Appraising the terrorist - A strategy doomed to failure
In the aftermath of the 1st Anniversary of
the "London Bus Bomb" tragedy (2005.07.07), has the attention
of the entire global community is now focused on "Terrorism and it's
The Sri Lanka Government condolence in it's message on the brutal "Rail Bomb", blast, on Tuesday
the 11th of July 2006, in India's financial capital Mumbai, states
"Terrorism has many faces but one cause". It further states that the
blast which claimed 147 lives as an act of "Evil and hatred".
Terrorism is indeed a threat to the regional and
global security says Mr. Paul Harris.
Mr. Paul Harris is an internationally reputed author
and conflict analyst, has been a correspondent of the widely acclaimed
the Jane's International Review. He has written prolifically on
conflicts in Sri Lanka, Bosnia, Aceh, East Timor, Nepal.
Mumbai Rail bomb
blast - 11.07.2006
The full text of the speech made by Mr.Paul Harris as follows;
appeasement of terrorism - doomed to failure
For the WAPS Conference, Oslo, August 20
It is a privilege to be speaking to you today. I would
like to be able to say it is a pleasure. But it is not. For me, it is a
matter for profound regret that I am today talking at a conference which
could turn out to be an inquest on the terminal division of the
sovereign state of Sri Lanka.
A few brief words as to why I - an Englishman - stand
here today. My formal academic qualifications are as a political
scientist. But I think on-the-ground experience is of rather more
relevance. I have carried out conflict analyses for Jane's Intelligence
Review in Bosnia, Kosovo, Nepal, North East India, Aceh, East Timor,
Uganda, Algeria, Eritrea, Sudan, Nagorno Karabakh, the Saharawi Arab
Democratic Republic and, of course, Sri Lanka. It's a tricky job working
as a professional prophet of doom. Fortune tellers may be comfortable
with predictions in a darkened room, but making them in print is always
hazardous. I didn't always get it right, of course. But I did most of
Let me make it clear. I have no personal axe to grind
in relation to the future of Sri Lanka. No political interest as a
foreigner; no economic interest as a businessman or entrepreneur. I do,
however, strongly believe that the country of Sri Lanka should not be
offered as some extravagant reward for a bunch of avaricious terrorists.
I admit I am prejudiced. I have observed terrorists in more than a dozen
countries. I have seen the blood and the misery with my own eyes. I
don't like terrorists: I don't like what they stand for and I don't like
their methods. And I believe their methods intrinsically deny them the
capability of engaging in any meaningful peace process.
The crucial question must be: Does the LTTE want peace
and, if so, what sort of peace? The answer seems clear to me. Of course,
the LTTE wants peace, that is to say, peace on its own terms: the
terminal division of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka with two thirds of
the coast and half of the landmass ceded to the LTTE in perpetuity.
In the past, I have not been shy about making my views
known on what I regard as not just a Sri Lankan issue but a universal
moral issue. Curiously, when I addressed the Colombo Rotary Club on
April 23 2002 the reaction in the room was, let us just say, a trifle
muted. Stunned might be more accurate a description. I suppose I had
underestimated the impact of what I said. I termed what was going in Sri
Lanka 'the greatest giveaway in history'. This, of course, did not sit
well in UNP government circles. I identified then what I personally
found most worrying about the peace process and it came as a shock, I
realise in retrospect. I averred that the LTTE was implementing
"A whole series of sophisticated strategies designed
to occupy all the political and social space throughout the north and
the east of the country . . . The strategies encompass all areas of
public life and include:
*Forcing government department heads to work for LTTE
*Taxing civil servants 8% of salaries
*Controlling business of government cooperatives and
thereby obtaining a steady income
*All contracts for government and NGO projects are to
be carried out by LTTE approved contractors and income is thereby
*Controlling and using all available government
*Demeaning activities of competing political groups
*Sending cadres into government areas in defiance of
conditions of the MoU
*Influencing and using teachers, students and labour
unions to carry
out hartals, demonstrations, picketing and protests
*Erection of monuments to martyrs and LTTE figures
*Influencing government servants to use LTTE
headquarters in place of government facilities in the eastern province
*Influencing civilians to make legal complaints via
the LTTE, rather than to the police
*Organising mass 'Tamil awakening' rallies known as
*Classes on Eelam in schools
*Edicts on dress code for women instructing them to
dress in traditional clothes.
*Restrictions on businesses involved in private
tutoring of schoolchildren.
*The creation of a general psychosis of fear in
coveted areas to be included in the state of Tamil Eelam. A psychosis of
fear is being brought about by enforced conscription of youth into the
LTTE, general coercion and extortion of funds from traders, especially
the Muslim community.
"In addition to the undermining of government control
and authority, the enhancement of LTTE military capability is being
undertaken through reconstruction of defences; accelerated recruitment;
reinforcement of command posts and radio rooms with concrete allowed
into LTTE areas under the MoU; smuggling of arms and ammunition;
building up of arms and ammunition stockpiles in government areas;
movement of heavy mortars and machine guns into the east; increased
level of training; intensified reconnaissance on army, Special Task
Force (STF) and police locations; and the reorganisation of LTTE cadres
into regiments. Military cadres are moving into government held areas
under the conditions created by the MoU and undertaking their missions
with little impediment."
When I said all this 28 months ago in Colombo large
numbers of people thought I was paranoid; some thought I was quite mad;
others, like PM Wickremesinghe, who proceeded to set his goons on me,
thought I was dangerous: as the PM described me, I was 'an enemy of the
peace process'. Wickremesinghe, instead of occupying himself with the
real enemies of Sri Lanka, set up a Prime Ministerial Security Division
at Temple Trees to put the enemies of the peace process under
surveillance: telephone tapping, physical surveillance and illegal
searches were all part and parcel of the work of this new unit. I was
one of the first to be subjected to its attentions.
I was even termed a warmonger in the public print.
Well, in my view, it is not necessary to blindly support a peace process
per se without analysing and assessing its implications and making a
balanced judgement. If a peace process looks likely to institutionalise
political violence; support the abrogation of human rights and
intolerance of democracy; and imply approval of a megalomaniac murderer,
then I, for one, find myself unable to support it; and I think any
rational, fair-minded human being must reject it as a hopeless sham and
a fraud upon the very people it is supposed to help.
Also, an inequitable peace agreement which embodies
immorality and the reward of terrorism must, in my view, be doomed to
failure. As recently as last month, Amnesty International reported on
the continuing recruitment drive for child soldiers by the LTTE. I quote
from Amnesty, July 7 2004: "Since the beginning of April, 190 children
have been recruited to fight, according to information provided by UICEF.
This brings the number of verified cases this year to 330. Many of these
children have been forcibly abducted from public places or their homers.
Some of the new recruits are as young as fourteen. The Tamil Tigers are
also increasingly re-recruiting former child soldiers by force."
There are not many ways to deal with terrorists. And
let us be in no doubt whatsoever about this: the LTTE have proved
themselves to be, time and again, unreformed and brutal terrorists. Even
the distant and remote US government recognises this. On June 22, US
Assistant Secretary of State Christine Rocca spoke to the House
Committee on International Relations. She told the Committee that the
Tigers still "recruit child soldiers, stockpile weapons and conduct
extrajudicial assassinations of politicians who disagree with them. We
will not remove our designation of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation
until it has firmly and decidedly given up terrorism and such policies
as the recruitment of children as soldiers."
Remember that the LTTE are the people who actually
brought suicide bombing as a tactic to this world long before it was
visited upon it by al-Qaeda; the people who traded the suicide jacket
technology with Hamas for weapons and conventional training. Within Sri
Lanka they have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of people
from the Sacred Bo Tree massacre in Anharadapura on May 14 1985: 146
innocents dead to the Central Bank bombing of January 31 1996: 96 dead
and 1400 injured, and the Dehiwala twin train bombs of July 1996 with
more than 70 dead
Just three horrific incidents among the 50 devastating
attacks which have seen the deaths of more than 260 suicide bombers. For
the LTTE, no target is too sacred and, indeed, a hallmark of their
activities has been the ingenious range of targets: trains, buses,
Colombo airport and harbour, international 5-star hotels, the financial
district, fuel tanks and electrical supplies; army headquarters, air
force headquarters, the sacred Bo Tree and the Dalada Maligawa Temple in
These are the people for whom political assassination
is a way of life. Just a random sample of the unfortunate who have
suffered at the hands of the LTTE:
May 21 1991 Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi
May 1 1993 President Ranasinghe Premadasa
October 24 1994 Presidential Candidate Gamini
July 29 1999 Leading Tamil politician Neelan
June 7 2000 Minister C V Gooneratne
And, as if to prove they still represent a potent
assassination force even during a peace process, the unsuccessful
attempt last month to kill Douglas Devananda in Colombo in which four
policemen died at Kollupitiya Police Station.
A state has limited options when dealing with
terrorists. It can:
1 Talk to them and sue for peace. There are no
examples of success in this strategy in relation to significant potent
2 Adopt a mid-way approach, alternately talking peace
and fighting the terrorists. This has effectively been the Sri Lanka
strategy. Under this strategy the terrorists' goals remain firmly fixed
while those of the state tend to become diffused.
3 Pursue the terrorists remorselessly and kill them in
large numbers before they kill you. This implies 100% commitment
physically and mentally. This course of action implies the use of
special forces, extra-judicial execution and significant loss of human
rights for the period in which it is employed. Intelligence is the key.
There was a glimmer of hope for this strategy three years ago through
the activities of the Long Range Patrol Group. This was the first really
effective initiative of the Sri Lankan army for may years.
Disgracefully, the group was betrayed in its 'safe' house on January 2
2002, its agents compromised and the operation wilfully deserted by the
Wickremesinghe government. As a result a whole intelligence network and
a most effective organisation were brought down from within. In most
countries, treason trials would have followed . . .
This strategy has been used successfully by the
British in Northern Ireland, by the Omanis and Bahrainis , by the
Indonesians and, to a lesser extent, by the Indians in the fractious NE
states. It has, however, also failed, e.g. in Chechnya. Each scenario is
BUT SRI LANKA ABANDONED ITS ONLY WINNING STRATEGY AT
THE VERY POINT AT WHICH IT WAS WORKING. Several of Prabhakaran's aides
had been taken out by the group working undercover and even
Thamilchelvam only survived by the skin of his teeth. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that even Prabhakaran had become paranoid about his own safety.
4 Talk peace whilst actively plotting the downfall of
your enemy. This could have been a strategy for the Sri Lankan
government. In fact, it was the strategy adopted by the LTTE who used
the period of the so-called peace process to rearm, retrain, re-equip,
forcibly recruit new cadres and strengthen their political and terror
systems, particularly in the east of the country.
Of course, in their bid for international acceptance
and recognition, the terrorist tag has been deeply embarrassing to the
LTTE as they jostled, freshly suited and booted, for seats at conference
tables from Oslo to Bangkok.
Some people have taken what is to me the quite
extraordinary view that Prabhakaran is some sort of new, reformed man.
One leading member of the last government recounted to me a 'delightful'
lunch he had with Mr P. Apparently, all he talked about was his family
life, his son and fervent hopes for his academic success. He even smiled
a lot to the amazement of his listeners. These UNP people came away
totally charmed . . .
Of course, Mr P makes very few public appearances. I
suspect he finds the forced performances of geniality he is obliged to
make in support of the present peace strategy to be, well, a very great
We had a brief chance to look at him during his famous
press conference. The press conference seriously backfired on the
terrorist leader for it clearly indicated he was unreformed, unrepentant
and blithely insouciant of world opinion. Given a heaven-sent
opportunity to apologise to the Indian people for the assassination of
Rajiv Gandhi he peremptorily dismissed the suggestion with a wave of his
hand and the averment that it was all 'history' which he no longer
wished to discuss.
Of course, Prabhakaran seriously misjudged the deep
feelings of the Indian people - and thereby ensured that the LTTE would
remain for the foreseeable future on the proscribed list of terrorist
organisations, not just in India but also Europe and America.
Personally, I was reassured by his making that great error of judgement:
it showed that he was not infallible and that his judgement and
abilities are, indeed, limited.
Responses to other questions represented a curious
mixture of wiliness and opportunism. Some appeared to indicate the LTTE
had a very clear appreciation of the then weakness of the Sri Lankan
state. "We don't think that Ranil Wickremesinghe is capable of
addressing the core issues and is able to offer us a permanent solution
at this stage because the executive powers of governance are vested with
the President and his powers are limited to parliament. It is because of
this that we are suggesting an interim administration in the north east.
"In the meantime, Ranil Wickremesinghe will have space
to build up southern Sri Lanka. So it will be advantageous for the
Tamils as well as for the Sinhalese to work out an interim set up for
the time being. Once this is set up then we are prepared to discuss the
core issues and negotiate for a permanent settlement to the ethnic
issue. But now we believe the government is not politically stable or
powerful enough to take up the core issues of the Tamils and offer us a
By virtue of his own analysis of the then contorted
political scenario, Mr P should, now, be only too willing to discuss
peace with a more powerful President with more extensive parliamentary
control . . . but the LTTE gives no sign of returning to the conference
table except on its own terms.
It was clear he left little room for compromise in the
matter of the creation of an independent Tamil Eelam. Prabhakaran is
still irrevocably committed to the creation of an independent state.
Most significantly, and to my amazement, at one of the
earliest pongu tamil celebrations in Batticaloa in March 2002 several
speakers told the large audience that 'wherever there are Tamils there
is Tamil Eelam'. This inflammatory imprecation was not repeated at later
gatherings; it was also an error of judgement likely to be alarming to
states from India to Malaysia to Canada.
Asked about the statement he once made to the effect
that his cadres would shoot him if he ever renounced Eelam, Prabhakaran
smiled, glanced at his heavily armed bodyguards and observed "that
statement still holds". He said that "the right conditions have not
arisen for the LTTE to abandon the policy of independent statehood."
Asked if he recognised Ranil Wickremesinghe as his
Prime Minister, Prabhakaran laughed and Balasingham answered, "Ranil
Wickremesinghe is the Prime Minister of those who elected him. Mr
Prabhakaran is the President and Prime Minister of Tamil Eelam." It was
further averred that armed struggle would only be given up after "three
fundamentals" were accepted by the government. "They are Tamil homeland,
Tamil nationality and self-determination of the Tamils. If a political
is put forward recognising these fundamentals then we can consider
giving up the demand for Tamil Eelam . . . But if the Sri Lanka
government rejects our demand for autonomy and self governance then - as
a last resort - we will opt for secession."
In short, Prabhakaran and the LTTE have not adjusted
their demands one iotre since those they made at the failed Thimpu talks
with the J R Jayawardene government back in 1985.
The demand for territory for the nascent state of
Tamil Eelam grows ever more ambitious. Maps of Tamil Eelam put on public
display at Pongu Thamil rallies clearly showed two thirds of the
coastline of the island and almost a half of the land mass of Sri Lanka
within the proposed territory of Tamil Eelam. Such division would deny
the Sinhalese majority access to some of the best agricultural land and
fishing grounds, as well as the best tourist beaches. Not to mention
potential assets in the form of offshore oil and mineral resources which
will be available to Sri Lanka under the EEZ. Loss of the hill country
would imply the additional loss of most of the lucrative tea estates.
Just over two years ago I said, "There would seem to
me to be little doubt that the state of Sri Lanka is headed for early
division between a Sinhalese state in the south and the west and the
state of Tamil Eelam in the north and the east. This division will
likely be de facto rather than de jure. . . The Sinhalese are exhausted
mentally and economically by almost twenty years of war and there is now
a widespread sense of resignation about the future, albeit with the
implication of their own nation state being much reduced in physical
size and financial resources."
And so it came to pass. Will the LTTE return to war?
Another large-scale battlefield war seems unlikely, unnecessary indeed.
The LTTE has effectively occupied all the social and political space in
the north and the east of Sri Lanka. It has gained much ground during
the time of the Peace Junket while the government in Colombo has given
in on almost all points whenever it seemed necessary to save the doomed
process. The State of Tamil Eelam is in operation: it has set up its
border crossing points, its passes, papers, duties and taxes, its
police, civil administration, banking and political infrastructure. Even
a powerful radio station, obligingly supplied by the Norwegians has been
allowed by the government.
I see no reason to revise my assessment made back in
2004. In so many ways, the de facto division of Sri Lanka has already
been achieved: the writ of government in Colombo hardly exists in the
north and the east, even in those areas under the nominal control of the
state security forces.
It is not my brief to discuss here the strategies
necessary for the state to re-impose its control over the north and the
east of Sri Lanka and secure the Sri Lankan state's territorial,
sovereign integrity. It could be done but it would represent an enormous
commitment by all those who believe Sri Lanka deserves to survive as a
I believe that there is a danger little discussed. The
ultimate doomsday scenario for Sri Lank would be the imposition of an
inequitable ethnic division which would disadvantage the large number of
Muslims in the east of the country, claimed by the LTTE as their
exclusive ethnic homeland. Their intolerance of the Muslim community has
frequently been made clear: significantly in the attack on the mosque at
Kattankudy. As LTTE leader Karikalan told me - and he was disgraced
within the fortnight: "It is for Tamil youth to repossess the lands
stolen by the Muslims".
Al-Qaeda operatives have visited Sri Lanka and
travelled to the east. For the moment, Sri Lanka is low on the list of
concerns for a revolutionary organisation fighting a war on many fronts
from Baghdad to Palestine, the US to Europe. However, make no mistake
about it, if Muslims are physically threatened in the east of Sri Lanka
then al-Qaeda operatives will secure the safety and well being of their
Muslim brothers. The plans are already laid. At that point, the LTTE
will find themselves more than evenly matched against an enemy which
will be contemptuous of their limited nationalism and, ultimately, even
more ruthless. Al-Qaeda might be the only organisation in the world that
could take down the LTTE with car bombs outside every LTTE police
station, barracks and training centre. Assassinations of LTTE political
leaders would soon lead to the collapse of the house of cards that is
Prabhakaran's Tamil Eelam.
That would be the final battle for supremacy in Sri
Lanka which I trust we shall never witness. And that would be the worst
possible outcome for the failed politics of appeasement.
Meantime, significant evidence has emerged that the
LTTE has been actively cooperating with other international terror
organisations. I have previously published my findings in regards to the
links with the Maoists of Nepal whose military strategies, if not their
ideals, appear to be drawn from the LTTE.
The work of Rohan Gunaratna, an expert on Asian terror
groups and a Sri Lankan himself, who works at Singapore's Centre for the
Study of terrorism and Political Violence, will be well known to most
people here. Gunaratna says that 'Asian intelligence agencies had
reported before the US attacks [of 9/11] that the LTTE, masters in
suicide technology, were involved in training the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), two groups very
close to al-Qaeda, in the second half of the 1990s'. [The Times of India
July 7 2004]. In May of this year, the LTTE's chief procurement officer,
Kumaran, visited Afghanistan from his base in Thailand. As the peace
process has dragged on, Western intelligence and law enforcement
agencies have taken a relaxed view of LTTE activities. That may soon
come to an end: Gunaratna believes 'it is only a matter of time before
al-Qaeda fully targets India', probably with the support of its
affiliates Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen or Harkat-ul-Jehad.
I hope this short paper has established three things:
1 The LTTE and its leader Prabhakaran remain
unreformed terrorists operating internationally.
2 The period of talking peace has been used to rearm,
regroup and prepare for another outbreak of war.
3 There can be no future - apart from buying time - in
continuing to parley peace with committed terrorists wholly uninterested
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