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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2955

Tigers join Jihadis in global narcotic trade: terrorism must be eradicated with or without external support –Dr. Kohona

Singapore, 10 June, ( Addressing the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Dr Palitha Kohona, Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, argued that there should not be any difference between "corrigible and incorrigible terrorists". Dr. Palitha Kohona: "In attempting to combat the LTTE at home and overseas we have to ask its misguided sympathizers not to miss the wood for the trees."Dr. Palitha Kohona: "In attempting to combat the LTTE at home and overseas we have to ask its misguided sympathizers not to miss the wood for the trees."

Dismissing the semantics of terrorism he said:”The incorrigible terrorists are dealt with militarily with no space for negotiations and the others with the carrot and stick approach, mostly with carrots. It is ironic that whilst all civilized societies abhor violence and the use of it to achieve political objectives, that we still engage in the semantics of terrorism. This is misleading; it assesses the validity of the cause when terrorism is an act. One can have a perfectly valid cause and yet if one commits terrorist acts it is terrorism regardless.”

Here is the full text of his speech:

“Combating the LTTE at home and overseas – engaging the international community “


Ladies and Gentlemen:

There is an attempt in today’s world to distinguish between corrigible and incorrigible terrorists. In the first category are sometimes listed groups that use violence allegedly to force political change, whilst the incorrigible ones are those extremists that for ideological reasons dare to challenge the big power centres of the world by unleashing violence. The incorrigible terrorists are dealt with militarily with no space for negotiations and the others with the carrot and stick approach, mostly with carrots. It is ironic that whilst all civilized societies abhor violence and the use of it to achieve political objectives, that we still engage in the semantics of terrorism. This is misleading; it assesses the validity of the cause when terrorism is an act. One can have a perfectly valid cause and yet if one commits terrorist acts it is terrorism regardless. We must not forget that the UN, reflecting the common will of mankind, has adopted 13 conventions against different aspects of terrorism. A comprehensive convention against terrorism is under negotiation. The world has expressed its abhorrence of terrorism through a raft of UNGA and UNSC resolutions.

In attempting to combat the LTTE at home and overseas we have to ask its misguided sympathizers not to miss the wood for the trees. The grievances of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka must, have and will continue to be addressed by the Sri Lankan Government in the same way the grievances of all other communities in our heterogeneous Sri Lankan society have been and are being addressed.

Sri Lanka as you all know is a functioning democracy with a multi party system. Our official languages are Sinhala and Tamil. We have a system of proportional representation that is very accommodative of minorities. Successive governments have devolved power with a view to allowing people in different parts of the country to take the initiative in managing their local areas. Since 1987, a Provincial Council system has been in place and the All Party Conference set up by the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is currently seeking a southern consensus to offer more extensive devolution. These proposals too are likely to be finalized soon. Though over 74% of our people are Buddhists, our Constitution guarantees freedom to all citizens to practice a religion of their choice.

But the LTTE has shown to be incorrigible. It claims it is fighting for a separate state and demands one third of the land mass of Sri Lanka as the Tamil homeland; Tamils comprise, according to available statistics, about 12% of the population. The LTTE has never proposed an alternative to a separate state notwithstanding the stated position of the Sri Lanka Government, the Indian Government and the international community on the unacceptability of the separate state demand. The LTTE claims to be the sole representative of the Tamil community and attempts to silence dissenting Tamil voices with the barrel of the gun. Scores of moderate Tamil politicians from the Mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duraippah, to the leader of the TULF Appapillai Amirthalingam, Dr Neelan Thiruchelvam, leading constitutional lawyer, my deputy Ketheesh Loganathan and our late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar were silenced by the LTTE. During the last parliamentary elections the LTTE prevented the Tamil population in some parts of the north & the east from exercising their franchise. The LTTE has exercised dictatorial control over the Tamil population whilst launching violent attacks against Govt security forces and civilians in other parts of the country. They have conscripted over 18,000 children and use ceasefires to re-arm, re-group and re-launch military strikes.

The LTTE’s well oiled propaganda machine succeeds in persuading the international community to believe that Tamil people are being persecuted mainly by the Sri Lankan authorities. What they don’t tell the world is that 54% of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka live in the south of the country alongside the other communities and that the Sinhala and Tamil communities have lived together in harmony for thousands of years; that major Hindu festivals are national holidays in Sri Lanka, that Tamil people hold positions of responsibility in government and private sector; that Tamil political parties are well represented in parliament and that successive governments have redressed grievances of the Tamil community; 39% of Colombo is Tamil. The LTTE has graduated from a guerrilla force to being capable of engaging in conventional warfare, largely as a result of the 2002 ceasefire, it has developed a brown water naval wing and acquired some air capability. As highlighted by the Indian National Security Adviser at the Munich Conference on Security recently, the LTTE is in alliance with Jihadi movements in the international narcotics trade, it is engaged in money laundering, credit card fraud, people smuggling and arms smuggling. The LTTE now sustains this conflict for commercial gain causing untold suffering to the very Tamil community it claims to solely represent.

Our government’s approach has been on one hand to leave the door open to negotiations. To remain willing to have unconditional talks with a view to discussing a final solution that will bring much desired peace to the north of Sri Lanka. For this reason alone we have suspended the proscription on the LTTE and have sought the assistance of the Royal Norwegian government to facilitate such negotiations. But we reserve the right to safeguard our people from being used as human shields by the LTTE and we reserve the right to safeguard the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka. The government’s recent military operations in the east were carried out with these objectives. Today the armed forces have cleared the LTTE out of the eastern province and confined them largely to two districts in the Northern Province. A greater part of the Northern Province, including Jaffna, remains within government control.

However all our efforts to combat the LTTE at home and bring peace to Sri Lanka remain thwarted as long as the international community remains insensitive to the fact that the LTTE’s fundraising abroad contributes to the instability in Sri Lanka. Some countries are not too concerned about allowing terror organizations to establish front offices, lobby groups and charities based on the premise of democracy and if those activities do not impinge on their own national security.

By this they have demonstrated insensitivity and indifference to the fact that terror at the national level is inextricably inter-linked to terror at the international level. Since the problem of terrorism is global, any measures to effectively counter this menace require inter-state bilateral cooperation. For instance to discharge obligations clearly imposed on states under international law and the elimination of all activities within a territory of one state which are of terrorist leanings and are directed towards the carrying out of terrorist activity in other states, bilateral cooperation in this area is vital.

This obligation also covers acts which though seemingly legitimate are clearly directed towards sustaining terrorist activity in other states such as fundraising, which are ultimately channeled for the purpose of purchasing of arms etc. The obligation under international law is emphasized in unequivocal terms in the UN Declaration on measures to prevent international terrorism in a series of declarations.

“States guided by the purposes and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and other relevant rules of international law, must refrain from organizing, instigating, assisting or participating in terrorist acts in territories of other States or acquiescing in or encouraging activities within their territories directed towards the commission of such acts”.

The LTTE’s capacity to engage in terrorist activities in Sri Lanka is mainly due to the continued flow of funds to the LTTE war chest from overseas, through which the procurement and smuggling of illicit arms have been sustained.

Expectedly, funds collected by the LTTE overseas continue to have a de-stabilizing effect on Sri Lanka and is a drain on the economic development of the country. This is manifest both in terms of supporting terrorist activities in Sri Lanka and precipitating the displacement of people internally and externally. The people so displaced who go abroad continue to be exploited by the LTTE to extort money, creating a vicious and self-supporting cycle of intimidation, arms smuggling and terrorism. In addition the LTTE raises funds through money laundering, credit card fraud, money transfer through couriers and a range of other illegal activities. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has described terrorist groups which capitalize on the nexus between drug trafficking and gun running as representing a supra-national subversive threat to peace and security within and among nations.

There is also a clearly evident relationship between collection of funds in foreign countries and the promotion by the LTTE of the outflow of asylum seekers into western countries. The LTTE needs a considerable population of asylum seekers abroad in order generate sufficient funds through extortion. There are several examples cited in the Human Rights Watch report titled “Funding the Final War” on the manner in which funds are collected in the UK and Canada. There is no difficulty in finding evidence of these activities as this report and recent television documentaries have shown.

What is new and significant in this is the fact that the fundraisers now openly list the LTTE as one of the organizations through which funds can be channeled for humanitarian purposes. It is significant to note that none of the fundraisers ask the donors to channel their contributions to any of the recognized humanitarian organizations such as the ICRC and other respected INGOs. They always request donations to be channelled to LTTE fronts like the TRO, White Pigeon, etc. Most often the governments and foreigners who contribute to these organizations have no substantial proof as to how these funds are used. Our recent military operations in the east reveal that none of the funds given by donor governments to the LTTE have been utilized for the intended purposes and have instead been used to build sophisticated bunkers, develop suicide boat technology and build air fields. Some internet providers have circulated more direct and serious messages “urgent appeal for money for missiles – contribute generously to LTTE”. This openly acknowledges what the fundraising is for, with community radio and TV stations, places of religious worship are also being used openly for propaganda purposes in Europe.

Continued fundraising abroad through which terrorist activities in Sri Lanka are being sustained by the LTTE, has become a major factor militating against government’s search for a political solution on the basis of extensive devolution of power to address the grievances of all groups comprising the country’s citizenry. The activities of the LTTE abroad have also received considerable publicity in Sri Lanka. There is a growing public opinion against the impunity with which the LTTE conducts its fundraising activities and their propaganda work directed at sustaining terrorism in Sri Lanka. Public opinion in Sri Lanka demands that the government should take the strongest possible measures to eradicate terrorism with or without external support.

As we are aware post nine eleven, the LTTE was listed as a terrorist organization both in the UK, USA and subsequently in 2006 by the European Union. It is also listed by India, Canada, Malaysia etc as a terrorist group. However there has not been any significant decline in the fundraising and blatantly flagrant propaganda activities. This leads us to the conclusion that proscription like any other domestic law has to be implemented. Firstly by enacting national laws and then through their application, for which purpose considerable resources need to be allocated by states on whose soil the LTTE operates openly and freely. There has also got to be above all the will to prioritize such action.

The international community in this instance must translate their goodwill shown towards Sri Lanka into practical action rather than spin rhetoric. Like poverty, terrorism anywhere is a threat to humanity everywhere. It should be defeated if democracies are to survive.

Therefore we hope to continue in our efforts to persuade the international community not to fall prey to the propaganda of the LTTE as indeed some British Parliamentarians have demonstrated recently. The international community must clearly distinguish between the grievances of the Tamil community and the violence perpetrated allegedly in its name by the LTTE led by a fascist dictator who has been found guilty by the Supreme Court of India for the assassination of their former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

It is regrettable that some sections of the international opinion remain less engaged in helping Sri Lanka to combat LTTE terrorism and are more involved in spinning rhetoric. Several countries have actively cracked down on the LTTE’s fundraising activities. There is an urgent need to implement the LTTE proscription in many major centres of fundraising and to ensure that pressure is brought on the LTTE thereby to step down from its position of intransigence and transform itself.

- Asian Tribune -

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