'Good leadership is the key behind current military success' says
global terror expert
Government understood that fighting terrorism is a
collective effort. Unlike previous defense secretaries Gotabaya
Rajapaksa understood the importance of working with everyone. He built a
first rate team drawing the leaders within the army, navy, airforce,
intelligence, police, foreign ministry, and other government agencies
and got them to work together. During the past two years sustained
pressure was applied on the LTTE cripping the LTTE supoprt and
operational networks. It was good government leadership that made the
Exclusive interview with Rohan Gunaratna by Udara
Soysa of the Sri Lanka Guardian
Professor Rohan Gunaratna is Head of the International
Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research and Professor of
Security Studies at the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies at
the Nanyang Technology University. He holds several honorary appointment
including Member of the Steering Committee of George Washington
University's Homeland Security Policy Institute and the National
Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, Oklahoma. A former
Senior Fellow at the United States Military Academy's Combating
Terrorism Centre at West Point and at Fletcher School for Law and
Diplomacy, he holds a masters in international peace studies from Notre
Dame, US, where he was Hesburgh Scholar and a doctorate in international
relations from St Andrews, Scotland, where he was British Chevening
Invited to testify before the 9-11 Commission on the
structure of al Qaeda, Gunaratna led the specialist team that built the
UN Database on al Qaeda, Taliban and their Entities. He debriefed
detainees in the U.S., Asia, Middle East, including high value al Qaeda
detainees in Iraq. He served as trainer for law enforcement, the
intelligence community, and the military. He served as counter terrorism
instructor for GIGN, CTSO, D88, US NAVY SEALS, Swiss Federal Police,
NYPD, and the Australian Federal Police. He conducted field research in
conflict zones including in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Indonesia, Thailand,
Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Uzbekistan, and Colombia.
Author and editor of 12 books including "Inside Al
Qaeda: Global Network of Terror" (Columbia University Press), an
international bestseller, Gunaratna is also the lead author of Jane's
Counter Terrorism, a handbook for counter terrorism practitioners. His
latest book with Michael Chandler, former Chairman of the UN Monitoring
Group into the Mobility, Weapons and Finance is "Countering Terrorism:
Can We Meet the Threat of Global Violence?" A litigation consultant to
the U.S. Department of Justice, Gunaratna was United States expert in
the Jose Padilla trial.
Q. How do you see the latest developments in
A. The LTTE has taken a severe beating. The
LTTE is moving in three directions - the LTTE is planning for the large
scale infiltration of Colombo to mount suicide attacks, internationally
to tarnish Sri Lanka's image by misusing the word genocide, and
radicalizing the displaced Tamils and recruiting them to their rank and
Q. What made the changes in the ground for the Sri
Lankan Armed forces and Tamil
A. Government understood that fighting
terrorism is a collective effort. Unlike previous defense secretaries
Gotabaya Rajapaksa understood the importance of working with everyone.
He built a first rate team drawing the leaders within the army, navy,
air force, intelligence, police, foreign ministry, and other government
agencies and got them to work together. During the past two years
sustained pressure was applied on the LTTE crippling the LTTE support
and operational networks. It was good government leadership that made
the LTTE suffer.
Q. How do you see the 2002 CFA signed by GOSL and
LTTE? Do you believe that LTTE benefited from it?
A. LTTE made use of each and every ceasefire to
regroup and resupply as a group. The LTTE cadres and leaders made use of
every ceasefire to rest, recuperate, collect intelligence and strike
Q. Do you believe that government forces can
capture Prabhakaran alive or eliminate him?
A. If the same degree of pressure can be
maintained on the LTTE for two years, the LTTE can be dismantled.
Q. Do you believe that a military defeat of LTTE is
A. Yes, but it is essential for government to
continue to work with everyone. This includes the diplomatic missions,
the NGOs, the human right lobby and other actors who have been
traditionally mislead or sympathetic to the LTTE.
Q. What do you believe are some strategic mistakes
that LTTE committed during post- 9/11 environment?
A. Prabhakaran failed to seize several golden
moments to talk peace and enter mainstream politics. The LTTE never
addressed the core issues but discussed peripheral issues to buy time to
strengthen itself militarily. The LTTE under Prabhakaran will never
bring any relief to the Tamils. Prabhakaran has only brought suffering,
death and destruction to the Tamils.
Q. How do you see the developments in Eastern
A. It is paramount for government to work with
the international community to develop the east. Working with the
Muslim, Tamil and Sinhala population in the East, government should make
the East a model for the north.
Q. What specific challenges are ahead of the
government of Sri lanka within next ten years?
A. On the economic side, government should
review the existing investment incentives and make Sri Lanka the most
attractive nation in the world for foreign investment. On the science
and technology and IT side, government should make Sri Lanka the
technology hub of Asia by inviting the best brains back to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka's greatest untapped resource is its expatriates. On the
governance side, Sri Lanka must give new powers to the anti-corruption
commission and stamp out corruption. No country can develop without
corruption. Leaders who are corrupt should deserve severe penalties. On
the security side, it is essential for the government to build a world
class security and intelligence service that warns government of threats
ahead of time. The fight against the LTTE has been historically
mismanaged. Government should reduce the size of the military but invest
in building more elite forces like the special forces, commandos and
airborne troops. On the social side, government must create programs to
integrate the LTTE surrendees to the nations mainstream. Government
should give land to every military and police officer and encourage them
to start industries and business from agriculture to farming.
Q. What do you believe as the ideal political
solution for the country?
A. Sri Lankan leaders must affirm and inform
all communities that every religious and ethnic community will be
treated equally. The majority community, the Sinhalese, can afford to be
more generous to the minorities. If all ethnic and religious groups are
treated equally, there will be no anger, resentment and no support for
violence. Those who preach and practice hatred should be persecuted.
Government must educate all its citizens that the national security of
the nation rests on maintaining communal and religious harmony.
Q. How do you see the US and Indian involvements in
A. The government of India trained the LTTE
from 1983 to 1987. Today, India has realized the blow back effect of
funding, arming, and directing terrorism in the neighbourhood. Sri Lanka
must manage its relations with India by posting its most senior and able
diplomat to Madras. We must invite all the leaders of Tamil political
parties in India to visit Sri Lanka. The US is the most generous nation
on earth. US has helped Sri Lanka immensely in the past and continues to
help us. As the first country in the region to develop a market economy,
Sri Lanka must work closely with the US. Sri Lanka must strike strategic
partnerships with the US, EU, China, India, and Pakistan.
Q. What reactions do you expect from Tamil Diaspora
within the next few months? Do you think that they have a major impact
on Sri Lankan theater?
A. The primary duty of a Sri Lankan diplomat is
to advance Sri Lanka's national interests. Currently its national
security interests are challenged. As such, every diplomat should spend
a third of his time countering the evil propaganda of the LTTE. The
diplomats should explain to the Tamils overseas not to be carried away
by the LTTE black and grey propaganda. Sri Lanka must appoint an
ambassador for counter terrorism that will advice all missions on
strategies and approaches to counter terrorist propaganda, keep foreign
governments briefed and to ensure that the truce face of the LTTE is
publicized. As the LTTE is a banned group, Sri Lanka should work with
and assist foreign governments to prosecute those who work for the LTTE
in their countries.
Q. What suggestions do you have for Sri Lankan
political and military machinery?
A. Governance is a monumental challenge. Every
Sri Lankan political leader must understand that they must conduct
themselves properly to earn the respect of country and the international
community. A leader must know to lead himself, then to lead others and
eventually to lead leaders. This is the challenge of the hour.
The LTTE rank and file is demoralized and government
must create a pathway for them to disengage from the LTTE. Government
must announce amnesties for those LTTE members and leaders that abandon
the LTTE. Government should promise them jobs and care for their
families. Government should request for international assistance to
rehabilitate those LTTE fighters that disengage from violence so that
they will be useful to build the nation.
Courtesy : Sri Lankan Guardian
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