Terrorism is still a security threat Nationally and Globally
Posted on February 9th, 2014

By Camelia Nathaniel (from the Leader news paper of 9.2.14)

Although terrorism was defeated in the country in 2009, the threat still lurks as internal and external forces are still lobbying for a separate state and also still funding and fuelling separatist ideologies.

According to the latest edition of the Annual Threat Assessment of the Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis report of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research; S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Nanyang Technological University, Rohan Gunaratna Head, ICPVTR and Professor of Security Studies points out that though Sri Lanka has not seen a terrorist attack since 2009, its progress towards reconciliation after the end of 26 years of civil war has been under intense scrutiny by the international community.

He points out that the threat of international and national terrorism is projected to grow in 2014. “Half the countries in the world suffer from political violence and ideological extremism, and terrorism will remain a tier-one national security threat to the stability of most countries in 2014,” he observed.

Highlighting the threat still faced by Sri Lanka in spite of the war having ended he said that although Sri Lanka experienced no revival of terrorism since the Tamil Tigers were dismantled in May 2009, the terrorists are reorganizing themselves in Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Diaspora has played a significant role through its financial and ideological support to the military struggle for a separate state. Although the May 2009 defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has dramatically reduced the Diaspora’s influence, the majority of Tamils outside Sri Lanka continue to support a separate state, and the Diaspora’s funding and influence still poses a huge threat to the sovereignty of the country.

The people who have suffered as a result of the conflict are more concerned about rebuilding their lives under difficult circumstances rather than supporting the continuation of the struggle for an independent state. However as long as the separatist ideology remains, the threat to the country will certainly persist. The Tamil Diaspora in various countries is endorsing the call for a separate state and boycotting any internal solutions for reconciliation. They are lobbying for an international investigation into alleged war crimes by the Sri Lankan state. These parties however, refrain from criticizing the LTTE or holding it responsible for its crimes or its contribution to the shattered state of Sri Lankan Tamil society.

It is important to note that many of these LTTE-linked groups claim that they no longer have any interest in terrorism. Most of them say they engage only in political activism and not violence. Almost all of them pretend to have a democratic face. But make no mistake ” the Tiger has not changed its stripes. The modus operandi of the LTTE linked organisations remains as unchanged as their agenda. There is no doubt that these groups will continue trying to create an enabling environment internationally for a separate state, while also encouraging the resumption of an armed struggle within Sri Lanka.

To understand why the LTTE linked organisations remain so powerful, we need to understand the electoral politics of western nations. The stances that Governments adopt are a consequence of their internal politics. Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and many parts of Europe have very large immigrant Tamil populations. These populations form notable voting blocs within electoral constituencies in those countries. Although the number of radicalised elements within the overall Tamil population is small, they are politically very active.

These radicalised elements and LTTE-linked groups use skilful propaganda to project their anti-Sri Lanka objectives as goals the entire Tamil population is interested in. During a recent briefing in Geneva for diplomats on the progress in national reconciliation, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga speaking on the ‘Progress in the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka’, had said the Government of Sri Lanka had done all that was humanly possible to implement the National Plan of Action for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations, since its approval by the Cabinet of Ministers in July 2012.

During the discussions most of the countries that attended the briefing commended the government for its commitment to and efforts in implementing the LLRC recommendations, some questioned aspects of the implementation and the speed at which it was taking place. Many expressed the view that the international community should provide assistance to Sri Lanka and continue a constructive dialogue with Sri Lanka in dealing with human rights issues. Commenting on its own tragic experiences and continuing hardships in fighting terrorism, a diplomat from one of the countries present, commented, “It is only the wearer who knows where the shoe pinches”.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha responding to queries on what measures were being taken to prevent terrorism recurring in the country, explained that while terrorism had been eradicated in Sri Lanka, many former LTTE cadres and sympathizers continued to be active, particularly in Western countries. He said that for these elements it was important to keep the pot boiling in Sri Lanka, as a means of staying relevant and justifying their continued existence in their more affluent host countries. He appealed to such countries to be very cautious of this fact, as it ran the danger of derailing reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka.

The LTTE was a deadly threat, and even though its military arm was defeated, it is evident that efforts are being undertaken in the international arena by the LTTE-linked groups to keep the separatist cause alive. The regrouping and reorganizing of terrorists within Sri Lanka is still a threat to national security. It is only logical that the Government takes every precaution it can to guard against it. Maintaining a sizeable Army and establishing camps in strategic locations throughout Sri Lanka is essential. This is particularly true of the jungle areas in which the LTTE established camps, and through which it conducted its terrorist operations against our Security Forces.

One of the greatest strengths of the LTTE was its ability to smuggle weapons acquired through funds raised abroad into Sri Lanka via the coastal areas. The LTTE was the only terrorist organisation in the world to develop an offensive air capability. It acquired this strength through light aircrafts smuggled into Sri Lanka by sea. In addition, it also smuggled in surface-to-air missiles, surface-to-surface missiles, artillery guns, heavy and medium mortar, armoured vehicles and enormous amounts of ammunition and explosives by sea. In order to prevent such incidents recurring, it is critical that the security forces remain vigilant at all times and take the necessary precautions to safeguard the hard fought freedom from terrorism.

“The conflict has been over for just about five years and although we have defeated terrorism we have not been able to completely eliminate the separatist sentiments that are being kept alive by several parties both locally and internationally,” Military Spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya noted.

In fact since the end of the conflict and the defeat of terrorism, separatism has gained momentum with the emergence of the Global Tamil Forum, British Tamil Forum and the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam ” Nediyavan and Vinayagam Factions et al. They have got themselves established mainly due to the sympathetic tendencies of the Diaspora elements. They have used these sympathetic views of the Diaspora to whip up the separatist sentiments in the international scene.

Although there is a sense of security on the island from a military standpoint, the possibility of the reemergence of violence is not completely eliminated.

A large number of former LTTE cadres have evaded the rehabilitation process, and the Military estimates this figure to be in the thousands. These former cadres pose a considerable threat to society. Around 12,000 ex cadres have been rehabilitated; but there is still a possibility that they could be yet vulnerable to manipulation by those espousing separatist sentiments. Therefore it is imperative that a strong security presence continues to be maintained in order to ensure that there is no reemergence of violence in the country.

Counter Terrorist Trends And Analysis

International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Nanyang Technological University Annual Threat Assessment South Asia Sri Lanka

By Iromi Dharmawardhane

There have been no incidents of terrorism in Sri Lanka since the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were militarily defeated in May 2009. However, a small number of cells comprising LTTE members and their supporters remain in the country’s conflict-affected north, and there have been a few incidents of concern in 2013.

Outside Sri Lanka, the LTTE’s international network is still active and sheltered among supporters in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, but is split into various factions. Nevertheless, it continues to run a disinformation campaign against Sri Lanka, particularly in countries such as Canada and the UK with significant concentrations of diaspora Tamils.

Anti-Sri Lankan sentiment in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has also complicated Sri Lanka’s relations with its neighbour India. The Tamil Nadu state government exerted considerable pressure on the central government in New Delhi in 2013 to support international efforts to investigate war crimes during Eelam War IV (2006-2009, the final phase of Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long conflict with the LTTE), limit India’s military cooperation with Sri Lanka and resolve issues relating to the detention of Indian fishermen.

Nevertheless, reconciliation initiatives have made strides in 2013. Elections were held in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province for the first time since 1988, and the government pushed forward in its resettlement, demining and reconstruction programs as well.

The country’s progress on reconciliation will come under international scrutiny at the 25th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2014, where the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanetham Pillay will present findings from her visit to Sri Lanka in August 2013 as well as a report on progress with respect to the implementation of Resolution 22/1 passed at the 22nd session in March 2013.

Detainees with satellite phones

Sri Lankan prison authorities found 18 satellite phones in the Magazine Prison at Welikada (a suburb of Sri Lanka’s largest city, Colombo) and 12 satellite phones in the Jaffna Prison (Jaffna is the capital of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province) in June and August 2013 respectively. Investigations are still ongoing as to how these phones entered into the possession of detained LTTE cadres, who used them to communicate with pro-LTTE elements of the Tamil diaspora based outside Sri Lanka. The continued discovery of communications equipment among detained LTTE cadres is a concern given the incident which occurred at the Vavuniya Prison (Vavuniya is the largest city in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province) in June 2012 when LTTE detainees held three prison officials hostage until security forces brought the situation under control. The Sri Lankan government accused LTTE elements outside Sri Lanka of remotely directing the incident via the satellite phones found in the detainees’ possession.

LTTE cadres escaping to India

Furthermore, in mid-2013, there were a number of attempts ” both successful and unsuccessful ” by LTTE members at large in the north of Sri Lanka to escape to the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu by boat. The fact that these remnants of the group are attempting to leave Sri Lanka to reorganize outside the country highlights that local conditions are unfavorable due to the counter terrorist initiatives of the security forces. However, it also underscores the importance of Sri Lanka working with countries known to have a LTTE presence ” particularly India due to its proximity ” in order to limit the ability of LTTE elements overseas to plan and execute attacks in Sri Lanka.

Anti-Sri Lanka protests and attacks in Tamil Nadu

There were a number of anti-Sri Lanka protests and attacks targeting Sri Lankans in Tamil Nadu during March 2013. These incidents coincided with campaigns initiated by political parties in Tamil Nadu to pressurize New Delhi to take a strong stance against Sri Lanka at the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013. On 7 March 2013, a group of Naam Thamizhar Katchi (a pro-LTTE political party based in Tamil Nadu) activists attacked the sales office of Mihin Lanka (a low-cost airline owned by the Sri Lankan government) in Madurai, the third largest city in Tamil Nadu.

Furthermore, from 8 to 11 March 2013, students across several educational institutions in Chennai (the capital of Tamil Nadu) demonstrated in response to police taking into custody eight students on a hunger strike protesting against alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka. In the subsequent week on 16 and 18 March 2013, there were attacks on Sri Lankan Buddhist monks at Thanjavur (location of the Brihadeeswarar Temple) and Chennai, in which members of Naam Thamizhar Katchi were also implicated.

In June 2013, 100 members of Naam Thamizhar Katchi also protested against Sri Lankan military personnel receiving military training at the Madras Regimental Centre based at Wellington in Tamil Nadu. They entered the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington unannounced and carried LTTE flags with them. In fact, there were a series of protests involving 15 pro-LTTE political groups based in Tamil Nadu since the two Sri Lankan officers began training at Wellington in May 2013. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram also pressured the central government, which subsequently offered to transfer the two officers to the College of Defence Management located in Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh. However, the Sri Lankan government declined this offer and withdrew the officers from the course.

Despite her opposition to Sri Lankan officers training in India, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has also taken some decisive measures against pro-LTTE elements in Tamil Nadu. On her orders, police arrested more than 300 Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) party activists on 12 November 2013. The MDMK activists were arrested for blocking railways protesting for the total boycott of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that was eventually held in Sri Lanka in November 2013.

Reconciliation

Several key recommendations from the 2011 report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (set up in May 2010 to investigate the failure of the 2002 Ceasefire and final phase of the conflict with the LTTE) were implemented in 2013.

First, the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lankan Police set up a centralized database containing information regarding detainees in June 2013. The aim of the database is to ensure the right to information of family members/next-of-kin of detained suspects. Second, in August 2013, a commission was established by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to investigate into cases of missing persons, including abductions and disappearances, in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The commission is to produce an interim report by February 2014. Approximately 15,000 complaints were received from across the country, including 7,500 from the north and east.

Third, a major development was the elections held for the Northern Provincial Council in September 2013 for the first time since 1988. The elections had a relatively high level of participation (68%) and were won by the Tamil National Alliance, with C. V. Wigneswaran, a former Supreme Court judge, sworn in as Chief Minister. Fourth, a nationwide census was initiated in in November 2013 to determine the number of lives lost and property damage from 1982 to 2009. The census concluded its collection of data on 20 December 2013 and is due to publish its report in March 2014. Fourth, 900 Tamil police officers and 1,500 Tamil-speaking Sinhalese police officers have been stationed in the Northern and Eastern Provinces as of December 2013. This has improved the ability of Tamil and Tamil-speaking Muslim residents to make statements to the police.

Looking ahead

The government of Sri Lanka has generally responded indignantly to the effects of the LTTE’s disinformation campaign, which include unbalanced reporting and a disproportionate amount of attention being paid to the country post-conflict. However, in order to dismantle false narratives that could harm reconciliation efforts and continue to radicalize youth, it needs to pursue a strategic public relations campaign targeting international audiences. Sri Lanka can also benefit from adopting pro-active and strategic diplomatic measures with regional and international powers so as to hasten the dismantling of the LTTE’s international network. On the domestic front, the government will need to engage more earnestly with the population in the areas of the north and east affected by the war. This not only would include addressing issues such as livelihood relief and food insecurity, but also examine local participation in the implementation of development programmes, psychological counseling for victims of violence, and recruiting a sufficient number of Tamil-speaking government officials, especially hospital staff, to effectively serve the local population in the north and east.

””””””- Iromi Dharmawardhane is an Analyst with ICPVTR

One Response to “Terrorism is still a security threat Nationally and Globally”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    LTTE terrorism is still active politically in SL and militarily elsewhere.

    There is NO PLAN to tackle them.

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