Vishvanathan Rudrakumar, the newly crowned coordinator of the LTTE’s transnational government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) is the antithesis of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the megalomaniac Tamil Tiger leader, whose cult like persona was synonymous with the separatist Tamil struggle for nearly three years.
Rudrakumar came from an urbane, Vellalar family, a major attribute for success in the conservative caste based Jaffna society. “He would have not have been at ease mingling with “Karaivar” boys’’, quipped a family friend referring to Rudrakumar’s absence in the Tamil militancy of the early eighties, when the fervor of Tamil nationalism ran high.
A twist of destiny in the form of the decimation of the top-rung leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had now forced the US based lawyer into the forefront of the separatist Tamil struggle. Yet, until very recently, till the Tiger chieftain met his maker near the Mullaitivu lagoon and his successor KP ended in Colombo in a high drama of extraordinary rendition, Vishvanathan Rudrakumar was merely a fellow traveler of the Eelam project, faithfully following the orders of Prabhakaran.
But, now, he is the senior most surviving LTTE member at large and is reorganizing the LTTE —— and facing an extradition order of the government of Sri Lanka.
His father, Marc Vishwanathan was a celebrated lawyer in the peninsula. He contested the Municipal Polls from the Tamil United Liberation Front, and was elected the Mayor of Jaffna.
The astute old man disassociated himself from the militancy throughout his career, even though his party TULF itself was instigating the nascent Tamil militancy of the day. His wife was a respected school teacher of the Jaffna Hindu Ladies College, the leading girls’ school in the peninsula. She later became the Vice Principal of the school.
The couple had three children, two sons and a daughter. Rudrakumar was the eldest and the most brilliant. The family later migrated to Australia while Rudrakumar moved to the United States.
Rudrakumar attended Jaffna Central College, one of the oldest educational institutions in the country. Jaffna Central College, a Methodist school known for its liberal values was a melting pot. There were a number of Sinhalese as well as Muslim students. One of them, R.K.Premachandra captained the college cricket team in the annual cricket encounter against St John’s College. Premachandra later joined the police and became a Senior Superintendent.
However things had taken a dramatic turn since the carefree sixties. By the time, Rudrakuamar finished high school in the mid seventies Jaffna was in a status of ferment.
Students were at the forefront of the anti government agitation, which did not confine itself to the peninsula and culminated in the police killing of Peradeniya University Medical student Weerasuriya.
Yet the cultural and intellectual life in the citadel of Tamil culture went on largely unhindered. Rudrakumar was a gifted orator and a debater. Many would visit to see him represent his school in regular debating duals with fellow schools in the peninsula. Those were the final years of Jaffna’s vibrant intellectual life. The nascent militancy was spreading its tentacles and a gun culture would soon replace Jaffna’s intellectual life.
But, Rudrakumar hardly had anything to do with the nascent Tamil militancy.
A childhood family friend quipped, it was because “perhaps, because he had little in common with the movement”- euphemism for the plethora of militant Tamil groups used by the Peninsular Tamils in the late seventies and early eighties.
“Those were the days the caste consciousness was still dominant. Rudrakuamar could have found it hard to mingle with Karaiyar caste boys from Velvetithurai.” “After all, militancy was a challenge to Jaffna’s feudal hierarchy, which destroyed it from within”
“But, I can assure you, he was a jovial fellow,” quipped the former friend who requested to remain unnamed.
Rudrakumar dodged militancy and left for Colombo. Following the footsteps of the father, he enrolled at the Colombo Law College and graduated as an Attorney at Law. After the infamous anti Tamil pogrom in 1983, he migrated to the United States. However, political activism of Rudrakumar was unheard of till the mid 90s.
It was at that time when the LTTE tapped a new batch of technocrats from the Diaspora Tamils, which included Joe Maheswaran, the former Sidney correspondent of the Sydney Broadcasting Service, Siva Pasupathy, the former Sri Lankan Attorney General, and Rudrakumar. Both, Maheswaran and Rudrakumar represented the LTTE in the peace talks with the Ranil Wickremesimghe Administration. Rudrakumar was a member of the “expert’s panel,” which formulated the now discarded proposal for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA).
“The role of the ‘constitutional experts’ in formulating the ISGA was largely symbolic,” said another source which had access to the LTTE at the time. “ISGA was formulated in Kilinochchi by Prabhakaran himself. Thamilselvam communicated to the Diaspora experts the leader’s wish. What they did was putt Prabhakaran’s dictates in legal jargon.”
Rudrakumar was one of the experts in the panel. The ISGA was a rude surprise to the yielding Wickremesinghe Administration, which soon collapsed at the hand of a constitutional coup by President Kumaratunga.
Since then tables have turned. And Mahinda Rajapaksa, Kumaratunga’s successor decimated the LTTE’s military wing —- and in the final decisive battle, made sure that none of the top-leaders of the LTTE would live to fight another day.
Now, with KP in the custody of the Sri Lankan government, Rudrakumar is destined to lead the LTTE for the next stage of the struggle.
He has been appointed as the Coordinator of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam.
Rudrakumar last week issued a booklet to brief the Tamil Diaspora of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE).
The booklet describes TGTE as “a political formation to win the freedom of the Tamil people on the basis of their fundamental political principles of Nationhood, Homeland and Right of self-determination.”
It outlines its structure and the strategy. “The TGTE has not been established yet. For the purpose of establishing the TGTE an Executive Committee is in the process of being formed.”
Also, it adds that “activities in regard to the establishment of Working Groups on a country-wide basis are now in progress. “We are incorporating individuals who are willing to join and work in these Groups. Soon details of the Working Groups of each country will be published. The Advisory Committee previously announced will provide advice to the Executive Committees,” he states in the booklet.
“Steps will be taken to prepare electoral registers with the help of people’s organizations with the assistance of an accredited firm. On the basis of such electoral registers, an independent Election Commission conforming to international standards will hold elections to elect representatives to the TGTE.”
“Those representatives will constitute themselves as a Constituent Assembly and draft the constitution for the TGTE with the help of legal experts and suggestions from people’s organizations.”
Rudrakumar reneges on the central pillar of the LTTE ideology, which clings to a territorial base. The TGTE concedes territory and many other attributes which were part and parcel of the LTTE’s de-facto state-”The TGTE will not have a territorial base like traditional governments. Enforcement of sovereignty by enacting laws, defense of territory and taxation like traditional governments is not applicable to the TGTE.”
All the above sound wishful thinking, but the government of Sri Lanka is leaving no stone unturned.
The government has called for his extradition. Rudrakumar’s position as the legal advisor of the LTTE, a militant group designated as a Foreign Terrorist group by the State Department makes him liable to arrest under the US Law. However, the US position has been a one of double stranded —— which distinguishes “good terrorists” – loosely translated as Tamil Tigers, Chechans, Uigurs and Kurds etc., and bad terrorists of Global Salafi Jihad.
Three weeks back, Rudrakumar led a delegation of Diaspora Tamils to meet the US Under-Secretary of State for South Asia, Robert O’ Blake. Sri Lankan government lodged a strong protest regarding the meeting with the group, which it described as a group of LTTE front organisations.
We emailed a set of questions to Mr. Rudrakuamar, relating to TGTE and many other issues which would be in the interest of our readers. We had not received a response by the time this edition went to press.