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PLOTE was founded in 1980 by an ex-surveyor Uma Maheswaran alias Mukundan, who became its general secretary. He was the chairman of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers or LTTE) from 1977–1980. He was trained in Lebanon and later in Syria under the Palestinian nationalist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. After a bitter rivalry with Velupillai Prabhakaran, Uma Maheswaran left the LTTE in 1980 and formed PLOTE