Malaysian police said Thursday they were investigating a senior politician who had negotiated on behalf of Tamil Tiger rebels during Sri Lanka’s civil war, after getting many complaints alleging that he supported the terror group.
Malaysia’s police chief confirmed that more than 50 reports had been lodged against P. Ramasamy, the deputy chief minister of Penang state, but Ramasamy denied to BenarNews that he was a member of the now-defunct armed separatist organization formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
“Fifty-three reports so far have been made and Ramasamy himself has lodged a report with us on the issue,” Police Inspector-General Mohamad Fuzi Harun told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
“A Bukit Aman special team is handling it,” Fuzi said, referring to the common name of the Royal Malaysia Police headquarters. “Prior to this, Penang police were taking care of it but it gained national interest, therefore we stepped in.”
According to a report in the New Straits Times newspaper, police in George Town, the capital of Penang, recorded a statement from Ramasamy, 69, earlier this week.
In an interview with BenarNews, Ramasamy, who had also previously acted as a negotiator in peace talks aimed at ending a long-running insurgency in Indonesia’s Aceh province, said he was willing to share with police details on his alleged involvement with the LTTE.
“I am not a member of LTTE. I am a Malaysian citizen." he said. "I am a peace negotiator not just for Sri Lanka but also for the Aceh conflict, and I am not deterred by the allegations."
Ramasamy said his association with the LTTE started in 2006 when Norway sought his help in helping settle the Sri Lankan conflict, which lasted from July 1983 till May 2009.
Ramasamy is a politician with the Democratic Action Party (DAP), one of the partners in Malaysia’s new Pakatan Harapan government.
Allegations that he supported the LTTE surfaced in Malaysian newspapers following the recent circulation of a picture that claimed to show Ramasamy paying his respects to a Kalashnikov rifle, which was a symbol of the Tamil Tigers, who fought to establish a separate nation – Eelam – for Sri Lanka’s ethic Tamil minority.
It was also reported that Ramasamy had recently hosted a pro-LTTE politician from India.
V. Gopalasamy, better known as Vaiko, who leads the Tamil Nadu-based Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) party, was in Penang to attend the wedding of Ramasamy’s son.
According to reports, Vaiko had previously been barred from entering Malaysia and was even detained at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on June 9, 2017. Mustafar Ali, director-general of the Malaysian Immigration Department, confirmed this to media recently.
Lately, Ramasamy angered some conservative Islamic leaders and politicians from Muslim-majority Malaysia with comments in which he appeared to criticize the new government for its decision earlier this month not to extradite a televangelist preacher, Zakir Naik, to India at New Delhi’s request.
“Many hated me because I criticized Zakir over his Malaysian PR [permanent residency] status, so they accused me of supporting terrorism,” he said.
Nasrudin Hassan, the information chief for the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), was among those people who urged police to probe Ramasamy’s alleged ties to the Tamil Tigers.
“A thorough investigation must be made on him and other individuals,” Nasrudin told reporters on Wednesday.
The Indian-born preacher Naik is wanted by India for alleged extremist-related activities and giving sermons that, Indian authorities said, inspired terrorism. They accused Naik of influencing some of the militants who carried out an Islamic State-linked terrorist attack a café in Dhaka, where 29 people, including 20 hostages and five gunmen, were killed on July1-2, 2016.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently said that the preacher would not be extradited to India as long as he did not violate any of Malaysia’s laws.
Naik later issued a statement thanking Mahathir for allowing him to stay in the country. He rejected allegations that he had fanned extremist acts through his TV sermons.
A feared group
The LTTE was founded in May 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran, with the mission of carving Eeelam out of the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka, where ethnic Tamils form the majority.
At the height of its power, the LTTE possessed a well-developed militia and carried out many high-profile attacks, including assassinations of politicians.
The two most high-profile people assassinated by the Tigers in suicide bombings were Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991, and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa, in 1993. The group was also notorious for carrying out terrorist attacks in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, and other cities where Sinhalese Buddhists formed the ethnic majority.
Apart from Sri Lanka, the United States, Britain and Canada – where large expatriate Sri Lankan Tamil communities were concentrated – were among countries that proscribed the LTTE as a terror group.