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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2557

INGO Infiltrations Into National Security

By Gomin Dayasri.

The Select Committee of Parliament investigating into the Operations of Non Governmental Organizations under the chairmanship of Vijitha Herath has made a deep penetrating study into the affairs of the Burghoff Foundation and made pronouncements that disclose links to the LTTE and the Armed Forces which is a concern to national security since these connections have been effected by Ministry sources. This well researched document, an effort of prominent MPs from the SLFP UNP, JVP and JHU and NFF, has not received the public acclaim, it deserves as it has not received sufficient media attention.

It is indeed an achievement that diverse political opinion can converge on an issue where foreign interference affects sovereignty of a nation at the level of a select committee without being strained by political considerations. This augurs well for parliamentary democracy where senior cabinet ministers such as D.M.Jayaratne, Dinesh Gunewardane, Sumedha Jayasena, Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Mahinda Amaraweera are prepared to be objectively critical of activities of their own government and cabinet colleagues while senior UNP parliamentarians of the caliber of Joseph Micheal Perera, John Amaratunga and Vajira Abeywardane have had the strength and courage to be authors of the report criticizing the activities of foreign funded INGOs acting against (a) national interest and (b) trying to change the will of the people. It is unfortunate that Mahinda Samarasinghe a member of the Committee had not affixed his signature to the report which is in contrast to the courage and objectivity shown by his fellow cabinet colleagues. Much credit flows to Vijitha Herath in skillfully marshalling his divergent forces and to the members of the committee for their forthright comments though it has flaws in the analysis.

The report has investigated the connections the Burghof Foundation (BF) had to both the fighting force which is of public interest This certainly elevates the stature of BF and undoubtedly it could be stated in defense of BF that the blame has to be diverted to the state authorities which leveraged the links though this has happened during a period of an false truce. The Select Committee has touched the pulse at a relevant point to pass strictures on the role played by Eric Solheime in the internal affairs of the country.

The report makes observation on the activities of BF which will be useful source material to future commentators on the inside story which had hitherto not surfaced but still requires more critical objective research to test its correct veracity. The following are undisclosed information which if correct requires remedial measures to prevent a recurrence and avert the danger in placing INGOs in positions of trust where national security is a priority.

The Report makes the following observations:-

"In his submission, Dr. Nobert Rophers admitted that the Burghof Foundation made necessary arrangements to send a delegation of the LTTE to Europe on a study tour of federalism on the instructions of Prof. G L Peiris, who was the head of governmental delegation that held peace talks with the LTTE and a Cabinet Minister of the then United National Party Government. The Minister might have given such an instruction as the Oslo Declaration was brought forth by him and the attitude regarding an internationally designated terrorist group should be understood within this context. However, has Prof. G L Peiris functioned in compliance with the conditions of the Memorandum of Understanding of 2001.

As stated by Dr. Nobert Rophers, the most amazing fact is that Eric Solheim too had issued similar instructions to him and the compliance of Burghof Foundation with such instructions. The question arising from this are:

i) Whether Eric Solheim had the authority to issue such instructions to non-governmental organizations functioning in Sri Lanka according to the conditions laid down in the Memorandum of Understanding of 2001?

ii) Whether Dr. Norbert Ropers and the Burghof Foundation had the authority to devise such plans and their own personal plans in collaboration with a foreign felicitator?

iii) Whether a non-governmental organization operating in Sri Lanka in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding of 2001, had the right to enter into areas which had not been specified in the Memorandum of Understanding in collaboration with foreign delegates and an internationally listed terrorist organization?

We express our serious concern over the permission granted to the two foreigners namely Eric Solheim and Dr. Nobert Ropers to issue instruction or accept them and to act upon them in Sri Lanka and organize or discuss modalities relating to a European trip for a terrorist organization.

Subsequently, Dr. Nobert Ropers, as expressed in his own words, has had "Direct links" with Balasingham in London and Pulidevan in Killinochchi and made arrangements to send the LTTE to Europe on a study tour of federalism. In order to defend the Burghof Foundation it can be said that the Burghof foundation acted upon the said instructions since the Cabinet Minister was vested with the responsibility of creating the environment conducive to build bonds with the LTTE. However, the Burghof Foundation cannot clear themselves of the error committed by accepting and following the instructions of Mr. Solheim which would have been different to and had a wider scope than that of the suggestions of the Minister in relation to facilitating the LTTE for a tour in the Scandinavian Countries during the same period. This was a tour for LTTE sponsored by Norway and the Burghof Foundation.

Dr. Nobert Ropers stated that the former chief of Defence staff Mr. Dennis Perera and the Defence Secretary invited him to build bonds with the security forces and the civil society in order to initiate a dialogue among the relevant parties to understand each other better. This was a feature of a project carried out by the Defence Ministry to strengthen the Disaster Structure of the Army and the Burghof Foundation while maintaining contacts with both the Army and the LTTE. It was noted that their objective was to gain access to sensitive military points by coming to Sri Lanka and that may be detrimental to National Security.

The Burghof Foundation which found its way into the public service through novice and biased officials using its massive financial strength are in the process of creeping into both the security forces and the LTTE.

A significant feature of the presentations made by both Dr. Nobert Ropers and Dr. Mario Gomez on behalf of the Burghof Foundation was that they tried to pass the responsibility of the project to the government officials in order to clear themselves of the accusations. They in a very unfair manner passed the responsibility of their surreptitious activities on the Defence Secretary Prof. Amarasinghe and Dr Jayampathi Wickremaratne. This can be cited as an example for the professional hazards the public officials have to face when they run in search of greener pastures. Public officials must take precautions not to fall preys to the traps of the likes of Ropers and Gomez who appear with massive funds from Norway in the guise of social workers.

Even though, Nobert Ropers made statements like the following we observed that they had clearly violated the limitations stipulated in the two MOUs;

"We only carry out what the government of Sri Lanka wants us to do. We operate within the mandate given to us. We don’t do what we want in this country". Our special concern was that they had violated their limitations not in the fields with a national importance or national security.

Burghof Foundation had maintained contacts with the Kotalawala Defence Academy and had been made a member of the group consisting of 18 retired higher ranking police officers.” (Extract from the Report of the Select Committee).

Though Jayampathy Wickremaratne’s name is mentioned it was inappropriate to be critical if he had not been given a hearing as there is no such mention in the report.

In defense of Minister G.L.Pieris it could be stated at the relevant time he was stoutly peddling the federal formula with a strong tilt towards Norway which was the policy of the UNP government. Prabhakaran never accepted the federal concept and as events unfolded and it was a naïve and juvenile mind set to parade the organization in Europe which enabled the LTTE to establish direct contacts with European connections which they utilized to great advantage. This was an open passport for the LTTE to strengthen their foreign contacts. If BF followed governmental directives they could not be faulted as BF was instrumental in a bridging operation initiated by the then government which had catastrophic consequences for Sri Lanka. Thankfully, G.L.Pieris realized the extent of his folly and is no longer a supporter of a federal state after accepting cabinet office under Mahinda Rajapakse. In fairness to him the report states "Prof Pieris has served two contradictory governments and he was the strongest person to advocate federalism in place of the unitary state during that period."

The report traces the entry of BF to Sri Lanka on the testimony of the witness from BF- "The stand of Dr. Nobert Rophers who has been in Sri Lanka with the Burghof Foundation for six years was that they commenced operations in Sri Lanka on an invitation extended by Prof. G L Peiris. Though Prof. Peiris, as a Minister of the People’s Alliance government, had the authority to extend such an investigation, it appears that it has been done without a proper confirmation from the records of the Ministry or suitable inspection. According to the sources of the Burghof Foundation, the Memorandum of Understanding of 2001 has been prepared by Prof. G L Peiris with the Secretary of his Ministry and Dr. Nobert Rophers. As has happened in this instance, negligence could cause serious repercussions." (Extract from the report of the Select Committee)

Though the Select Committee has passed such a stricture there does not appear that an opportunity has been given to Dr Peiris explain, in fairness to him for which he may have a valid explanation.

Here was the government giving BF access to the Security Forces and inviting BF to be the patron of the LTTE. Can a foreign INGO which has an international agenda be presented with such sensitive operations by a Minister and a Government? Naturally public servants merely follow directions given by powerful politicians without advising them as to possible pitfalls. This is a classic case where the country suffered while the government fiddled.

- Asian Tribune -

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