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Last modified on: 12/30/2010 11:05:54 PM<% on Error Resume Next Response.Expires = 0 %> Appraising the terrorist - A strategy doomed to failure

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 perpetrators".

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;

 

The appeasement of terrorism - doomed to failure

By

Paul Harris

For the WAPS Conference, Oslo, August 20 2004

 

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 the time.

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 derived

*Controlling and using all available government resources

*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 Pongu Tamils

*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 Kandy.

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 Dissanayake

July 29 1999 Leading Tamil politician Neelan Thiruchelvan

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 terrorist groups.

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 different.

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 strain.

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 permanent solution."

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 unified state.

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 in compromise.

.

MP3 Audio file of the speech :X

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