EPRLF Central Committee

Our Leader and Mentor

19th June 1990 is a day that will always be in our memories a day that signals an irreplaceable loss to our people and our Party. It is also a day that signals restitution and a firm resolve that our struggle against Fascism and for peace. Democracy and social progress shall continue regardless of the magnitude of the task and setbacks.

19th June was the day when Comrade Pathmanabha was Gunned down by the Fascist Tigers’. His personality was manifest even in his death, when he stood in front of his other comrades taking the full blast of the first volley of fire. In order to fully grasp the personality, charisma and leadership qualities of Comrade ‘Nabha’. it is essential to place him within the wider context of the struggle of the Eelam Tamils to exercise their inalienable right of self - determination, the struggle of the exploited and oppressed sections within the Eelam social formation against class exploitation and caste dominance and the specific role of the EPRLF in these struggles. Comrade Nabha lived for his People and his Party - and eventu­ally died for them. He had no existence that was separate and distinct from that of the people and Party.

Comrade Pathmanabha was born on 19th November 1951 into a middle class family from Kankesanthural in Jaflha. Despite a stable and a harmo­nious family background, comrade Nabha refused to be lulled into a self centered complacency that Is typical of any ‘middle class’ existence. His first exposure to social movements that was able to demonstrate its ca­pacity to challenge the rigidity and backwardness of the caste ridden Jaffna society was the anti-caste struggle of the mid 60s. Although Comrade Nabha’s family belonged to the dominant vellala caste, he was particularly sensitive towards and angered by the human degradation inherent in an acutely caste ridden and caste conscious society. The anti caste movement in the middle 60s. which encompassed the broad left and pro­gressive Intelligentsia, had a lasting impact on Comrade Nabha who was then In his mid-teens. It is necessary to mention here that one of the centers of the anti-caste agitation was the Mavattapuram Hindu Temple which was located in the neighborhood where Comrade Nabha lived and noto­rious for barring entry to those of the depressed castes.

During the late 60s and early 70s. Comrade Nabha was caught-up in the turmoil of youth unrest and student movement which then had become a world-wide phenomenon. While the youth movements all over the world were closely linked to agitations against U.S. Imperialist aggression against the Vietnamese people, they also had their internal dimensions and specificities depending on the socio-economic and political situation prevailing In each society. In the Sri Lankan context, the youth movement was the direct result of unemployment and landlessness. while the upheavals amongst the Tamil youths were, in addition to the above factors, fuelled by stale discrimination in the sphere of land, employment and education. The 1971 insurrection led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). despite its adventurist nature, introduced for the first time into the Sri Lankan polity, the element of armed struggle.

The Introduction of armed struggle into the agenda of the Tamil National Movement, was however, still In its formative stage. The main emphasis was still on peaceful agitations and an increasing emphasis on the “Indian Factor” prompted by the liberation of Bangladesh with direct support from India. Comrade Nabha and his Com­rades in the Tamil Student Federa­tion, established around 1972. How­ever were not prepared to neglect the need to create the necessary Interna­tional conditions for the emancipation of the Eelam Tamils. They also were beginning to adopt an internationalist perspective and grapple with the prob­lems of nationalities and national lib­eration movements in other societies. It was a period of youth militancy coupled with an increasing awareness of the external dimensions.

The brutal repression of the Tamil youths and students, who were no where close to challcnging state power. by the SLFP-!ed coalition and the in­discriminate firing by the Police in Jaffna on the crowds that had gath­ered to watch the concluding session of the 1974 International Tamil Con­ference, brought the element of armed resistance into the agenda of the Tamil Youth Movement. To Comrade Nabha. Who served in the volunteer youth corps at the conference dealing with security and organisational aspects, the brutal use of state power against a defenceless gathering at a cultural event made him to irrevocably accept the inevitability and the necessity of armed resistance.

From the mid-70s onwards Comrade Nabha dedicated himself to the task of forging an organisation that would transcend mere individual terrorism on the one hand, and opportunistic parliamentary politics, on the other. These efforts led to the formation of the Eelam Liberation Organisation of which Comrade Nabha was a co-founder along with comrade Varatharajaperumal and others. However, in view of state repression and other limitations inherent in the organization. ELO becamedormantand eventually ceased to exist. Comrade Nabha who was himself incarcerated left for London on his release. Although his parents were keen on their only son pursuing higher studies, comrade Nabha once again plunged into political activism during this period of self-exile. He came into contact with the London-based lead­ership of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisers (EROS). During this period he also became exposed to anti-racist and anti Imperialist movements, in­cluding contacts with the Palestinian Resistance. It was while in London that he also came Into contact with Comrade Yogasankary, our former Member of Parliament for Jaffna who laid down his life alongside Comrade Nabha.

Just a few months after his arrival in London, Comrade Nabha along with Comrade Premachandran and 13 other Comrades left for Lebanon to be trained by the PLO with whom the EROS had established fraternal rela­tions. On completion of his training. Comrade Nabha returned to his moth­erland and dedicated himself to the task of recruiting and politicising youths and In formulating a politicomilitary strategly that would go be- u yond individual terrorism and encom­pass broad sections of society. During this period. Comrade Nabha lived with agricultural labourers, including quarry workers and directly experi­enced the travails and the day to day problems of that section of the working class.

There were two other developments in the late 70s which further shaped his perspective, as well as helped to lay a solid foundation and social base for the EPRLF. which was to be formed later. The first was the migration of the plantation Tamils to the Northern and Eastern Provinces following the 1977 anti - Tamil pogrom and the ongoing repatriation of plantation Tamils to Tamil Nadu. The second event was the cyclone of 1978 which devastated the Eastern Province, in particular Battcaloa.

As regards the upcountry Tamils. Comrade Nabha was convinced that neither repatriation nor migration was the solution. He adopted the position that the rights of the plantation Tamils, both, as a working class as well as a national minority, would best be met by being a part of the working class movement, at the national level, while simultaneously becoming as integral component of the Tamil National Movement. This position was taken solely from the viewpoint of the inter­ests of the plantation Tamils them­selves. He further rejected repatria­tion to Tamil Nadu as a solution, par­ticularly given the continued exploita­tion that they faced on their return.
where In some cases they were rele­gated to the status of bonded labour­ers by landed interest and corrupt officials. During his intermittent pe­riod of self-exile in Tamil Nadu. Com­rade Nabha was instrumental in form­ing an organization which was primar­ily entrusted with the task of collecting data on the socio - economic existence of the repatriates. His presence in the upcountry region in Sri Lanka was devoted to forging links with planta­tion based trade unions and the pro­gressive intelligentsia. It was also during this period that he came into direct contact with the “Sinhala Left”. His accumulated experience with the left as well as. the trade union move­ment was to leave a lasting impact on com. Nabha as regards both the poten­tials and the weaknesses of the organized working class and left movements in the country.

In addition to his political tasks in the Plantation areas. Comrade Nabha was also active in the Eastern Province with the specific track of combatting regional parochialism and sectarian­ism. The cyclone of 1978 which devas­tated the Eastern Province. In particu­lar the Districts of Amparai and Batticaloa. created untold miseries amongst the people. Comrade Nabha led a team of volunteers from Jaffna to Batticaloa and plunged himself in the task of organizing relief and rehabilitation work. Even in the field of refugee reha­bilitation work, he was able to witness the ugly face of rabid sinhala chauvin­ists. All official government relief agen­cies adopted a clear bias In favor of Sinhalese victims who had been dis­placed and dislocated, to the extent of siphoning away essential provisions that were ear-marked for the Tamil-speaking areas. There were also cases of corruption on ethnic lines.

Despite these setbacks Comrade Nabha and his volunteer corps formulated and executed numerous projects which involved hard labour and sheer perseverance. If. till this day the EPRLF has a solid base in the Eastern Prov­ince, it is because of the role played by Comrade Nabha in the rehabilitation o work in areas devastated by the 1978 J; cyclone and his sincere attempt at combatting regionalism.

By the late 70s. the London based leadership of EROS began to come under criticism from the leadership that had emerged on the land. The main criticisms centered around the absence of a coherent and a viable political and working programme based on concrete realities prevailing in Sri Lanka and the absence of democratic - centralism within the Organisation. Comrade Nabha did his utmost to prevent a split. But the intransigence of the London based leadership pre­vented an amicable solution. As a result, the majority tendency within EROS broke away and at an Organizers Conference held in October 1981 the decision was taken to form a sepa­rate Organization. The Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) was. thus, formed and Comrade Nabha in view of his selflessness, leadership qualities and organizational capabili­ties was elected as the Secretary-General.

It was during the deliberations and discussions at the 1981 Organizers’ Conference that Comrade Nabha pre­sented his ideas on the nature of rela­tions between the Party and its armed wing and that of the Party and frontal organizations. It was his belief that, at the early stages, the party should remain underground but carry out its political programmed through a net­work of mass and frontal organizations aimed at mobilizing broad sec­tions of the working people and the intelligentsia. It is in this regard that the decision was taken to further expand the scope of activities of the Genral Union of Eelam Students (CUES), the student wing of EROS which broke away and joined the EPRLF. whilst forming other frontal organizations that would address the day to day problems of other social categories. The decision was, there­fore taken to form the following frontal organizations: (1) The Rural workers and Peasants Front (RWPF) . Planta­tion Proletariat Front (PPF) Eelam Womens’ Front. Fishermens’ Union etc. As regards the activation of a military programme, comrade Nabha argued in favour of a separate military wing. The recruits were to comprise of comrades who undergo a specified period of political work and orienta­tion by working in the frontal organizations. He firmly believed that arms should be subordinated to wider po­litical and social goals and on this basis the decision was taken to form the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). At the first Party Congress held In June 1984. by which time the EPRLF has surfaced as a major politico - military organization. Comrade Nabha enun­ciated on the correct treatment of Marxist ideology. In his presidential address before the Congress Comrade Nabha observed The contribution of Marxism - Leninism to our struggle lies in the fact that it paved the way to scientifically study and correctly un­derstand the history of our land and our people... It is true that at the early stages of our induction into Marxism -Leninism, we made many mistakes. However, we were able to rectify these lapses and prevent them from assum­ing massive proportions, through the process of criticism and self criticism and mass contact campaigns. It was through this that we were able to build our organization to the present level”.

The role of Comrade Nabha. following the Intensification of the military op­tion by the Colombo regime and the military response by the Eelam Resis­tance, particularly after the anti -Tamil pogrom of July 1983. began to be concentrated on the forging of unity y amongst the various Tamil militant El organizations. After a sustained pe­riod of talks, the Eelam National Lib­eration Front was formed in April 1984. The ENLF was essentially a united front comprising of EROS, TELO and EPRLF. The LTTE look the decision to Join the ENLF the following year and became a constituent member in April 1985. This was a watershed in the history of the Eelam Resistance. At the Thimpu Peace Talks in mid - 1985. mediated by the government of lndia. the Eelam Resistance was made to speak with one voice and expose the attempts by the Sri Lankan govern­ment to unilaterally impose a totally unacceptable solution to the Tamil question. Here the role of Comrade Nabha. although he was not physi­cally present at the talks, was vital. He remained in constant touch with the leaders of the fraternal parties Impressing on them the need for a unified approach.

The emphasis placed on unity by Comrade Nabha. unlike that of the LTTE. was not purely tactical. lie strongly believed that unity must filter down to the base. Unfortunately the LTTE saw the ENLF as a threat to its pursuit of hegemony and their deci­sion to join the United Front was with the specific purpose of paralyzing it from within. Although Comrade Nabha gave priority to the forging of unity amongst the Tamil organizations, he was not prepared to ignore certain fundamental differences for the sake of unity. In particular, he was critical of the LTTE for the massacre of inno­cent Sinhalese civilians, as In the case of the Anuradhapura massacre, as well as. Internal killings that became rampant In certain other organizations. He Firmly believed that EPRLF should utilise the United Front as a forum for the dual task of forging a Tamil consensus, whilst, bringing into the agenda a politico-military strategy that would go beyond narrow Tamil nationalism and address the basic question of how to bring about a fun­damental social transformation based on democracy, social progress and equality for all peoples of Sri Lanka. He was also particular that there should emerge a secular forces working amongst the Tamil. Muslim and Sinhala peoples.

When the ENLF ultimately collapsed in late 1986 he did not lose heart. He was mainly instrumental in the efforts taken by the EPRLF to forge unity amongst the left sections within the Eelam Resistance in early 1987. Al­though these attempts came to nought due to left-opportunism and dogma­tism adopted by certain other forces, it laid a foundation for a future working programme which, we have no doubt, will one day vindicate initiatives taken by Comrade Nabha in this regard.

It was in the period following the sign­ing of the Indo - Sri Lanka Accord that comrade Nabha was to demonstrate in practice the essence of the “Indian Factor”. Comrade Nabha always took a consistent position that India had a legitimate role to play in the region in view of its foreign policy that was anti-imperialist in orientation. This aspect, unfortunately, was not utilised to the full by the left progressive forces in Sri Lanka in view of the pulls and pres­sures of Sinhala chauvinism. Com­rade Nabha and the EPRLF took a consistent and a principled position as regards India’s role. This was to a large extent made possible by the in­teraction that he and his party had with the Sandinistas in Latin America the Palestinian Resistance, the ANC and Pollsario In the African continent all of whom shared immense admira­tion and respect for the role played by u India in supporting world wide E struggles against colonialism, neo- m colonialism. Zionism and racism. As regard the specific case of the Tamil question in Sri Lanka, Comrade Nabha took a clear and a consistent position that If external intervention becomes inevitable then that factor can only be India or a combination of forces which recognize India’s legitimate concerns In the region. In addition, neither Com­rade Nabha nor the EPRLF were pre­pared to be apologetic about this posi­tion despite labels of “collaborators” and “quislings” which were tagged on us by the real collaborators and quislings of imperialism and their military - intel­ligence agencies.

At the time of the provincial Council elections when EPRLF took the deci­sion to contest, it was Comrade Nabha who suggested the slogan “Peace Democracy and Unity” as the political platform from which the party would launch a mass contact campaign. This stand was vindicated by the massive turnout at the polls despite threats and intimidation by the LTTE . The EPRLF, despite having sufficient seats to form a government, took the deci­sion to form a coalition government that would be pluralist’ and multi­ethnic In nature. Comrade Nabha was particular that the EPRLF should set an .example to the entire country on how to create a pluralist and a secular government. It should be also noted that when the party represented Comrade Nabha to be the Chief Minis­ter of the North - East Provincial gov­ernment, he disclaimed. His was a conscious decision as he wanted to concentrate on the building of the party without in any way impinging on the autonomous functioning of the EPRLF - led coalition government.

The collaboration of the LITE which the Sri Lankan government and the security forces in destabilising the EPRLF - led government and the devo­lution process did not in any way influence Comrade Nabha’s resolve. He constantly reminded the party of the ephemeral nature of the interim solution made possible under the provincial Council system on the basis of the 13th Amendment to the Consti­tution. This stemmed from his under­standing of the nature of the Sri Lankan state, as well as that of the ruling party and the potency of Sinhala chauvin­ism. It was clear to him that the reso­lution of the Tamil Question within united Sri Lanka necessitated a proc­ess linked to fundamental social trans­formation all over the island. In the meantime, he stressed that the party had no option but to remain firm on the inalienable right of self-determina­tion , including the right to secede -and . if necessary, make the quantum leap and actually exercise that right.

Our tribute to Comrade Nabha will not be complete if we ignore the nature of the individual within him. He was a humane person. He personified all the attributes of humane socialism. He was constantly engaged in introspection. Which was not divorced from his wider social and political commitments. He was unaffected by poverty or afflu­ence. Both seemed irrelevant to him. However, he liked to see others happy and content. It was that which gave him Immense Joy. Similarly, he could not bear to see others suffer. He felt that every cadre had a role to play, irrespective of the specific task en­trusted to them. Although he devoted himself to the party and to the struggle, he was not alienated from his family. He was a loving and a dedicated son. brother and husband and fortunate to have a mother, sisters and loving wife who understood his visions and a mission In life. His death did not signal a mere personal loss to the family circle for they realised that it was a loss shared by all of us and those who came into contact with him.

His death, although irreplaceable, shall not be in vain - for in his death he has given us determination and resolve which shall never again be shaken.

Comrade Nabha remains within all of us.





I met Thiru K. Pathmanabna in Delhi just a few days before his tragic assassination. It is hardly believable that one so young, so bright, so full of life, with so much to contribute to his people, should no longer be with us. That our Government was unable to provide him protection is a matter of national shame. We extend our sincerest sympathies to his wife and the other members of his family.

Our Sri Lanka policy was designed to ensure the safety and security of the Tamils and the full realisation oy them of their human rights and the full exercise of their political rights within a united Sri Lanka and in all those parts of the island where the Tamil population is predominant. The Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987 opened the doors to this dream becoming a reality. Unfortunately, the doors have been banged shut upon us on account both of mistakes made by the Sri Lanka Government as well as the National Front Government in India.

Thiru Pathmanabha shared a birthday with my mother. Both fell martyrs to a great cause. I pay my tribute to his .memory.



V. Natwar Singh, former Minister of state , Government of India

The Late mr. K. Pathmanabha was a young dedicated and dynamic leader of the EPRLF. He was murdered in cold blood.

He had a bright future beforehim.He would have contributed much forresolving the ethnic poblem in Sri Lanka and bring peace to histroubled land.

His example will be a source ofinspiration to many who wish to put on end to the rule of the gun. Mr.Pathmanabha gave his lifeserving the cause he cherished.


Remembering Comrade Pathmanabha

Mohit Sen, General Secretary, United Communist Party of India.

The Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) is an extraordinary organisation. It is the product and the vanguard of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka who have fought so valiantly for their identity and their rights. But it has always seen this struggle in the light and perspective of the broader battle of the progressive forces of Sri Lanka and the entire region. Indeed it is one of those national revolutionary organisations which had a firm historical and internationalist outlook without losing its attachment to its people and land.

Long before the current wave of reform and renewal of the ideology of Marxism-Lenin­ism in the direction of increasing universali-sation, the EPRLF based itself on an ideol­ogy that was similar if not identical. Yet these unassuming revolutionaries never ceased to seek to learn from those they regarded as somehow more learned.

The EPRLF demonstrated through its practice and if one may say, through its agony that it could continue the use of weapons for democratic administration. If they had to face a severe setback this was inspite of all that they were and all that they had done. After all, the victory of the national front in the general elections of 1989 was not of their choice or doing.

All this has been written because the martyr and hero and personal friend, Pathmanabha was the embodiment and indeed, the architect of all the virtue and strength of the organisation which he headed. And it is, therefore, not only the EPRLF which has lost so priceless a leader. The revolutionaries of Sri Lanka, India and the world have lost a great leader by his physical elimination. And so many, including the present writer,

have lost a gentle and dear companion. We shall be much lonelier without him.

I had heard of comrade Pathmanabha, some time before I met him. In particular, the late comrade M.Kalyana sundaram - not a person given to exaggeration-was highly appreciative of his steadiness, strength and humility. TRR, as the crusading editor of “Makkal Kural” and “News Today” is affectionately known, spoke with more than his usual gusto of his qualities.

And then I saw him in Madras. The whole experience has remained deeply etched in my memory. My two younger comrades, Dalit and Bhasker had arranged a meeting in 1986 in honour of Nelson Mandela at a place where many of the young militants of the EPRLF had gathered. It was a rainy day and when the meeting had begun the lights failed, so it was in the light of burning candles that I saw this bearded young leader listening intently amidst those younger cadres. After that I had many meetings with him and his colleagues. We discussed so much, not only about Sri Lanka and India but about the entire world revolutionary process. It was an invigorating experience giving flesh and blood to the concept of revolutionary internationalism.

Comrade Pathmanabha was totally non-sectarian and realistic. He knew what the strength of different parties and forces in India were. As the leader of a party which was playing the crucial role not just in the North Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka and the entire island but in cementing the relations between India and his country and people, he knew with whom he had to maintain close relations. This also applied to the organised left forces in India.

Yet he understood what international support meant to our party, the United Communist Party of India. when it was in the process of formation. We shall never forget the solidarity the EPRLF displayed at that time. Regardless of what might be the reactions of the established communist parties, whose support it cherished and was grateful for, Comrade Pathmanabha sent not just greeting but a high power delegation. In a sense, we had done nothing to deserve such an expression of fraternity beyond being their brothers and fellow fighters. The EPRLF set an example from which much mightier and older revolutionary parties would and have begun to draw appropriate lessons. Tactical considerations degenerate into opportunism when principles and limits are abandoned. Comrade Padmanabha as the leader of the EPRLF, did not do that. He helped the UCPI greatly but suffered no loss himself and for the EPRLF since the struggle they waged, could not be by passed by anybody. He proved that principle and nobility pays.

After that there were many meetings with comrade Pathmanabha. The later ones were in days of great difficulty for all of us who refused to reconcile with the counter revolutionary destabilisers unlike some much stronger constituents of the left. For the EPRLF, in particular, extrordinary skill was received to try to salvage as much as possible and for as long as possible the gains that had been made, what skill and courage they displayed. Despite them the process of deterioration could not be stopped. But there is a reality of historical and people’s memory which resumes itself at an appropriate time. Principled and realistic effort is never wasted.

It was at this time that on the 12th of this June we met for the last time. Comrade Pathmanabha came later than scheduled, much later an obvious necessity of security as I later realised. Other friends were also there. The main theme of the Discussion.

was how to alert public opinion in India about the danger to the security of the entire region that was building up because of the LTTE’s fascist like drive for power and the rampant chauvinism of the Sinhala Government. What the Rajiv Gandhi - Jaya wardhana accord had managed to forestall was now in danger of staging a comeback. The EPRLF leader was well aware of the dubious role being played by the DMK Government but since it was a part of the ruling National Front, circumspection and tact were obviously in need in relations with it. Among others, Sri. P.N. Haksar and Sri. Nikhil Chakravarthy were among those who had helped by advice and in other ways. The non partisan and statesmanlike approach of Sri. Rajiv Gandhi was highly appreciated.

All this serious talk did not prevent the eruption of heavy laughter when we both warned our young comrade Elangovan about the “perils’ which awaited him in Norway where he was proceeding to attend a summer camp. We both told him to come back soon.

Comrade Pathmanabha said that we would again soon in Madras where the Central Committee of the UCPI was to have its session from June 26 to 28. He wanted to meet all our comrades. I told him that it would be an inspiration and honour for us.

And as he rose to bid good by and we shook hands, we asked him to be careful. He smiled and nodded in assent. And then he went to his death. It is a tragedy and disgrace for all of us that we failed to protect so good and precious a friend.

The EPRLF is not alone in its great sorrow and immense loss. We of the UCPI, in particular are utterly stricken and would take long to fully recover. Yet that comrade Pathmanabha built will endure and will be with us on the day of triumph whenever that inevitable day comes. Nothing and nobody will be forgotten then and in whatever long stretch of time and space we have to traverse to reach there.


He was aware of imperialistic Intrigues

Member Political Bureau, Communist Party Of India (Marxist)

I had the opportunity to get acquainted with late K.Pathmanabha, the General Secretary of the EPRLF in the course of political discussion with many leaders of the Tamil groups of Sri Lanka in connection with the complex problems of Sri Lanka. I was impressed by Pathmanabha’s sincerity, seriousness and dedication to the cause of democracy. He had sober attitude to the difficult problems faced by the Sri Lankan Tamils in their tortuous struggle for protecting their democratic rights and for safeguarding of their ethnic identity.

K. Pathmanabha had a balanced approach to these problems. He had clear perception that the problems of the Tamils would be solved only in cooperation with the Left and democratic forces of Sri Lanka. He did his best to fight narrow chauvinist tendencies within the movement. He realised the importance of friendship with India. He was constantly aware of the dangers of imperialist intrigues. All these perceptions helped the EPRLF and many other Tamil groups to take firm political positions in favour of the India - Sri Lanka Agreement. He upheld the Accord as the solution to the Sri Lankan problem in a manner providing for the safeguarding of the interests of the Tamil people while at the same time ensuring the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka.

The setting up of the North East Provincial Council was a measure which came about due to the leadership provided by Pathmanabha and the EPRLF. Unfortunately the refusal by the Sri Lankan government to devolve powers sabotaged its functioning.

K.Pathmanabha and the EPRLF under his leadership strived their best to get the accord implemented even in the midst of most vicious attacks on it from reactionary Sinhalese and Tamil chauvinist forces. He tried till the end to unite all sections of the Tamils to struggle for their just cause. For this reason K.Padmanabha and some of his colleagues became the victims of the bullets of the cowardly assassins at Madras.

The tragic death of this devoted fighter for a just cause is undoubtedly a great loss to the democratic and progressive forces in Sri Lanka. Let me express the hope that progressive sections of the Tamil youth would draw inspiration from the ideals and concepts for which K.Pathmanabha laid down his life.


His Death has Created Void in
Sri Lankan Politics

K.P.Silva, General Secretary, Communist Party of Sri Lanka.

The tragic death of K.Pathmanabha , Secretary General of the Eelam People’s revolutionary Liberation Front has created a void in Sri Lankan politics that is hard to be filled.

Pathmanabha was one of the most prominent leaders of the new generation of Tamil politicians who came to the fore with the intensification of the struggle of the Tamil people for their national rights. His dedication and sincerity to the cause of the Tamil people are widely acknowledged. He died a martyr to that cause which he expoused all his adult life.

Under the influence of Marxist thought Pathmanabha led the EPRLF to make a realistic re-appraisal of the course of the struggle of the Sri Lankan Tamil people for self determination and social emanicipation. He concluded that the Sri Lankan Tamil people would be best served by exercising their right of self determination by seeking autonomy for the Tamil nationality within a united Sri Lanka and by cooperating with the progressive sections of the Sinhala people for its realisation.

Contacts between the CPSL and EPRLF grew under Padmanabha’s stewardship of the EPRLF. Despite differences on several issues we had fruitful cooperation with the EPRLF on a number of matters of national and regional importance.

Padmanabha led the EPRLF to support the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, surrender its weapons and enter the democratic process, when elections were held for the North-East Provincial Council Pathmanabha was at helm of of an alliance of Tamil Political parties which boldly participated in the elections and thereby helped to begin the devolutionary process. He was also behind the fight of the EPRLF led administration of the North East Provincial Council for proper and effectful devolution.

It was the Government’s reluctance to devolve necessary powers to the North-East Provincial Council and its act of undermining the authority of the Council in concert with the LTTE that further complicated the efforts to find a political solution to the remaining problems of the Tamil Nationality. The present war as well as the brutal assassination of Pathmanabha were the results of this destructive policy of the Government.

Pathmanabha’s contribution to the fight for the national rights of the Tamil people, towards the restoration of national unity and finding a political solution to the demands of the Tamil nationality will always be remembered.


One of the Noblest sons of the Tamil People

M.Farooqi, Secretary, National Council, Communist Party of India

The brutal assasination of Comrade. K.Pathmanabha, General Secretary of EPRLF by a killer gang believed to be belonging to LTTE in Madras was a heavy personal loss for me. I knew him for some time. I had met him only a couple of days before he was assassinated. I have a very good impression of him. He was one of the noblest sons of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka and a great champion and fighter of their legitimate rights. Comrade Pathmanabha’s dedication for the just cause of Sri Lanka’s Tamil people will always be remembered by his own people as well as the Indian people.


Killing was the hight of Anty - Sociality

Hector Abhayavardhana, Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP)

It is no exaggeration to characterise the assassination in Madras on 19 June 1990 of K.Pathmanbha. Secretary-General of the EPRLF, and 14 of his principal associates as an act of supreme folly. There is little doubt today that this act was the work of the LTTE. A recent newspaper report referred to the arrest of a number of men in Tamilnadu, some of whom were alleged to be members of the LTTE, on suspicion of involvement in this assasination.

Pathmanbha did not figure prominently in the events that constituted the recent history of the struggle of the Tamil people for their national rights in Sri Lanka. He chose not to occupy a place too close to the footlights. There were others to figure in the more prominent parts and assume the necessary responsibility. But Pathmanbha was the leader of his party and at the time of his assassination he was in council with members of his executive committee assembled at his residence. The assassins literally invaded a private residence and ruthlessly shot down everybody within reach.

Pathmanabha was not. perhaps, as popular in Tamilnadu as Prabhakaran, his antagonist. And even if Prabhakaran’s LTTE appeared to enjoy the patronage of the Tamilnadu Chief Minister, this did not provide him with let or licence to invade private residences and kill people inside them with impunity. There were signs for quite some time that the people of Tamilnadu generally were beginning to be impatient with the boorish manners and open commission of crimes in both public and private places by heavily armed LTTE gangs. But the murder of Pathmanbha and his 14 associates was the highest of anti sociality: if tolerated, it would make social existence itself impossible.

Speaking for myself, I did not have the privilege of knowing Pathmanbha personally, though I did know some of the members of his party. I am certain, however, that he wouldnot look for any tears to be shed on his behalf. What, perhaps, would most concern him is the sorry pass at which social existence has arrived in Sri Lanka. For Pathmanabha and his 14 comrades were not the only victims of savagery that passes as politics in our country in recent times. The LTTE appears to believe that the killing of their most prominent political opponents constitutes the shortest cut to power. The murder of TULF leaders Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran and EPRLF MP Sam Thambimuthu and his wife may never have taken place for concern that the Government of Sri Lanka and its police force have displayed in regard to them. And though public admission of responsibility for many of these murders has been made by the LTTE, that has not deterred the President of Sri Lanka from consorting with LTTE leaders as his state guests and negotiating with them as harbingers of peace.


History alone Would Peace him in high Positio


Comrade Pathmanbha is no more. He along with 13 other EPRLF comrades, was gunned down recently in Madras by the LTTE, which knows no end of killing of its opponents, there by exposing its own political nakedness and losing rather than gaining popular support. Comrade Nabha led the EPRLF as its Secretary - General from its inception. He will always by remembered by the progressive forces for leading the EPRLF along anticapitalist and anti - imperialist lines as the wayout for the Tamil-speaking people.

When what was originally the EPLF, before long, metamorphoses into the EPRLF, that in itself provided a pointer as to the progressive nature of the path the organisation was beginning to tread. The EPRLF started working patiently to mobilise the people, particularly all downtrodden layers, the peasants, the tody workers and all working people and thereby inter-twined the national liberation struggle with working class struggles. This alone speakes well of the maturing perspectives of Comrade Pathmanbha who eschewed parochialism and identified the EPRLF with the problems faced by the working class and peasant masses in the South.

We of the NSSP who have been unswervingly in the forefront of the fight for self-determination of the Tamil speaking people, and complete equality for them, have naturally defended the aspirations which Comrade Pathmanbha sought to achieve for the Tamil speaking people. However, that has in no way deterred us from criticising the EPRLF whenever it was, and is, necessary to do so. Comrade Nabha himself cautioned the rank and file of his organisation way back in the mid - 1980s to “keep correcting themselves through self- criticism, love the people and win over their affection without which it would not be possible to mobilise the masses”. The best tribute one can pay Comrade Pathmanbha is to live up to his expectations always. Under Comrade Nabha’s guidance, the EPRLF strove very hard to get adequate powers for the North - East Provincial Council which could have obviated their desire for the unnecessary dependence on the IPKF. The reactionary UNP Govt’s refusal to devolve due powers in good season led to a situation where Comrade Nabha who brought the EPRLF into mainstream politics had to leave the country for want of security. So the Premadasa Govt. is largely responsible for the murder of Comrade Nabha, in that it is no secret that the Govt. connived with the LTTE at all stages of the events that finally led up to the murder of Comrades Pathmanbha. Yogasankari and others.

The criminals will be indicated by history and history alone would place Comrade

Nabha in the high position he verily deserves.

The NSSP pays homage to Comrade Nabha’s memory.


Crusader of Interracial Unity

P.N. Haksar, 4/9, Shanti Niketan, New Delhi -110 021.

I have visited Sri Lanka only once in my life. That single visit generated within me conflicting emotions. I was enchanted by the beauty of the island and the grace of its people. At the same time I returned with a sense of tragedy brooding over the island that the exquisitely fair and beautiful island of Sri Lanka should be so unnecessarily full of ethnic conflict. I simply could not understand why the Sinhala and Tamil could not live together work together and share together the joys and sorrows of living. I was horrified to find that a totally false racial ideology was being built up to permanently divide “Aryan Sinhala from the Dravidian Tamils” and the division was sought to be reinforced by alleged divide between the Hindus and the Buddhists.

The brooding sense of tragedy to which I have referred takes on a sharper edge when I recall the face of 39 year old Shri K. Pathmanabha whose life has been so cruelly extinguished by bullet. On the few occasions that I met him in Delhi, I was deeply moved by Shri. Pathmanabha’s warmth and humanity. Despite all odds, he continued to believe that Sri Lankans and Tamils could work together and that each could live with a dignity in that island.

Pathmanabaha’s crucifixion would, I devoutly hope, make those in power in Sri Lanka think once again about the need of reconciliation rather than continue stoking of conflicts by inciting Sinhalese, who constitute the majority against small minority of Tamils who should be able to live in peace and tranquility without loss of their identity. I believe that Shri Pathmnanabha continued to have faith in that sort of a vision. I should like to pay my homage to his life and work.


Physically Eliminated but
Politically very much alive

G.G.Ponnambalam (Jr.), General Secretary, All Ceylon Tamil Congress.

I have not had the occasion to meet the late Mr. K.Pathmanabha personally nor to speak to him. Therefore, this appreciation of Mr. Pathmanabha is. for that reason, limited.

Mr. Pathmanabha was the leader of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front, a recognised political party of this country, which is fighting for the rights of the Tamil speaking people. Even though politically we might have our strong differences of opinion with the party which Mr.Pathmanabha was a leader. We say that no party can claim, even for a moment, to be the sole representatives of the Tamils. We do not subscribe to Divine Right to Rule Theory.

We, the refore, appreciate all the good efforts made by Mr. Pathmanabha and his party for the liberation of the Tamils from oppression.

Any party which has entered the democratic process has a right to voice its opinion, and nobody has the right to silence that opinion with a gun. Anybody who chooses the gun to silence political opinion or opposition only proclaims to the World his own lamentable inadequacy and bankruptcy to eliminate his opponent politically. To this extent, therefore, it could be said that though Mr. Pathmanabha has been eliminated physically, politically he is very much alive.


A Patriot Moulded in Anti-Imperialism

A. Raghavan, Chief of Delhi Bureau, BLITZ

It was shocking that he died so young. But what elevated my spirit when I read the news was a surge of memory that so many social reformers and revolutionaries died so young.

I had the privilege of meeting Comrade Pathmanabha a couple of times in our office. His colleagues used to communicate to us what was topical about the Eelam struggle. Nabha, a man of few words. spoke seldom, only when he must to stress a point. As a journalist I had noticed the same taciturnity among some of those engaged in the Telengana armed struggle.

As a student he took the same route as some of the radical Indian leaders with whom I am familiar. To London for study and then back to the barrack, not to any berth, generally longed for by the middle classes.

Tamil Eelam was very dear to Comrade Pathmanabha but I found in him not a trace of pan-Tamil racialism. Nor was he an India baiter as some other Eelam leaders have been. As a patriot moulded in anti-imperialism, he could visualise and fight for a Tamil setup in a larger framework. On this he differed from many of his contemporaries. I imagine that it was for this crucial difference of approach towards a Tamil homeland Nabha had to die at the hands of chauvinists of both Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. Even a single meeting with him will convince anybody that Pathmanabha, who headed a fighting organisation like the EPRLF, was very modest in his personal behaviour and extremely unassuming. So it was no surprise to me that when the North-Eastern provincial council was formed he declined the offer of its chief ministership.

I am convinced that the Tamils fighting for a place under the sun in Sri Lanka will finally accept Comrade Pathmanabha’s perspective. In that event his martyrdom may not have gone in vain.

Professor S.D. MUNI


S.D.Muni, Professor, South Asia Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

It was a hot, sultry evening in June. When I answered the door bell, I saw Ketheeswaran and Shanthan of the EPRLF standing at the threshold. Behind them was a tall, well built young man whose face reflected self-confidence, mixed with a deep-down concern. Yes, he was Comrade Pathmanabha or comrade. Nabha, as he was affectionately called by his friends and associates the leader and builder of EPRLF. I took a few seconds to recognise him because he had shaved off his beard that used to give him a robust revolutionary look. Despite his decision to shave-off his beard, clearly an attempt to conceal his identity, he was more than casual in his sense of personal security. This became evident when he was assassinated in Madras only three days after this brief meeting I had with him in my house.

Why was the LTTE gunning for him? The clash was certainly more than that of personality or power ambitions. It centered mainly on two points related to the approach towards the Tamil question and its resolution in the Sri Lankan context. One was regarding the Lilt’s insistence on a political order that allowed no room for dissent or pluralism. This was not acceptable to comrade. Nabha and his EPRLF. For they stood for social justice and equality for Tamil community in relation to the Sinhalese, on the one hand, and to the deprived sections within the Tamil society which had always been hierarchical ridden with caste and status differentiation.

While both LTTE and the EPRLF agreed to on the necessity of armed struggle for liberating the Tamils and undoing their discrimination in the hands of Sinhala chauvinism, they had divergent perspectives on the organisation of Tamil polity and society. The LTTE had no respect for democratic order and, therefore, did not hesitate in taking recourse to arms in silencing any dissent against their pursuit for hegemony. The EPRLF looked for a just, plural and democratic socio-political order for the Tamils. This explains why comrade. Nabha though reluctantly, was willing to work with the LTTE within the framework of a democratic structure. Not only was the LTTE invited to contest provincial council elections, but even later, the EPRLF was willing to accomodate the LTTE representatives into the North-East Provincial Council, so as to promote the overall cause of the Tamils.

A critical difference of opinion between comrade. Nabha and his EPRLF, on one hand, and the LTTE, on the other, lay in their respective approaches towards India in securing help for resolving the Tamil issue. The LTTE sought to use India in a manner that was to wider Tamil interests, as well as India’s own security concerns. Its primary motive was the pursuit for absolute hegemony. That is why the LTTE did not want to give the India-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987 a chance and even went to the extent of taking to arms against the IPKF. The LTTE also did not hesitate to join hands with the Sri Lankan Government purely for technical reasons of pushing out the IPKF and humiliating India as a consequence. The LTTE no doubt achieved its objective, but only at the cost of larger Tamil interests, as the recent developments in Sri Lanka clearly reveal. comrade. Nabha, on the other hand, followed a far more realistic and mature approach. He too had been trained abroad and exposed to various internationalist perspectives. But he realised that it was in India alone that the Tamils of Sri Lanka could find a committed well-wisher. In addition, his own anti-Imperialist outlook converged with that of India’s own anti-Imperialist credentials. That is why comrade. Nabha accepted the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of July 1987, not withstanding his reservations on some of its key aspects and also notwithstanding his understanding that the Colombo regime could not be trusted. His commitment to India’s role in the search for a long-lasting solution to Tamil question in Sri

Lanka was so deep that he willingly suffered the humiliation of having to leave his soil and live in exile as a refugee in India .

It is indeed unfortunate that the political change in India in 1989 allowed the decision- makers in Delhi to ignore the vitality and significance of the alliance forged by comradc. Nabha with India. It is a sad reflection on India’s political insensitivity that comrade. Nabha was brutaly killed on Indian soil and in a State ruled by Tamils.

The on-going breakdown of all civilisational norms in the North and East of Sri Lanka arising out of the LTTE- Clombo war, should now lead Delhi and Colombo of recognising the need for a balanced and far-sighted approach adopted by comrade. Nabha and his EPRLF New Delhi must start according dignity and respect to the EPRLF cadres staying in India India must also impress upon Colombo the need to take the help of the saner forces amongs the Sri Lankan Tamils, such as the EPRLF, no in its so-called drive for eliminating the LTTE but for impressing moderation on the LTTE and for finding a respectable, just and viable solution to the Tamil question. This would be the best tribute that can be paid to comrade. Nabha who lived, struggled and eventually sacrificed his life for the rights and respect of the Tamils, particularly the deprived and down-trodden among them.



Sumit Chakravarthy, Editor, Mainstream.

I had returned home quite late that night when the telephone rang. Ketheswaran was at the other end. He spoke in his deep sorrow voice trying to conceal his emotions to the best of his ability. “Have you heard the terrible news? Comrade Pathmanabha and several of our comrades have been gunned down and killed in Madras around 7PM this evening.” And then he narrated the incident as he had come to learn from his colleagues in the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) in Madras.

One could hardly believe him. It was incredable that ‘Nabha’ as K.Pathmanabha - the EPRLF Secretary - General- was known to his close friends, and several of his party men had been butchered in the city of Madras, on Indian soil. Only the other day he was at my place in New Delhi with Khetes and Premachandran, the EPRLF MP who has now succeeded Nabha in the Party. I had offered him Bengali sweets and he ate with relish. The same evening I had taken them out for dinner and we exchanged views on so many developments - from the upsurge of democracy in Eastern Europe, Nepal and Burma to the far-reaching changes in USSR, from the dismal scenario in Sri Lanka to the unfolding events in this country, and of course the frightening prospects of yet another Indo-Pak war.

Nabha spoke little. But he was an intent observer and listener. He had charming face and used to sport a beard that he had shaved off the last time I met him. What was most striking was his magnetic personality.

He has always inspired confidence. And above all, his sincerity of purpose was beyond question.

A mass leader par excellence his live-wire contacts with his people, especially in the eastern part of Sri Lanka (in Trincomalee in particular), endowed him with an extraordinary popularity that stemmed not from the barrel of the gun but dedicated service to the public.

Whenever he was in New Delhi he would make it a point to meet all his friends and acquaintances, young and old. I was privileged to be among them. A man of few words Nabha expressed himself through the warmth of his embrace. It came as a deep shock to all of us that, Nabha, who was married only a year ago, should have his promising life cut short so tragically in the city of Madras from where his wife hailed. Nabha was much more than a Sri Lankan Tamil militant leader. It has the breath of his vision that endeared him to different persons who came in touch with him here. He was always advocated close ties with progressive Sinhales while fighting for the legitimate rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils. At the same time he desired intimate relations with democratic forces in India. He was the finest embodiment of nationalism imbued with the spirit of internationalism in the highest humanist tradition.

We shall forever Miss. Nabha and always cherish his memory. His tragic end should spur us all to exert our maximum and call a halt to the bitter fratricidal bloodshed in Sri Lanka.

The Political Department, PFLP

Comrade Nabha is the Soul of Eelam People

The Political Department, PFLP

Dear Comrades,

Through this small message, we in P.F.L.P. would like to mention few facts about comrade Nabha. So many people had written about the freedom fighters. Today we will narrate about something special and the special in our opinion is that he contributed something to his people’s struggle against imperialisim and world reactionary forces. So, we request the comrades in E.P.R.L.F. to forgive us because the words will never satisfy the soul of comrade Nabha.

Today on his 39th birthday anniversary we must note that comrade Nabha since his childhood had thought about his people’s right, he faced the sufferings with his people from the reactionary forces and the Government at that time. So it was always in his mind and life, how to get freedom for his people. The truly real solution to the Tamil question was a total revolution and this should be through forming a new party i.e., the EPRLF (at the organisers conference in 1981 Comrade Nabha was elected its Secretary - General). As an immediate priority he organised the frontal organisations of EPRLF in particular the Rural Workers and peasants front and the Eelam women’s Front etc. And we would also note that comrade Nabha has built up very well the military wing within the EPRLF and he was in high contact and good man of armed struggle and at the same time a man of peace.

Dear Readers,

The above mentioned few words of facts are very less compared to his great work and struggle for the party and the people of Eelam directly. This will indicate why the reactionary forces will send the dirty hands to massacre comrade Nabha and his comrades. But we in PFLP believe that comrade Nabha is the soul of Eelam people, and Eelam will get hundreds and thousands of Nabhas to lead and direct their struggle till they get their freedom and victory.

Once again we, the Palestenian people and the PFLP wish the Eelam people and EPRLF victory and victory.



. M.P., Leader, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress

Although I kne
w Comrade Padmanabha only for a brief time, he has left behind in my mind pleasant memories and deep rooted positive impressions. By all standards he was a gentleman par excellence. Within a militant out-fit lay his melting heart for human sufferings. The normal qualities of obstinacy, hardihood, intolerance etc. that are synonymous with an average militant were alien to him. Whilst fighting for the liberation of the oppressed Tamil community, he was revolting against those who were working towards the birth of the ugly tail chauvinism in order to suppress the defenceless Tamil speaking Muslims who lived in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. He not only believed in the equality between two individuals; but also in the collective political equality between the Tamil and the Muslim communities. He firmly believed in recognizing and respecting the distinct and separate political identity of the Muslims. He realized the need to workout an early solution to the ethnic question which would be acceptable to the Tamils and the Muslims. He was also conscious of the dangers of allowing the Sinhala chauvinists to take advantage of the difference between the Tamils and Muslims in their effort to deny to both these communities their reasonable share in the political affairs of Sri Lanka. His demise is a great loss to the suffering Muslim community. The respect that the Tamil community could pay to Comrade Padmanabha is to strive towards the realization of his ideals. On behalf of the Muslim community, I take this opportunity to salute his commitment and cause.


Bad Coins Drive the Good out of Circulation

S.H. Venkatramani, Sr. Correspondent.

Comrade. K.Pathmanabha will go down in journalistic files as the deceased Secretary General of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF). The media is used to scratching at the surface. After all, “Medium” is the message.

But Mr.Paadmanabha - Comrade Nabha to EPRLF cadres, Sri Lankan Tamils, and countless admirers around the world was more than just a leader of a Sri Lankan Tamil militant group. In an age when expediency is increasingly becoming the guiding principle in politics, here was a rare bird committed to certain principles and a definite political ideology. He was firmly moored to a leftist political philosophy and wedded to the ideas of equity and distributive justice.

Unlike the leaders of other Tamil militant groups, Comrade Nabha was not at all motivated by a desperate desire to carve out a pocket burrough for himself. True, his EPRLF also initially positioned itself as a group fighting for Eelam. But Eelam, for Mr. Pathmanabha, was not a geographical area to be physically liberated from the clutches of Sri Lankan soldiers. It was a revolutionary political philosophy which motivated him. And he always saw Eelam in the geo -political context of the Indian subcontinent, unlike other Tamil militant leaders who couldn’t see beyond the nozzles of their revolvers.

Most Tamil militants didn’t know, and even now don’t know to make the transition from the militancy to politics. But here was the leader of a militant group who was first and foremost a political ideologue, and who took to militancy as means to subserve his political ideology.

In most political parties themselves, not to speak of militant and guerilla groups, the ideological fervour gets diluted down the line. This doesn’t happen with the EPRLF. comrade. Nabha was able to keep the group knit by a shared commitment to a common political ideology. And for all that, he was unassuming and soft spoken.

There was perhaps an element of inevitability about his falling a victim to the assassin’s bullets. In politics, as in economics, Gresham’s law holds: bad coins drive the good out of circulation. And comrade. Nabha was sterling material.



Dr. Vickremabahu Karunaratne, General Secretary, Nava Sama Samaja Party.

The brutal murder of EPRLF Secretary General K. Pathmanabha, Jaffna District M.P., V.K. Yogasankari, North-East Provincial Council Finance Minister, Kirupakaran and other leaders of the EPRLF by the LTTE exposes the nature of the LTTE regime in the North-East. It further explodes the claim of the Tigers that they are the sole representatives of the Tamil speaking people. If so, why on earth do they carry out brutal annihilation of all those politicians who are opposed to them? They want to become the sole representatives of the Tamils in Sri Lanka not by consent, but by ruthless repression of all other viewpoint, in particular by murdering Left and socialist Tamil leaders like A.K. Annamalai, Vijayananthan etc.

Tigers have created a new oppressive society where, they have become the Brahmin ruling caste. Those who do not submit passively to their dictatorship are eliminated ruthlessly as ‘parayas’ who disobey the lords. It is the Premadasa regime which helped them to establish total hegemony in the Tamil - speaking areas, with Tamil leaders such as Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran being murdered almost at the doorstep of the Presidential palace. Premadasa wanted to make use of the LTTE to stabilise his reactionary regime.

Now these two reactionary regimes have started a war, with all the untold hard ship and misery it inflicts on the Tamil speaking people in particular and on all working people in general, with the intention of perpetuating their powers separately.

The only way out of this endless misery is to overthrow these reactionary regimes and to establish a revolutionary Left Government capable of delivering democracy, equality and the right of self-determination to all nationalities.

Meanwhile, the present senseless war could well have been avoided if the Premadasa Government had taken meaningful steps to devolve powers on the North-East Provincial Government in good time.


His Path is a way for Peace in Sri Lanka

Professor Peter Schalk
Uppsala University, Sweden

The Tamil liberation struggle is like so many other liberation struggles of suppressed people in history and all over the world seemingly deemed to pass through a period of moral corruption brutalisation and perfidy. During such a period it is very difficult to reinforce the ideals of humanity and of the original political ideas. Comrade Pathmanabha was a revolutionary who had learned the techniques and tactics of the armed liberation struggle in the Middle East and who also applied them without hesitation in Lanka. But comrade Pathmanabha always subordinated the execution of armed struggle to his original political ideas and humanitarian ideals. Armed struggle never became an end in itself for him.

Three things I shall always connect with comrade Pathmanabha, his humanism which brought him close to the people and prevented him from participating in the killing of Sinhala civilians, of his own comrades and drug trafficking, and his political internationalism which resulted in a practical co operation with progressive Sinhala forces on a socialist basis. He had found a key, as to how to avoid the trap of falling into Tamil chauvinism and into diluted and rootless internationalism. This makes him a rare and exemplary Tamil revolutionary. We are deeply indebted to him to cultivate his heritage and to teach it to a younger generation involved in the Tamil liberation struggle and to the Sinhalese. It is also necessary that his heritage shall be known to the Western world. I am deeply greatful to have met comrade Pathmanaba , a great human being whose path should be trod by those who want peace in Lanka.



Walter Keller, Journalist, West Germany

I was just reading the ‘Broken Palmyrah’ which was published by some very courageous people from Jaffna, including Rajani Tiranagama, the slain activist of the University Teachers for human rights as the news came in about ‘Nabha’s death. The ‘Broken Palmyrah ‘ gives an account of the political fratricide , gives an insight into the brutal killings of the ‘Tigers’ with Nabha and his other comrades, yet more members of another Tamil organisation have perished . As an out sider of the struggle, but at the same time as a permanent observer for the last 15 years I have first met Pathmanabha a few years ago. when he was staying in India. Though, poetically very often not agreeing with his organisation, the EPRLF, I had very high

esteem for him as an honest and sincere man, fighting for a cause without attaching that quantum of Tamil Nationalism or even Chauvinism to his activities. In fact, ‘Nabha’ and the EPRLF were one of the first from the Tamil movements to extend solidarity and friendship to progressive Sinhalese organisations in the South of Sri Lanka. And the EPRLF is probably the only militant Tamil group without a record of atrocities in the form of killing Sinhalese civilians in retaliation for Tamil killings by the forces. ‘Nabha’ was a humble man - a man, who seldom whished to come to the forefront. And yet, his leaderhsip was accepted by his followers. If not for him, EPRLF would have broken up some time back: ‘Nabha’ held it together. I shall remember him, the friend of mine, and wish to extent my deepest sympathies to his wife and all his family members.


A Hero of our Epoch

M.K. Abbo Yusuf.,
Former Transport Minister, North East Provincial Government.

It will not be an exaggeration if we claim that the humanity that is at the threshold of the 21st century is exceptionally weak, because it could not save the life of a great personality like Comrade. K. Pathmanaba. Inspite of the remarkable achievements of science and technology so far made in the sphere of its socio - economic development.

Comrade. Pathmanaba’s death is an eloquent example of the weakness of the development of human civilisation in the recorded history full of stone age barbarism.

All those who are the contemporaries of Comrade. Pathmanaba will admit that he was one of the historic products of the present human development of an overall nature.

It is the logic of history that confirms the fact that the wealth produced by time, if used rationally will cause no destruction to humanity. The evidence of the death of Comrade. Pathmanaba in the cruel hands of LTTE’s fascism expresses the irony that the same wealth produced by time is equally responsible for destruction too.

Comrade Pathmanaba, in very simple terms, symbolised the human friendship in all it’s warmth and charm. It is

evident when we proudly claim that it is the greatest achievement of life to be a contemporary of Comrade Pathmanaba.

The eventful life Comrade Pathmanaba is the lively expression of the grim determination of all the comrades who are selflessly gathering below the banner of “Democratic Socialist Eelam” for the emancipation of our toiling masses. He has left a lasting impression of the stamp of his life’s truth on all of us.

The people who caused the death of Comrade. Pathmanaba will come to know the ferocity with which this death has given life to a revolutionary that will be all out to liquidate the heinous, gruesome and fascist crime of barbarism that was exhibitted by this death.

Comrade Pathmanaba was the product of the struggle that later became the inalienable part of his life and spirit. He was such a firm believer in Marxism - Leninism that made him to comprehend totally the content and form of the present worldwide democratic assault of socialism on capitalism. He flawlessly anticipated the future victory of communism over the total collapse of imperialism and its

appendages. Though he spoke very little in his short and sweet life, he achieved great feats. He was a pilgrim with a definite mission at the cross roads of our epochal history leading all of us towards a victorious struggle to establish socialism all over the world, by saving our national struggle from the influence of bourgeois nationalism. His marriage to Comrade. Anandhi exhibhitted his harmonious will to manure the pasture of revolution with his wedded life and to eradicate the influence of celebacy over revolutionary struggles of our times.

By his childlike smile, his love that kindled the feelings of all who got acquainted with him, his relentless corporation that influenced to work hard, his revolutionary determination to face all the challenges of our age, his understanding of the human weakness, his ability to identify human talents, his outlook that made him to love all humanity by transcending all the barriers of race, caste, language and religion and by his wisdom in accepting the scientific Marxist - Leninist ideology as the beacon of our struggle, Comrade Pathmanaba has become the hero of our epoch. He will live forever in all our hearts in all its depth and width inspite of his premature death.


The political philosophy and

Praxis of K. Pathmanabha

Dayan Jayatilleka,
Asst. Secretary,, Political Bureau, Sri Lanka Mahajana Party (SLMP)

Comrade Pathmanabha was first of all a revolutionary, a Marxist-Leninist, a national liberationist and a humani-tarian socialist. If we were to forget his characteristics we would then also forget his contribution. Pathmanabha was not just another leader of the Tamil national movement cut down by the LTTE. He was more, and this we should always remember.

Comrade Pathmanabha’s political career goes back to the first years of the decade of 1970’s. He participated in the activities of the rising Tamil student and youth fronts, in protest against the racist policies implemented by the United Front Government of the day. It is this Government, consisting of so called progressives and left parties, that reinforced the foundation of the Tamil Eelam demand, the cornerstone of which was laid by the Bandaranaike policy of Sinhala Only in 1956. Comrade Pathmanabha participated in the early 70’s in the campaigns of agitation launched against media wise and district wise standardisation and discriminatory 1972 Constitution.

His specific contribution to the Tamil nationalist movement and the progressive movement of Sri Lanka as a whole, begins however, in the mid 70’s. He was one of the founders of the very first socialist oriented organisa-tion within the Tamil national libera-tion movement. This was the Eela Viduthalai Munnani Iyakkam or Eelam Liberation Organisation founded in 1974/75. This organisation was formed as a result of the attempts by Pathmanabha and others to give the Tamil nationalist movement a mass base. He was one of the groups of youth militants who were the first to break with the bourgeois and parliamentary policies of Tamil United Front. I think we must stress this fact, since both Velupillai Prabakaran and Uma Maheswaran remained within the political and ideological ambit of bourgeois TULF politics, until much later in the struggle.

Pathmanabha and others attempted to take the message of Tamil national liberation into the countryside and among the working people. In doing so they encountered a fundamental prob­lem. What would the struggle for Tamil Eelam bring to the workers and peas­ants, particularly the peasantry and those suffering from caste oppression? It is in answer to this question that the political philosophy of Pathmanabha took a sharp turn to the left. This is why the Eela Viduthalai Iyakkam was formed as a social oriented organisa­tion dedicated to the cause of Tamil national liberation.

Pathmanabha believed in the unity of theory and practice and as such the ELO resorted to the tactic of armed ex­propriations. He participated person­ally in the Puloly Bank operation, which was one of the first such in the history of the Tamil resistance. In the immedi­ate aftermath of that armed expropria­tion, Pathmanabha who was on the run, was sheltered, protected and assisted by the people of the area. This deepened his love for and respect for

the so called common or ordinary people. He realised that the people could be a great source of protection and even of wisdom for the national liberation struggle. His pro-people orientation deepened qualitatively as a result of this experience.

The Eela Viduthalai Iyakkam did not survive the repression unleashed as a result of the Puloly Bank operation. As the organisation disintegrated. Comrade Pathmanabha left the country and went to England. He agreed, due to the pressure of his family, to recommence his studies and registered as a student of Accountancy while in London.

But from the very first day he reached England he was a manifestly restless young man. His thoughts were en­tirely devoted to the task of getting back to his native land as soon as possible. When in London, all his free time, social contacts and his personal interactions were devoted to the at­tempt to win over friends and acquain­tances to the cause of the national liberation struggle. It was while in London that he joined and in fact helped to form the General Union of Eelam Students (GUES) and the EROS. He was in the first batch of Tamil militant activists to receive training from the Palestinian Liberation Or­ganisation in Lebanon. His experiences and those of his comrades in Beirut left in him a permanent love for the Palestinian struggle. Almost a decade later, when he was the head of fairly strong Liberation Organisation him­self, he did his very best to give moral, material and political support to the Palestinian fighters. It was during this spell with the Palestinians that Com­rade Pathmanabha also developed a strong sense of solidarity with the Eritrean liberation struggle.

Comrade Pathmanabha made his journey back in 1978. Before retum-

ing to Sri Lanka he spent sometime in India laying a firm foundation for the subsequent activities of his organi-sation. His political work in India is also noteworthy, because until that time the connections between Tamil fighters and India had been with smugglers and social bandits and also with the most hard core Tamilnadu nationalists. Pathmanabha, however, established firm links with Marxist Leninist revolutionary elements in Southern India. He learnt much from them himself but his choice of allies is further testimony to his ideological and political clarity and his socialist revolutionary commitment.

Having set up a GUES committee in Madras under Comrade Suresh, he returned to Sri Lanka, working politically not only in Jaffna but also in the hill country. Comrade Pathmanabha made serious and extensive efforts to recruit Tamil youth from the plantaions and those from the Colombo schools for the cause of Tamil national liberation. In doing so he broke with the narrowly limited, Jaffna centric outlook of other Tamil national liberation fighters. Pathmanabha also made a very serious attempt to establish contacts with Sinhala revolutionaries. He met many such and tried to convince them of the need to support the cause of Tamil self determination. He was not successful in most cases. However, what is important is that he had departed completely from any kind of narrow Tamil nationalism or chauvinism.

From these earliest days in 1978, when we first met in Peradeniya, he was very clear that the Tamil national liberation struggle was the first step and stage of an overall socialist revolution throughout Sri Lanka. The Tamil struggle itself would make the transition from its democratic stage and culminate in the sett ting up of a

socialist Tamil Eelam. Of these two propositions Pathmanabha was very convinced and these ideas were ones which he had arrived at independently. His attempt to link up with Sinhala revolutionaries was in consequence of this strategic vision of his.

In 1981, he broke with EROS on the question of the lack of democratic centralism. While that was the issue on which the rupture took place, the founding of the EPRLF permitted Comrade Pathmanabha to operation-alise his own distinctive conception of the national liberation struggle. He attempted to give the struggle both a socialist political education as well as a base in a network of mass organisa­tions. This is why he was insistent on the need to set up an array of popular organisations such as the Rural Work-ers and Peasants Front, the Eelam Women’s Liberation Front, the Fisher-ies Workers Front and the Plantation Proletarian Front. These mas organi­sations he later attempted to group in a single Popular block called- the Eelam People’s Liberation Front. This was in 1983.

He was very clear that the armed or­ganisation should be based and drawn from the mass organisations and be under the political leadership of the party. Hence his adherence to Mao’s triad of the party, the Army and the United Front. But it was not a dog­matic Maoism. as his idea of the sepa-rate mass organisations subsequently grouped in a popular bloc demon-strates. I believe that he had evolved his own synthesis of the ideas of the PFLP of Dr. George Habash. of the Eritreans and of the Indian Marxist Leninist organisations. As a Marxist, he had great respect and love for Stalin, Mao, the Vietnamese and particularly for Che and Fidel.

Certainly it is obvious that he was not able to fulfill his goals in this regard. It

is obvious that this organisational structure did not function in the way it was meant to and should have. This was due to sets of reasons. One set of reasons consists of avoidable subjective mistakes and organisational errors. The other set of reasons are those due to the trap of history and geography.

Comrade Pathmanabha, like all of us, inherited historically determined con­ditions and circumstances. He was attempting to build a socialist national liberation organisation within an eth­nic and social formation that was characterised by conservatism and ossified social structures. His attempt to fight against caste domination and class exploitation, together with his insistence on the need for women’s emancipation within the national lib­eration struggle, earned the EPRLF the enormous hostility of entrenched, privileged social strata within the Tamil nation. The result of this was the narrowing of the economic resource base of EPRLF.

When in the aftermath of July 1983 the militant movements sought refuge in South India and made their base there, the EPRLF was distinguished by its refusal to compromise on its ideological convictions. All the other groups benefitted from the largesse of the Tamil Nadu state government and the most nationalistic, even chauvinistic, political and bourgeois elements in Tamil Nadu. Comrade Pathmanabha’s steadfast refusal to attack Sinhala civilian targets in Colombo or elsewhere did not endear him to bourgeois Tamil nationalists in India or the West who were bank rolling the terrorist operations which were undertaken by some other groups despite their verbal commitment to the principles of Marxism.

I feel that the belatedness of the EPRLFs attempt to develop a powerful military apparatus was also due to

Comrade Pathmanabha’s own philo­sophical conviction that what was most important was a mass struggle, mass organisations and a correct political orientation. It would have been very easy for him, trained in Lebanon by the Palestinians, to have plunged into the ‘prestige race’ of launching military attacks on Sinhala targets. But I believe he restrained himself and consciously refrained from succumb-ing to a militaristic deviation. Perhaps he foresaw in some way the brutalisa-tion that was to set in. in the Tamil liberation struggle. Whatever the rea-son. I would say that history has vin-dicated Pathmanabha’s refusal to take the easy path of militarism at the expense of politics and mass organisa­tion.

When the LTTE launched its attack on Anuradhapura in 1985 and then again on the TELO in May 1986 Pathmanabha and the EPRLF took a very clear position. On both these occasions Pathmanabha went against the tide. He extended full support and solidarity to the TELO and his was the only group to have a hartal in protest at the killing of TELO cadres by the Tigers. He would not have been unmindful of this. But nonetheless he adhered to principles. He did the right thing in the face of injustice.

I would say that Comrade Pathmanabha’s greatness resides not only in his positive achievements but most certainly in the wrong things he consciously desisted from doing. The EPRLF under his leadership did not engage in the killings of Sinhala civilians. It refused to engage in drug smuggling as a source of revenue. On this last issue, the otherwise so gentle Nabha was very firm.

He upheld the idea of the death sen­tence for any members of the EPRLF who engaged in drug trafficking. He used to say that “all that we do, all our

struggles are based on love for human beings and the ideals of humanism. Drug trafficking results in the destruc­tion of the lives of great many human beings in other countries. This makes nonsense of ideals to which we are committed”. This indicates very clearly the humanism that infused the social­ist revolutionary commitment of Comrade Pathmanabha. His refusal to permit internal killings, at the time when other pseudo-socialist organisa­tions in the Tamil Eelam movement were maintaining torture chambers and death camps, attests to his fidelity for the cause of democracy, while his refusal to entertain the idea of killing Sinhala civilians is testimony to his internationalism.

The fact that Comrade Pathmanabha was himself deeply involved in the attempt to construct a join revolution-ary project of Sinhalese and Tamils and did not sub-contract this task to this or that glib ideologue as did other Tamil liberation organisations, is fur-ther proof of his deep personal com-mitment to the goal of what he called the ‘total revolution’ in Sri Lanka. It is not only physically that Pathmanabha stood head and shoulders above other leaders of the Tamil liberation move-ment but also in his internationalism and his humanism. The evolution of the world Communist and Revolution-ary Movement has vindicated Path-manabha’s own ideological formation and synthesis. Pathmanabha stood for, believed in and acted with demo-cratic, humane socialism, which is an ideal the world Marxist Movement has now endorsed as its goal.

In his humanism, Pathmanabha was like Vijaya Kumaranatunge, who was himself profoundly anti-racist and internationalist and totally committed to the idea of a democratic socialism.

Viewing comrade Pathmanabha in his­torical perspective is no easy task since

there are a great many personal memories and experiences that we have shared in our odyssey. But that is a much longer story, for a different time. I will say that Comrade Pathmanabha was certainly one of the outstanding Marxists produced by the Tamil na-tion of this country - the others being Comrades Vaidyalingam, Kandiah and Shanmugathasan. But I could say that none of these other Marxists had the opportunity or perhaps the capacity and motivation to unite theory with armed revolutionary practice. In that sense it would not be inaccurate to say that Comrade Pathmanabha was the greatest Marxist - Leninist revolution-ary leader produced by the Tamil community. I would even go further. If I am asked who was the greatest revo-lutionary Marxist - Leninist leader that we have produced in Sri Lanka, ‘I cannot think of anyone but Pathmanabha.

The detailed analytical assessment of Comrade Pathmanabha is the task for another forum. But let me say that understanding Pathmanabha brings us face to face with a great many problems of revolutionary strategy and theory of political philosophy and practice - be it the relationship be-tween the political and the military, the party and the united front, the maximum and the minimum pro-gramme, internationalism and nation-alism, socialism and humanism, rela-tions with bourgeois state, and the crisis of the World Communist Move-ment. Pathmanaba’s practice and thinking involved all of that and much more. Understanding Pathmanaba would shed light on the history of Tamil liberation struggles, the nature of the Tamil social formation, the his-tory of the Sri Lankan revolutionary process, the political processes of South

Asia and the trajectories of the revolu­tionary movements of this complex, violent part of the world and the world as a whole.

Pathmanaba has left behind his or­ganisation which has proved its re­markable resilience whenever it was attacked by the fascist LTTE. He has left his organisation behind in the hands of his close comrade-in-arms Comrade Suresh Premachandran. But above all Pathmanaba has left us with his example. He was never a talker and a writer. But what he stood for, he acted out and acted upon. Therefore we have to gather together, systema­tise and share our reminiscences of Pathmanaba. And above all we have to follow his example. The Tigers may have killed Comrade Pathmanaba, but as Vijaya Kumaranatunge said at the funeral of Nandana Marasinghe, They may kill the Liberationist, but they cannot kill the liberation struggle. For the liberation struggle is eternal.” Someday when the peoples’ revolu­tionary forces of the Sinhala. the Tamil and the Muslim communities wage their combined struggle against reac­tion and Imperialism, the world will know this - for surely at some decisive stage and determinant moment of the struggle, they will unfurl the twin banners of Vijaya and Pathmanaba!

Pathmanaba’s moral and ethical stature does not diminish but grows with each passing day as we reflect on the civilisational crisis of our country and our revolutionary movements. I will conclude this, having searched for a slogan which may synthesise Pathmanaba’s ideas, his theory and practice, our own historic, existential encounter and Indubitable future re encounter. And that slogan is this -SOCIALIST REVOLUTION OR DEATH!