Strategic Military Presence Can Be Anywhere As The Government Decides!
Posted on September 16th, 2012

by Dr. Chandana Jayalath

Robert Blake, one time American ambassador to Sri Lanka, the incumbent assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs in the U.S. State Department again reiterated his popular call for accountability, transparency, investigation and prosecution. As in previous visits he was talking about “serious allegations of human rights violations” giving reference to the period of the intense battle between the Tamil Tiger cadre, who were using heavy artillery amongst the civilians as cover, and the government in the humanitarian efforts in 2009. The new addition to his statement is “the importance of progress in reducing the role and profile of the military in the North and establishment of the Tamil police in those areas”.

 I must tell at the outset, Mr. Blake you are advocating these norms to a nation that battled and defeated the most horrible ruthless terrorist movement in the World for twenty six years when some of the Western nations including the United States plunged Sri Lanka to open dialogues that U.S. never compromised in the process of dealing with terrorism. One time it was George W Bush who asked the entire World to rally round for anti terrorism. Quoting part of his speech “Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge “”‚ huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them. America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism”. This was only when US lost 4 aircrafts while Sri Lanka had already lost 2 helicopters 2 fighter jets and 2 airbuses in addition to damages to 12 fighter jets and 3 air buses, amongst many hundreds of incidents island wide. With this saga, it should be noted that Sri Lanka is the first country in the modern World to eradicate terrorism on its own soil, thus bringing the ever best example to the UN forces on how to answer terrorists in a language understandable to them.

 Meanwhile Blake says he had a wide-ranging and productive series of meetings with political leaders, business community leaders and members of civil society and urged that the Northern Provincial Council elections be held as soon as possible and encouraged an early resumption of talks between the TNA and the government to agree on powers to be devolved to the provinces. He further says he discussed with relevant officials the importance of disarming paramilitary groups, on which progress is being made. According to him it is important to deploy “ƒ”¹…”Tamil police’ in the north so the military no longer needs to perform these functions. I must tell there is nothing called Tamil police any more after Nadesan “”…” this is territorial integrity. He keeps saying, another very important facet of the restoration of normalcy is the removal of the many restrictions that had to be in place during the war against terrorism for security considerations. It must not be bewildering that the restrictions on movement at land and at sea have been gradually withdrawn during the past few years, and there is complete freedom of movement throughout the land today.

 Roads are motorable except a couple of stretches along A9 and thousands of people move on a daily basis, and more than 50,000 foreign passport holders have visited the North over the last 12 months. Many of them are expatriate Sri Lankans visiting their relatives and their properties in this country for the first time in many decades. It is telling that most of them did not choose to return while the LTTE was active, but have come back after the LTTE has been defeated. The reduction in the number of security barricades, roadblocks and checkpoints in the North and the East is another significant step. There are only two reporting points, namely Omanthai and Elephant Pass. The high security zones that existed in the North and the East have also been removed progressively, with some restrictions remaining only within the Palaly Cantonment just before the KKS cement factory. Even within that Cantonment, however, civilians have access to the Palaly Airport and the KKS Harbour. According to what is often heard, almost all of the lands that belonged to civilians, which were taken over through gazette notification during the war against terrorism have been returned. Generally, the presence of the military in the North and the East has been greatly reduced with several battalions being relocated to other parts of the country. While military camps remain for security reasons, the presence of security forces personnel will be non-obtrusive. They no longer have a role to play in terms of day-to-day law enforcement; instead, these duties have been handed over to the Police. New police stations are being set up in the North and the East, and several hundred Tamil-speaking policemen have been recruited over the past three years to staff these stations.

 The role of the military in the North and the East in future will be to maintain national security and ensure that any pro-LTTE elements remaining among the resettled population. The establishment of military camps in locations such as Mannar, Palaly, Elephant Pass, Pooneryn, Thalladi, Karainagar and Mullaitivu began in the 1950s with a view to enhancing internal security and minimise the smuggling of persons, drugs and materials in and out of the country. These concerns remain to this day. Similarly, the Navy has an immense responsibility to ensure the security of the seas around Sri Lanka and prevent the trafficking of persons, smuggling of drugs and the incursion of terrorists and their weapons into Sri Lanka. At the same time, the Navy also has to protect the international sea lines of communication that pass close to Sri Lanka from piracy, and provide a safe Indian Ocean not only for Sri Lanka but for the entire World. The posture of the military has been defensive due to the nature of the strategic threats to Sri Lanka.

 The contents of the SL Army website are self explanatory. Since the end of the civil war in May 2009 Sri Lanka’s 300,000 strong military has increased its non-military activities, leading to accusations of militarisation and even military rule. The military is involved in everything from large scale property developments to the running of roadside cafes. The military has built roads, bridges, houses and stadiums and operates numerous small restaurants and shops catering mainly for tourists from the south. The Army runs a luxurious holiday resort called Thalsevana near Kankesanthurai inside the Valikamam North High Security Zone where the residents were forcibly expelled in the early 1990s and have not been allowed to resettle despite the end of the civil war. The Navy’s Jetliner (A542) passenger ship is used as a recreational cruise ship providing onboard weddings, receptions, corporate events, parties and other social functions. The Navy’s A543 vessel provides a whale and dolphin watching service for tourists. Helitours is the commercial arm of the Air Force established in the 1970s and restarted functioning again, taking advantage of the country’s booming tourism.

 I also take this opportunity to teach Blake what Darusman “ƒ”¹…”report’ is all about. With a series of shot listed events that are jotted down hither and thither, it has been found to be inclined towards the interests of the economic Tamil migrants in the Europe and Canada. Basically, the panel knew one thing, that is, the fallacy of incomplete evidence “”…” the act of pointing to individual cases that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases that may contradict that position. This act of “ƒ”¹…”cherry picking’ should arise a serious ethical consideration within the premises of the United Nations if it can be found the panel committed it intentionally bring internationally the ha-ho on the credibility of the UN as an organization, thus demanding an Alternate UN. More particularly with the selective use of evidence from sources that the panel unilaterally consider reliable leading to materials altogether favorable to their own arguments causes a dilemma as to its own credibility. If the panel’s mandate as stated in the report is to advise the Secretary-General of the UN regarding the modalities, it should have taken a serious study on all and everything instead of “ƒ”¹…”splitting the baby’ in terms of outrages at the last lap. The question of why has the panel focused only on the last five months of a 30 years bloodshed that resulted in over 100,000 killings is an oxymoron. The report had no answer for the circumstances that made them limit their own remit, although it is clear to the world at large.

Robert Blake should be mindful of one important thing. This victory over 3 decade brutalism essentially forms part of the victory of the global effort to curb terrorism that was unequivocally announced across the globe with the incident on September 11th. It is also known that the tactics employed by the LTTE resulted in their being branded as a terrorist organization in 32 countries, including the United States, India, Australia, Canada and the member nations of the European Union. After three decades of fighting and four failed attempts at peace talks, including the unsuccessful deployment of the Indian Army, the Indian Peace Keeping Force from 1987 to 1990, a lasting negotiated settlement to the conflict appeared impossible when a cease-fire that was declared in December 2001 violated by the LTTE over 10,000 times. Without understanding the historical background and the seriousness of the purpose, not only the panel has chosen a period loosely and unaccountably but also Blake has been in shortage of facts. The panel must have been prudent enough to believe in the context of falling Prabakaran who was running short of everything including his human shield that amounted to any damn thing that he could do for his own survival at the brink of his grave, what launched by the Sri Lankan government at the latter part of the war was not necessarily a war against terror but a rescue operation that deserves its own merit. 

 The lady behind this epic at UN, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is an Indian Tamil descent always to do a jolly good job in human rights. She said, “The way this conflict was conducted, under the guise of fighting terrorism, challenged the very foundations of the rules of war and cost the lives of tens of thousands of civilians”. In the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Navy Seals Special Forces in Pakistan in May, 2011, it was Navy Pillay who called for more details about the action. Pillay’s request “came even as the World body continues to falter over its multi-year bid to define terrorism and also contradicted the position held by UN Secretary General, who described the U.S. action as a “ƒ”¹…”watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism’. This is her “ƒ”¹…”job’!

The phrase “the war in Sri Lanka ended tragically, amidst controversy” is controversial. Many Sri Lankans and others around the world were relieved that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), renowned for its brutality, and it ended tragically because the conflict could not be ended peacefully; a matter the report has not addressed. Needless to say a conflict that ends in defeating one party causes immense death and destruction in addition to the death and destruction by the perpetuation of the conflict itself. Equally true is the fact that any armed force might use maximum force to defeat an organization like the LTTE, whatever the pretensions to be “ƒ”¹…”humanitarian.’ What was ignored the LTTE’s brutality is comparable with none of the terrorist organizations. Therefore, it is nothing strange to see that tactics are changing throughout the final combat. It is therefore sensible to be extremely nervous of an international intervention, like the Indian intervention last time in 1987, which was perhaps the biggest hope even on the part of the LTTE and their supporters. Boasted of an all-round military force “”…” Tigers (infantry), Sea Tigers (sea wing) and Air Tigers (Air Wing), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in its January 10, 2008 report, had said that “LTTE is one of the most dangerous and deadly extremist outfits in the world and the world should be concerned about the outfit as they had “ƒ”¹…”inspired’ networks worldwide, including the al-Qaeda in Iraq”. The panel has blatantly evaded the level of military strategies to deal with combating this Specially Designated Global Terror.

 It is good that at least the panel accepted that the LTTE refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages, at times even using their presence as a strategic human buffer between themselves and the advancing Sri Lanka Army and with the policy of forced recruitment of all ages, including children as young as fourteen. Point-blank shooting of civilians who attempted to escape the conflict zone, significantly added to the death toll in the final stages. This was evidenced by a group of Ambassadors resident in Colombo, also. If the panel also accepts that LTTE fired artillery in proximity to large groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and fired from, or stored military equipment near, IDPs or civilian installations such as hospitals, then definitely it would be the immediate cause of death of their own community. If throughout the final stages, the LTTE continued its policy of suicide attacks outside the conflict zone and even though its ability to perpetrate such attacks was diminished compared to previous phases of the conflict, and if it perpetrated a number of attacks against civilians outside the conflict zone, there is no point of arguing on the death toll. It should also be reminded that there were “ƒ”¹…”Mahaviru’ families who did not want to get themselves vacated when the Government made an open invitation well before any military infiltration.

 I wish to emphasize that the barbaric practice of terrorism””‚deliberately threatening or harming innocent unarmed civilians to achieve political, ideological, or material gain””‚must be abolished through the concerted efforts of all peaceful nations. Organizations such as LTTE had established a worldwide network of operatives, with links to other terrorist organizations to provide mutual support and assistance. This network has developed links with organized crime, drug trafficking, state sponsors, and companies and corporations sympathetic to its causes. Therefore, the fight against terrorism requires a multidimensional approach aimed at the entire spectrum of terrorism. It was the National War College report that emphasized a concerted effort at the global, regional, and sovereign-state level, to eradicate terrorism through offensive action, taking the fight directly to terrorist organizations, building capabilities and policies that deter future acts of terrorism, and by attacking their centers of gravity that includes seeding and breading ideology, finances, command and control network, and sanctuaries. While it is unrealistic to hope to eliminate every single terrorist who possesses the desire to threaten innocent individuals, it is possible to eliminate the synergy created by cooperation of disparate terrorist organizations. The panel must understand that full engagement of law enforcement mechanisms is possible only such efforts reduce the operational scope and capabilities of global and regional terrorists to the point that they become threats only at the individual level to prosecute under Penal Codes. The Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1978 is therefore a law in Sri Lanka that provides the Police with broad powers to search, arrest, and detain suspects, that potentially served in the best interest of the majority of peace urging people of Sri Lanka.

 However, unlike in some other parts of the World, there was no outflow of refugees from Sri Lanka. Some thousands of ex-LTTE combatants, mostly child-soldiers, have been reintegrated into society. Demining projects as well as large scale road rehabilitation and electrification projects are on-going. There can be no argument that terror in all its manifestations must be fought relentlessly and globally. Gone are the days that Sri Lanka came under terror. In nutshell, there is no clear scientific, objective, credible or legal basis for the report. Therefore, Mr. Blake, it does not make sense either to give credence to or prepare statement based on the contents of individual reports.

 Let me conclude my write up by quoting Shenali Waduge in her previous article appeared on 15 September. “When the US say missing “”…” Guantanamo Bay, Diego Garcia and so many other torture chambers come to mind. When the US says accountability “”…” hell will not be able to accommodate the number of US/NATO representatives guilty of killing millions of innocent people. When the US says reduce military presence in the North of Sri Lanka, give the people of the North self-rule”¦.we want to know what the US is doing still in Iraq and Afghanistan and that too for over a decade”¦.It is pretty clear the hypocrisy that prevails and we are to simply greet Blake, shake hands, shower diplomatic niceties since no one is prepared to say”¦.”wait a minute Mr. Blake”¦.are you actually listening to what you are saying”¦.can we know what makes US military presence, US foreign invasions, US war crimes a topic not to be discussed, not to be brought up in the UN and why are America’s crimes treated with impunity?”¦. Is America not another country on planet earth so why should America be above the laws of the world?”. Now is the Blake’s time to answer.

2 Responses to “Strategic Military Presence Can Be Anywhere As The Government Decides!”

  1. Manjula Says:

    Great article, full of facts.

    O’Blake must be chocking right now trying to find answers to the last paragraph consisting Shenali Waduge’s writting.

    How come we do not pass such great articles (including Shenali’s) to wider international media so that we tell the world who the real thief is? We never can get this type of articles in Reuters or BBC ! They are all one sided self praise by the west (may be because no one else is praising them).

  2. Muhandiram Says:

    US is dictating the world,there is freedom of speech,expression etc are violated by US for all human beings in the world.any body,talk,taking action etc against them is terrorism.and who don’t want to obey them are called terrorists.so there is no choice,either be slave or foe of them.it’s peoples choice.(but there will be huge consequances).

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