work with him, they should try him and then pardon him."
According to Fr Nananda Manatunge, director of the Human Rights Office in Kandy, the issue "is about justice and the rule of law."
"When I heard about him, I thought about all the people in prison under the Prevention Terrorist Act who have not yet been charged, about those who were tortured into signing confessions on blank papers and are now facing eight or ten charges."