LTTE affiliates up to same old tricks in Geneva - Prof. Dr. Rohan Gunaratna | Daily News

LTTE affiliates up to same old tricks in Geneva - Prof. Dr. Rohan Gunaratna

Prof. Dr. Rohan Gunaratne


All three LTTE dissident factions have started to lobby the next UNHRC session to be held in Geneva in March 2013. They are Tamil Eelam Peoples Assembly led by Perinpanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyawan in Norway, the Global Tamil Forum led by Father S.J. Emmanuel in London and the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam led by V. Rudrakumaran in New York, said International Terrorism Expert Prof. Rohan Gunaratna during an exclusive interview with the Daily News.
Prof. Gunaratna said that using funds and votes, the LTTE is lobbying through front, cover and sympathetic groups that take the face of community, social, cultural, political, human rights, humanitarian and educational organizations. These LTTE affiliates from “Tamils for Clinton” and now “Tamils for Obama” to “Tamil Centre for Human Rights” have had an impact in creating an incorrect impression of Sri Lanka.

Excerpts of the interview:

Nadira Gunatilleke


Prof. Dr. Rohan Gunaratne

Q: The next UNHRC sessions are to be held in Geneva in March. What will the LTTE lobbyists stage this time and what will be the impact on Sri Lanka?
A: Three LTTE dissident factions have started to lobby the next UNHRC session to be held in Geneva in March 2013. They are Tamil Eelam Peoples Assembly led by Perinpanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyawan in Norway, the Global Tamil Forum led by Father S.J. Emmanuel in London and the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam led by V. Rudrakumaran in New York. Although they participated, supported and advocated killing of civilians, overnight the LTTE leaders have emerge as the champions of human rights. For example, a trained LTTE cadre Nediyawan, who succeeded Prabhakaran, is leading the charge.
Operating through the Tamil Coordinating Committee Switzerland (STCC), Nediywan has instructed his supporters to gather before the United Nations Office at Geneva between 2 pm and 5.30 p.m. on March 4, 2013.
Because the Swiss do not regard the LTTE as a terrorist group but a criminal group, he has instructed them to fly the LTTE flag. Some of the LTTE cadres, ideologues and propagandists like Fr. Emmanuel are likely to visit primarily to thank the NGOs, especially the human rights NGOs either LTTE fronts or funded by the LTTE for their participation and hard work!
Using funds and votes, the LTTE is lobbying through front, cover and sympathetic groups that take the face of community, social, cultural, political, human rights, humanitarian and educational organizations.
These LTTE affiliates from “Tamils for Clinton” and now “Tamils for Obama” to “Tamil Centre for Human Rights” have had an impact in creating an incorrect impression of Sri Lanka. The LTTE is able to reach out to a handful of Congressmen and Senators in the US and Parliamentarians, officials and NGOs in Canada and the UK because of a few reasons. First, they give donations, secondly, they are able to exercise constituency or electoral pressure, thirdly, they employ lobbying firms and fourthly, the Sri Lankan diplomats are not trained to counter-lobby and promote Sri Lanka’s achievements. Almost all NGOs voicing human rights concerns in Geneva about the government have been funded or linked to the LTTE directly or through its affiliates indirectly. For example, the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) that donated funds to Amnesty International is planning to come to Geneva. CTC Communications Director Sahil Sabaratnam is serving a 25 year sentence in a US prison for procuring weapons for the LTTE.
Before giving them access to UNHRC Geneva, the UN should thoroughly investigate NGOS for individual and organizational links to terrorist organizations and its affiliates. Otherwise, government will not take the proceedings of UNHRC seriously.
Q: Who are the front line pro LTTE supporter/sympathizers and what will be their future plans for Sri Lanka?
A: Sri Lanka has returned to peace and prosperity. The country has not suffered a single terrorist attack since the LTTE was militarily defeated in May 2009. However, the LTTE international network that funded the LTTE is still intact. The LTTE fund collectors who now live in luxury are no longer threatening, intimidating and extorting innocent Tamils doing two to three jobs to fund the massacres, bombings and suicide attacks. Although the power of the LTTE over the Tamil diaspora has diminished after May 2009, the LTTE has created new ways of generating funds through businesses, human smuggling,credit card, bank and cheque fraud and applying for local government grants and donations. For example, LTTE fronts in Malaysia have raised funds for humanitarian activities in Sri Lanka, but the money disappeared.
In turn the LTTE is funding several Tamil Nadu politicians who are now lobbying the Central government in New Delhi. For example, Tamil Nadu politicians and film stars from Karunanidhi to Neduman and Vaiko and Seeman are continuing to support the LTTE either for electoral or for financial gain. They do not speak about 30 years of killings of Tamils by the LTTE from Duraiappa, the Mayor of Jaffna to Amirthalingam, the TULF leader or the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, but exaggerate the Tamil civilian deaths in the final phase and weep over Prabhakaran’s loss.
In Tamil Nadu itself, a few hundred LTTE leaders, members and supporters live and several front groups, such as, Tamil Eelam Supporters Organization (originally created on May 13, 1985) have emerged or re-emerged. To build strategic support for its designs, LTTE dissident groups seek to politicize, radicalize and mobilize the Tamil communities in India and Malaysia. These are unhealthy developments for the security and stability of India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
Q: Another anti Sri Lankan resolution is coming round the corner. There may be more in future. Please comment.
A: The Universal Periodic Review (UPR), reviews the human rights records of all UN Member States. This State-driven process led by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is commendable provided it reviews the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States where every country is treated equally. One cannot have a different set of standards for different countries whether they are big or small, friendly or unfriendly, or superpowers and regional powers have interests in their continuity.
The UPR was created through the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006 by resolution 60/251, which established the Human Rights Council because the Human Rights Committee that existed previously was manipulated by some countries. Unfortunately, the credibility of the UNHRC Geneva too has suffered. Geneva has now become an exercise in superpower and regional politics not human rights. One cannot use different standards to treat different countries. But this is evident in the way, Israel, Libya, Morocco, Bahrain, China, India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka has been examined. The responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms is paramount for all nations.
Considering these developments, I would recommend that Sri Lanka not be represented by its External Affairs Minister G L Peiris or President’s Special Human Rights Envoy, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe but by its Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinghe, a highly competent diplomat. Rather than wasting money or time sending a large and high level delegation to Geneva, the government should invest this money to build an International Peace University in Jaffna to promote moderation, toleration and co-existence among diverse ethnic and religious communities. In comparison with other countries recovering from conflict, Sri Lankan government has done more to restore normalcy in the North and the East but it can do more to build the Sri Lankan spirit and identity.
Q: What is behind the current anti Sri Lankan behaviour of Canada and certain other countries in connection with Sri Lanka?
A: Those countries applying pressure on Sri Lanka are driven by geo-strategic and domestic politics. They are primarily the US, Canada, UK and India. With Sri Lanka moving close to China economically, the US and India are concerned of a political and a military alliance. It is not. Sri Lanka’s ties are economic, driven by the desire to rebuild its nation after a three decade conflict, and it should not be misunderstood. In addition to geo-strategic and geopolitical considerations, India is also driven by domestic politics where the state government in Tamil Nadu is putting pressure on the central government coalition in New Delhi. Similarly, some parliamentarians, including ministers in Canada and UK are lobbied by LTTE votes and funds.
By examining their own human rights record and endorsement of human rights violations by their allies, none of these countries are driven by genuine human rights considerations. They see Sri Lanka as a soft target. The progress Sri Lanka has made in the human rights realm within the last three and a half years is amazing. No country in the world has resettled 283,000 displaced civilians and rehabilitated 11,500 of 12,000 terrorists and successfully reintegrated them back into society. Any other country would have prosecuted the LTTE leaders, members and helpers for the terrorist crimes they have committed, supported or advocated. Furthermore, the economic development, especially infrastructure in the North and East is unprecedented. It is necessary to investigate the links between the Canadian and British politicians and the LTTE. After Ragavan Paranchothy won the federal Conservative nomination in Scarborough Southwest, he changed his name to Gavan Paranchothy. He worked for Canadian Multicultural Radio (CMR) and Tamil Vision International (TVI), that promoted LTTE propaganda. Although Canada proscribed the LTTE as a terrorist group, TVI telecast referred to LTTE as “freedom fighters” and promoted support and recruitment for the LTTE. LTTE activists in the UK and Canada continue to lobby parliamentarians who in turn put pressure on their officials to issue statements to please their electoral supporters and financiers.
For example, a leaked WikiLeaks document in May 2009 from the US embassy in London stated that former British Foreign Minister David Miliband spent 60 percent of his time on Sri Lanka because UK elections were on the horizon and many Tamils were living in Labour constituencies with slim majorities. In addition to Global Tamil Forum employing Labour Party MP for Enfield North Joan Ryan immediately after she lost her seat at the 2010 General Election, GTF in February 2010 invited David Miliband to address a gathering convened by LTTE activists to generate support for the LTTE.
The LTTE penetration of the UK and Canadian political establishments was of concern to their own law enforcement, security and intelligence services.
Q: Do you think that Sri Lanka needs to relax rules/regulations/monitoring mechanism on terrorism/LTTE at this juncture?
A: The bulk of the diaspora that supported the LTTE during the era of Prabhakaran have abandoned their struggle. Nonetheless, a few dozen LTTE activists overseas remain committed. After the defeat of the LTTE, most LTTE activists living overseas are disillusioned. However, LTTE dissident leaders have managed to reorganize the LTTE. Today, Nediyawan, widely considered as the successor to Prabhakaran, operates out of Oslo, Norway, the new LTTE HQ.
In addition to managing the LTTE branches in a dozen countries, he works closely with the Global Tamil Forum, influencing the staff in a dozen LTTE front, cover and sympathetic groups mostly in Europe and Canada. It is ironic that the item on top of LTTE’s agenda is to pressurize the NGOs, International governments and Western governments to investigate Sri Lanka’s human rights record in the final phase of the campaign against the LTTE.
The second item on top of LTTE’s agenda is to support the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to advance the LTTE designs of separatism.
These TNA MPs and officials who radicalize the youth to hate other communities should come under intelligence and law enforcement scrutiny. Furthermore, Segarampillai Vinayagamoorthy alias Vinayagam, the LTTE Intelligence leader who conducted several bombings in Colombo, including the attack in the airport has now relocated to France and his network in Tamil Nadu is planning to conduct attacks in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan government should work closely with the French and Indian governments to disrupt his network and bring him to book.
Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans should discourage ethnic and religious based party politics. If Sri Lanka is to remain united, Sri Lankans should support national political parties where all communities are represented. Sri Lanka should phase out the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the Jathika Hela Urumaya and Tamil National Alliance.
Such parties disrupt the Sri Lankan spirit and divide Sri Lanka by region and Sri Lankans by community. Sri Lanka should enact a Sedition Act to prevent racial and religious incitement and a Harmony Act to actively promote friendship between communities. The greatest tribute Sri Lankans can pay to the fallen Sri Lankans is to live harmoniously and to prevent politicians from dividing us by ethnicity or religion.
Since LTTE recommenced the fight in Mavil Aru in August 2006 and until May 2009, 6,261 Security Forces personnel were killed and 29,551 wounded. Furthermore, Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslim civilians died in Sri Lanka to live as equal citizens and we must never allow communal extremism and its vicious by product violence to return ever and destroy another generation of Sri Lanka’s children.
Q: What more does Sri Lanka needs to do in order to protect hard earned permanent peace?
A: The Sri Lankan government’s strategy should be for the Ministry of External Affairs to create a public diplomacy capability with three divisions headed by an Additional Secretary. First, Diaspora Engagement Division, second, NGO Engagement Division, and third, Strategic Communications Division.
The Diaspora Engagement Division should reach out to misguided Sri Lankan expatriates who still lead and support communal and extremist activity. Even Rudrakumaran, Emmanuel and Nediyawan should be invited and given a role to look after those who suffered in the conflict, especially those disabled on condition that they reject violence and embrace peace. For example, KP is dong a remarkable job caring for the orphans. Rather than spend their lives indoctrinating a new generation and instigating hatred and violence, they must be given an opportunity to invest the remaining years of their lives rebuilding the lives of a community that suffered from communalism.
The NGO Engagement Division should work with NGOs to support the socio-economic development especially of the North and the East, a region that still needs much support. As NGOs have been used in the past to disrupt peace and stability in Sri Lanka, the NGOs invited must be carefully screened for terrorist links and also closely monitored.
The NGO Engagement Division should work closely with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and International Crisis Group. These three influential NGOs have been neglected by the government and they have at times published reports that are inaccurate and misleading.
Furthermore, at least one of these NGOs accepted money from a LTTE front. NGOs are becoming increasingly important worldwide.
Rather than shun them, it is paramount for the government to consider them as partners in development. In parallel to the NGO Engagement Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights should engage the human rights NGOs both in Sri Lanka and overseas, present an accurate picture and address their genuine concerns.
The Strategic Communications Division should counter the misinformation and disinformation disseminated by the LTTE and their affiliates as well as publicize Sri Lanka’s achievements. For example, the remarkable story of providing humanitarian assistance and socio-economic development to the Sri Lankan Tamils held by the LTTE as a human shield has been inadequately publicized in the Tamil language. As a result the LTTE remnants and their agents were able to convince and misguide not only a segment of a poorly educated Tamils in the diaspora but also a tiny segment of the Tamil Nadu Tamils that civilians were deliberately targeted in the terminal phase of the conflict.
The Sri Lankan government has done a poor job in promoting its achievements. In parallel to the Strategic Communications Division in the Ministry of External Affairs, the Mass Media and Information Minister should build a capability in Tamil language to communicate the unprecedented developments in the North and the East.
Throughout the conflict, the ability of the LTTE to exercise pressure over the diaspora was phenomenal. It was largely a result of LTTE’s ability to control the Vanni, manipulate the Tamil media and to discipline the expatriate community with threats. The impact of the LTTE controlled-diaspora organizations to convince the international community that there were human rights violations in the final phase of the Sri Lankan conflict was appreciable.
In parallel, the impact of the anti-LTTE Sri Lankan diaspora organizations to expose LTTE atrocities was minimal. Until the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, the Sri Lankan government made no concerted effort to reach out to the Tamil community overseas to reach out to them. Had the government developed a strategy to co-opt the diaspora elite, reached out to the community leaders, and work with the Tamil community, the impact of LTTE misinformation and disinformation campaign could have been minimised.
The propaganda that had created the impression that (1) the Sri Lankan Security Forces deliberately targeted its civilians (2) Sri Lankan Tamils have not received their rightful place, after all what they have suffered, and (3) the Sri Lankan government and their partners were not seriously committed to reconciliation.
In contrast, in a recorded time Sri Lanka resettled some 280,000 displaced and mostly in their own habitat, rehabilitated and reintegrated 11,500 out of 12,000 terrorists and invested millions of dollars to develop the North and East. No other country has acted with such speed, compassion and foresight.
Q: Please explain your involvement in building harmony between Northern and Southern Sri Lanka.
A: My involvement was modest compared to many who live in Sri Lanka and work. At the request of Defence and Urban Development Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the then Justice Minister Milinda Moragoda, I adviced, assisted and evaluated the rehabilitation of 12,000 LTTE cadres.
Rather than prosecute, a key decision was taken to engage them, make them realize that what they did was wrong, and reunite them with their loved ones. The approaches used to bring them back to society was through religion and spirituality, education, vocational training, recreation, creative arts and social and family rehabilitation. Most of the beneficiaries who could think repented, expressed remorse, rejected violence and embraced a harmonious living. They felt that they had wasted several years of their lives hating a community they had never met.
Today, they are serving government, private sector and in self employment. Ironically, those who supported the former LTTE cadres and their families were neither the LTTE nor its proxy, the TNA. They were supported by the government, the private sector, the NGOs and the ordinary people especially of the South. None of the rehabilitated and reintegrated beneficiaries have returned to terrorist or extremist activity.
Today, Sri Lanka’s terrorist rehabilitation programme has been rated as one of the most successful programmes in the world.
The LTTE propaganda politicized, radicalized and mobilized not only its rank and file but the ordinary population. The greatest heritage every Sri Lankan inherited was to live with understanding and harmony.
However, the Tamil and Sinhala politicians played the race card to generate votes thus disrupting the social harmony. As such, a segment of Sri Lankan population still suffer from suspicion, mistrust and prejudice. At great cost to the country and to every community peace has been restored. Nonetheless, the peace restored must never be taken for granted. Every Sri Lankan must work to reach out to other ethnic and religious communities and strengthen the Sri Lankan spirit.
The public must be alert and guard against politicians of the government, the parliamentary opposition and all other political parties who seek to exploit the ethnic and religious differences in order to remain in power or come to power. In every city, town and village, Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans must create harmony centres to revive the traditional friendships that existed between Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims. Today, there is no greater challenge for Sri Lanka than to invest in reconciliation, to build a harmonious society and development to revive and sustain economic growth.


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