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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 979

International Community should not create opportunities for remnants of former terrorists - Palith Kohona

Daya Gamage - US National Correspondent Asian Tribune
Washington, DC. 16 January (Asiantribune.com):

"It is (Sri Lanka's) hope that the international community will maintain vigilance, and not create opportunities, even inadvertently, for terrorists and their sympathizers, to achieve through domestic and international mechanisms, what they were unable to achieve through bullets, suicide bombs and shattered lives.

The encouragement of one group, in whatever form, will send a clear message to the others to adjust their tactics", Sri Lanka's UN ambassador Palitha T.B. Kohona reminded the international community when he addressed the January 15 UN Security Council open debate on "Comprehensive approach to counter terrorism".

Defending Sri Lanka's military operation during the final months of the intense battle with the Tamil Tigers in 2009, Dr. Kohona reminded that "Sri Lanka’s decision to engage the LTTE terrorists militarily in 2006 followed their persistent refusal to engage in peace negotiations and their ready embrace of unmitigated violence targeting civilians. The military engagement was based on a well-defined distinction between the terrorists and the civilians and its ultimate goal was rescuing civilians. Consequently, military operations were undertaken largely by infantry units with a view to minimizing civilian casualties, the civilians having been forcibly rounded up as a human shield by the ruthless LTTE".

Ambassador Kohona underscoring the global support to end terrorism in Sri Lanka said "a carefully developed international strategy that included financial measures that denied access to funds collected overseas, law enforcement coordination, which included the seizure and destruction of illegally acquired weapons and robust prosecutions and intelligence sharing which assisted in securing the arrest and punishment of fund raisers and arms procurers, contributed to achieving our goal".

Speaking about the much debated reconciliation process since the defeat of LTTE terrorism the Sri Lanka ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council "The reconciliation process, which is very complex, has been approached from different angles. The government has adopted an extremely conciliatory attitude towards former combatants. Consistent with our culture, forgiveness was the theme. Now over 11,000 former combatants, including over 560 child soldiers, have been rehabilitated and allowed to return to their homes and communities. This was in less than three years since the end of the conflict".

He reminded "The Tamil community, scattered around the world, is an important factor in the reconciliation and reconstruction effort. Any concerns of the minorities will be a priority as Sri Lanka seeks reconciliation".

Here is the complete text of Dr. palitha kohona's contribution to the United Nations security Council debate on “Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts: Comprehensive approach to counter terrorism”

(Begin Text)I thank Pakistan for facilitating this important debate at a time when terrorism is taking a terrible toll on the nations of the world. I am particularly conscious of the terrorist violence in our own region and join other speakers in condemning the recent violence which caused widespread death and destruction in Pakistan.

My delegation aligns itself with the Statement delivered by Iran on behalf of the NAM.

We hope that your efforts will have a lasting impact on strengthening the United Nations counter-terrorism initiatives and further invigorate the Security Council’s commitment to strengthening international cooperation in combating terrorism.

Given the ramifications of modern terrorism, the United Nations must remain the most appropriate entity to spearhead the global campaign against terror that mostly targets civilians, women and children being the main victims. The world has watched helplessly far too frequently, the shredded bodies of the innocents scattered around pock marked buildings. The UN must grapple firmly with this hydra headed evil and develop appropriate multifaceted and lasting strategies. Our goal must be to end or dramatically lessen the misery and human suffering wrought by this scourge. We must not let our efforts be diluted by exhaustion as we seek to create a safer world for all. We wholeheartedly support the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

Sri Lanka ended a terrorist conflict three and a half years ago. We determined early that no terrorist group could survive for long without critical support from international linkages and networks. We were assisted substantively through complex, multi-faceted and comprehensive coordination with the international community and we will remain grateful to all our friends who came to our aid. While our security forces confronted the terrorists militarily, after many efforts to engage them in negotiations, a carefully developed international strategy that included financial measures that denied access to funds collected overseas, law enforcement coordination, which included the seizure and destruction of illegally acquired weapons and robust prosecutions and intelligence sharing which assisted in securing the arrest and punishment of fund raisers and arms procurers, contributed to achieving our goal. Our efforts continue, as the evil minds of terror sympathisers devise new strategies to pursue their goals.

The United Nations, the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, other agencies of the UN and the Member States themselves, through the adoption of 13 anti-terrorism conventions and other action plans, have made it abundantly clear that terrorism, the terrorising of civilians for political gain, was totally abhorrent to the international community. Sri Lanka continues to chair the UN Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism which seeks to conclude a comprehensive convention on terrorism. We have also taken the view that unless the underlying conditions conducive to terrorism are addressed, the problem will persist. We are glad that the Security Council has emphasized the need to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and to counter the forces that fuel extremism.

Sri Lanka is a state party to several International Conventions aimed at suppressing terrorism. To give effect to these international instruments, Sri Lanka has adopted a series of legislative measures, including the Convention on Suppression of Financing of Terrorism Act No. 25 of 2005 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act No 5 of 2006. Sri Lanka is committed to the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy that consolidates the activities of the Member States and presents a common strategic and operational framework to fight terrorism. At the bilateral and regional levels, Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements have been concluded with Pakistan, Thailand and the Hong Kong SAR. Sri Lanka has become party to the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, the SAARC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and works closely with regional partners in South Asia in combating terrorism. Sri Lanka also continues to improve its own capacity to fight terrorism by providing training for law enforcement and judicial officers in the areas of sharing intelligence and information, investigation skills, gathering and analyzing financial intelligence, etc. We collaborated with CTED in hosting a regional workshop for police officers, prosecutors, and counter-terrorism focal points from South Asia in Colombo in 2010. The Gall Dialogue, hosted by Sri Lanka, focusses increasingly on the threat of piracy.

It is well established that international linkages and international networks, assist terrorists and their front organizations to profit from human and arms trafficking, (a widespread phenomenon at present), money laundering, credit card fraud, weapons smuggling and cyber-crime. Having been a victim of terrorism for almost three decades, Sri Lanka learned early the value of confronting all these aspects in order to address our terrorist problem. In this we were critically assisted by our international partners. Sri Lanka works closely with countries of the region, in particular, Australia, in addressing the problem of human smuggling. The LTTE terrorists got ready funding support from sympathizers abroad (and their sympathizers continue to do so) and also coerced terrified civilians to contribute to the cause. They also procured weapons and, through their propaganda, encouraged the recruitment of children and the deployment of suicide bombers in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, even in the post-conflict phase, preexisting networks in transit and destination countries still continue to exploit human misery. Prosecutions of LTTE fundraisers and arms procurers are continuing in different countries.

Since the 9/11 terror attack, the international community has achieved major successes in controlling terrorist financing. On September 28, 2001, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1373, committing all UN members to take action against those who fund terrorist acts and their supporters, including the freezing of their assets. Sri Lanka has proactively participated in these international efforts. However, we see an increasing trend in terrorist and affiliated groups raising enormous sums of money through kidnapping for ransom. Piracy is another element in the international spectrum which has become a major destabilizing factor on countries, regional and global trade and ocean security.

Sri Lanka wishes to underline that the root causes of terrorism are complex and that terrorism cannot be associated with any ethnicity or religion. Countering terrorism should not be viewed primarily in a military context. Sri Lanka’s decision to engage the LTTE terrorists militarily in 2006 followed their persistent refusal to engage in peace negotiations and their ready embrace of unmitigated violence targeting civilians. The military engagement was based on a well-defined distinction between the terrorists and the civilians and its ultimate goal was rescuing civilians. Consequently, military operations were undertaken largely by infantry units with a view to minimizing civilian casualties, the civilians having been forcibly rounded up as a human shield by the ruthless LTTE.

Since the end of the terrorist conflict, Sri Lanka has prioritized rehabilitation, reconstruction, reintegration and reconciliation for sustainable peace. With vast development efforts, Sri Lanka has adopted measures which encompass the political, economic and social spheres to ensure that terrorism will never again find a foothold in our land. Democratic processes have been reestablished, and local government elections have been held in former conflict areas after a lapse of three decades. Sri Lanka embarked upon a domestic process - the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), to ensure that there will be no recurrence of internal conflict and to identify any infractions of the law during the military operations.

The reconciliation process, which is very complex, has been approached from different angles. The government has adopted an extremely conciliatory attitude towards former combatants. Consistent with our culture, forgiveness was the theme. Now over 11,000 former combatants, including over 560 child soldiers, have been rehabilitated and allowed to return to their homes and communities. This was in less than three years since the end of the conflict. The Tamil community, scattered around the world, is an important factor in the reconciliation and reconstruction effort. Any concerns of the minorities will be a priority as Sri Lanka seeks reconciliation. A political process through a Parliamentary Select Committee involving the elected representatives of political parties has also been initiated.

It is our hope that the international community will maintain vigilance, and not create opportunities, even inadvertently, for terrorists and their sympathizers, to achieve through domestic and international mechanisms, what they were unable to achieve through bullets, suicide bombs and shattered lives. The encouragement of one group, in whatever form, will send a clear message to the others to adjust their tactics.

It is important that we soon conclude our negotiations on the comprehensive convention on terrorism. We note the discussions that have been taking place since GA Resolution 51/210 of 1996 and hope that these could be brought to a successful conclusion urgently. (End Text)

- Asian Tribune -

International Community should not create opportunities for remnants of former terrorists - Palith Kohona
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