Tuesday, 22 December 2015

New year: War Crimes probe, labour disputes to the fore


Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera announced last September at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council that he would consult all stakeholders on setting up of the accountability mechanism by end February, 2016. The resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka also called upon the Government of Sri Lanka to give the Council a verbal report on progress at the June, 2016 session.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government faces numerous challenges, next year, though it retains a commanding majority, in parliament, as reflected by the passage of budget 2016 last Saturday. The coalition will face the daunting task of managing the deteriorating national economy as well as a range of other issues, including the proposed war crimes probe, undoubtedly a sensitive political issue. Just five months after the last parliamentary polls, the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe alliance is struggling to come to terms with ground realities with some sections of the alliance pulling in different directions. With post-war Sri Lanka at crossroads, one of the most politically sensitive years in Sri Lanka’s contemporary history draws to a close paving the way for 2016. The signs are that it’ll be a year of turmoil.

Had the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa taken heed of sound advice, given by General Secretary of the Communist Party, D.E.W. Gunasekera, not to call a early presidential election, he could have averted a disaster. Messrs Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Prof. Tissa Vitharana joined the CP leader in warning Rajapaksa of dire consequences unless he addressed contentious issues, immediately. The warning was given in the wake of the SLFP-led UPFA’s lackluster performance at the crucial Uva Provincial Council election on Sept. 20, 2014. As D.E.W. Gunasekera told the writer, after having met Rajapaksa, at Temple Trees, the Uva result should have prompted Rajapaksa to rethink strategy. Unfortunately, the former President hadn’t been interested in the left party leaders’ advice. Instead, the war-winning President went along with the then Economic Affairs Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s strategy.

The Rajapaksa project was meant to further consolidate their hold in the wake of the passage of the 18th Amendment, in early September, 2010, to the Constitution, as well as impeachment of the then Chief Justice, Mrs Shirani Bandaranayake, in January, 2013. The first woman to head the country’s judiciary, the 43rd CJ Bandaranayake was dismissed, disregarding rulings from the Supreme Court that the process was illegal and threatened judicial independence. The then National List MP Gunasekera had the guts to turn down Rajapaksa’s request to vote in favour of impeaching the CJ. Another National List MP Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha did the same.

Having thrown his full weight behind both, the 18th Amendment, which cleared the way for Rajapaksa to seek a third term, and the subsequent anti-Bandaranayake move, Maithripala Sirisena switched his allegiance to the UNP. In spite of a massive propaganda campaign, conducted by the previous government, Maithripala Sirisena convincingly defeated Rajapaksa at the January 8 presidential polls.

President Maithripala Sirisena thwarted Rajapaksa’s bid to return as the Prime Minister of an SLFP-led UPFA administration at the expense of proposed constitutional reforms. The President went to the extent of publicly stating why the electorate should reject Rajapaksa. Having thwarted Rajapaksa, Maithripala Sirisena entered into an unprecedented partnership with UNP leader Wickremesinghe to steer the country. The Rajapaksa Camp hadn’t been able to overwhelm the ruling coalition, though at the on set of the Maithripala Sirisena’s 100-day programme, the former President seemed to have the strength to stage a come back. The Opposition or the Abayarama parshavaya, as it is widely called, is struggling to sustain its campaign.

The coalition shamelessly abused the 19th Amendment to its advantage. Those in power today exploited the much touted law to freely appoint Ministers, Deputy Ministers, as well as State Ministers, contrary to the basic principles of the Yahapalana government. They, in fact, used the 19th Amendment to justify a large cabinet on the pretext of having a National Government. Under any circumstances, the present arrangement cannot be considered as a National Government. The government faces a plethora of contentious issues with the post-budget crisis and the proposed war crimes inquiry being the main issues. Failure to address them, sensibly, can cause political instability and uncertainty. Fallout can plunge the country into unprecedented turmoil and reverse the ongoing process meant to bring in a brand new Constitution as envisaged by the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration.

Having defeated Rajapaksa, at the January polls, the Yahapalana rulers caused a debilitating setback to the longstanding China-Sri Lanka relationship by suspending the $ 1.4 bn Chinese-funded Colombo Port City project early this year. Some foolish politicians, and officials of the ruling coalition, made offensive statements. They simply forgot that the Chinese sustained Sri Lanka’s war effort. Following a series of deliberations, the government recently gave the Chinese the go ahead for their flagship project. Strangely, the war winning UPFA, too, last month, condemned the Jewish State, another country whose support paved the way for Sri Lanka’s ultimate triumph over the LTTE, in May, six years ago.

The year old government need to follow a sound foreign policy, without being branded as any particular country’s ally. Whatever the disputes the Rajapaksas had with the US, after the conclusion of the war, the superpower backed Sri Lanka’s war effort. The US made it possible for Sri Lanka to finish off the LTTE in less than three years. That is the truth. But, unfortunately, the previous government bungled in its approach towards the US.

Of the challenges faced by the one-year-old administration, nothing can be as difficult as implementing the Geneva resolution, adopted on Sept. 30, 2015. The government will have to soon announce its decision on the proposed mechanism to inquire into accountability issues during the war. Among those who had been closely involved with the Geneva process, leading to the Sept. 30 resolution, is UK-based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) spokesperson, Suren Surendiran, whom the writer first met in March, 2012, during UNHRC sessions in Geneva. Subsequently, the writer met Surendiran and GTF President, Rev. Father S.J. Emmanuel, in March, in London, where they stressed the importance of bringing the post-war national reconciliation process to a successful conclusion. The GTF delegation was in London to meet the Sri Lankan government delegation visiting the UK, on the invitation of Prime Minister David Cameron.

With high level deliberations taking place, regarding the proposed war crimes inquiry, Surendiran responded to several questions pertinent to the issue at hand. The GTF official reacted from Reykjavik in Iceland.

Q: Is there a deadline for setting up of a war crimes court?

A: Yes, there is as far as I know. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera announced a last September at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council that he would consult all stakeholders on setting up of the accountability mechanism by end February, 2016. The resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka also called upon the Government of Sri Lanka to give the Council a verbal report on its progress at the June, 2016 session.

Q: Will you (GTF) appear before it?

The GTF will fully co-operate with the UNHRC resolution. However, it is the victims and their statements, along with the witnesses, including the various military, government and other civil service personnel, remaining LTTE members, photographic, video and other evidence that will be key to be examined by this special court. Remember over 290,000 people came out of the war zone at the end of the fight. Most are still living. All of them were direct witnesses.

Crimes committed post end of the war in May 2009, has even more victims and witnesses.

Q: Do you (GTF as well as other organisations which represent the interests of Tamil people living in SL and overseas) want 100 per cent implementation of the Geneva resolution approved on Sept. 30?

A: Beyond whether the GTF and other organizations want full implementation of the resolution, it is Government of Sri Lanka’s responsibility and by co-sponsoring the resolution, it’s her commitment to the UN and wider international community, to implement the resolution in full. It is the humanity’s obligation to the tens of thousands of victims to ensure justice is served, after all which is what the resolution is trying to achieve.

Remember there are victims of crime from all communities in Sri Lanka, including the military who had thousands disappeared during the war.

Q: What GTF’s relationship with the TNA?

A: We are two separate entities. GTF has a friendly, healthy and cordial working relationship with the TNA which includes the elected representatives of our people in Sri Lanka.

Q: TNA refused to field ex-LTTE cadres on its Aug. 17 parliamentary polls nomination lists. Did TNA consult GTF before the decision was made?

A: Of course, not! Like I said in my earlier answer, TNA and GTF are two separate entities. We have separate decision making bodies.

Q: The Paranagama Commission proposed international technical assistance and observer status for countries, thereby ruled out international judges, including Commonwealth judges. What is your position?

A: GTF fully supports the resolution, passed by the UNHRC, in September, 2015, which, incidentally, was also co-sponsored by the Government of Sri Lanka. The resolution calls for international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other international specialists to be included in the accountability mechanism.

Q: Former President CBK recently declared that the proposed war crimes probe would focus on the top chain of command of the SL military. She asserted that those who ordered atrocities should be held accountable instead of targeting those who carried out orders. Please comment on CBK’s statement.

A: I believe that is a widely shared notion.

Q: Can you compare Sierra Leone war crimes probe and the proposed investigation in SL.

A: I am not a war crimes expert, however from what I know I realize that in Sri Lanka, during and after the war, many, and various crimes, were committed by both sides breaching numerous local and international laws.

Q: Finally, who backed GTF’s struggle which led to the Sept 30 Geneva resolution and the role played by foreign and local media.

A: GTF is an umbrella body representing various country organizations. To create awareness of the plight of Tamil people in Sri Lanka and to resolve their issues we proactively engage international and local media, other governments from countries where a large number of Tamil people live, international human rights and other organizations.

Q: Did you receive local (Sri Lanka) media coverage and backing to propagate your stand before Jan 8 revolution?

A: Yes, we did but it was strictly limited to a very few English print media including The Island. There was never a possibility of GTF being interviewed in the State media outlets like The Daily News or the Rupavahini. There were never any opportunity given to us by any Sinhala media outlets, be it print, voice and visual. Any coverage of GTF or any Tamil Diaspora news on these state media were either false propaganda or at best manipulated heavily to portray a negative image of GTF.

However, since 8 January 2015, the space for freedom of expression in Sri Lanka has changed dramatically. Even state media outlets, like the Rupavahini and Daily News, report on GTF and have given space and coverage for us to air our views. They also reflected accurately.

Q: And on the international scene, what GTF’s stand on the UK joining US, European bombing campaign targeting Syria?

A: GTF is a Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora organization that only concerns itself with issues related to Tamils in Sri Lanka. GTF is absolutely committed to a non-violent agenda and it seeks a lasting peace in Sri Lanka, based on justice, reconciliation and a negotiated political settlement.

Obviously, the GTF as well as other Diaspora organizations, expect the full implementation of the Geneva resolution. The resolution called for Commonwealth and other international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other international specialists to be included in the accountability mechanism.

Retired High Court judge, Maxwell Paranagama, on behalf of the Presidential Commission that investigated disappearances and accountability issues, proposed international observers as well as foreign technical assistance to the domestic war crimes probe. The proposal had the backing of a group of international experts which assisted Paranagama in accordance with the Second Mandate of the Commission.

Unfortunately, the government is yet to initiate discussions with the previous political leadership as regards war crimes investigation mechanism. Those now in power seem to be blind to the pivotal importance in consulting the previous leadership, both political and military. The previous government, too, cannot absolve itself of the responsibility in failing to properly respond to war crimes accusations. Had there been a proper examination of accusations, the anti-Sri Lanka project, during the previous government, wouldn’t have succeeded. The Rajapaksa Camp obviously still cannot comprehend mistakes made during the previous administration in the run-up to January 8 presidential poll. In spite of the contentious issue of the war crimes probe being high on the Maithripala-Wickremesinghe government’s priorities, the administration is likely to be distracted by trade union disputes. Although the government managed to avert a recent strike by giving in to a spate of workers demands, trouble is brewing in both state and private sectors with the powerful GMOA as well as the Ceylon Bank Employees Union (CBEU) preparing for a struggle in the new year. The reversal of a range of revenue proposals, due to pressure from the SLFP, will certainly place the national economy in a difficult situation hence the need to focus on the forthcoming crisis.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe himself told parliament of the country having to face dire consequences of ISIS caused crisis in the Middle East as well as Europe. The Premier went to the extent of asserting the need for his government to seek IMF assistance to overcome the impending crisis.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Sri Lanka’s role in CIA’s ‘extraordinary rendition’




By Shamindra Ferdinando

In a statement issued on Dec. 10 to commemorate the Human Rights Day, Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, proudly declared: "Sri Lanka’s commemorations will not only be symbolic – it will also be substantive. So, I am very pleased to announce that Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, will today, this morning in New York, in fact, will be signing the International Convention on Enforced Disappearances."

In a hard hitting statement, Minister Samaraweera said that during the last decade or so, in Sri Lanka, human rights, were always spoken as an alien concept. The universal values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, were made out to be alien concepts or western values, as the previous government called it, and they used to say it’s western values and infringing on our country’s sovereignty. Although, the previous Rajapaksa administration cannot absolve itself of some of its actions, since the end of the war, in May, 2009, it took tangible measures to eradicate terrorism. Sri Lanka resorted to desperate measures. The world’s solitary superpower, and its allies, did the same at the expense of accountability in the wake of the al-Qaeda challenge.

Devastating al-Qaeda suicide attacks, on four US landmarks, on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 2011, prompted the then Bush administration to launch the War on Terror campaign. In accordance with its overall military objectives, the US adopted extraordinary offensive security measures against al-Qaeda. The strategy included extraordinary rendition. The clandestine project was meant to facilitate the transfer of terrorist suspects, arrested in various parts of the world, by the US, or at the behest of the US, to countries where they could be interrogated without any restrictions. Invariably, suspects were subjected to torture. Over 50 countries joined the project, coordinated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The exclusive club, included Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government not only facilitated the transfer of al Qaeda suspects but arrested a person wanted by the US, hiding here and handed him over to the CIA, at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Aug. 2003. Could Sri Lanka be faulted for cooperating with the US and its allies battling al-Qaeda? Would the US have tolerated Sri Lanka’s refusal to assist the extraordinary rendition project against the backdrop of its support to successive Sri Lankan governments to fight the LTTE?

The Extraordinary al-Qaeda challenge forced the US to adopt unprecedented tactics. Nineteen al-Qaeda operatives crashed three seized passenger planes into the north and south towers of the World Trade Centre, New York, and Defence Department headquarters, aka, Pentagon. The fourth suicide attack went awry due to some passengers making an abortive attempt to overwhelm al-Qaeda operatives in control of the aircraft.

The New York - based Open Society Foundations, in a special report that dealt with the extraordinary rendition project, revealed Sri Lanka allowed the US to use its airspace and BIA. The NGO alleged that Sri Lanka had never inquired into its role in the US project.

Those who had been demanding Sri Lanka to explain its conduct, during the war against the LTTE, are silent on her role in the US project. The US wouldn’t have contemplated such a project if not for the al-Qaeda challenge. Sri Lanka should never be ashamed of cooperating with the US or extending support in case of future emergency. Unprecedented challenges require bold responses, regardless of consequences.

Let me reproduce the entire list of countries which had been involved in the worldwide abduction project. Among them are some of the leading human rights champions, demanding Sri Lanka be hauled up before a hybrid war crimes court. The extraordinary rendition had been just one part of the massive war, launched by the US and its allies, against Taliban, in Afghanistan. The following countries participated in the extraordinary rendition programme: Afghanistan, Albania (current member of the UNHRC), Algeria (current member of the UNHRC), Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany (current member of the UNHRC), Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan (current member of the UNHRC), Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa (current member of the UNHRC), Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom (current member of the UNHRC), Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. Among those countries involved in the extraordinary rendition project were European Union members. The EU and the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council turned a blind eye to what was going on, though the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, called for a comprehensive investigation into the US project. In a statement issued to mark the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Nils Muižnieks said:"By allowing unlawful detentions and interrogation techniques amounting to torture, the US response caused further suffering and violated human rights law."

He added that governments hadn’t establish the truth or "ensure accountability for their complicity in the unlawful program of ‘extraordinary renditions’ – involving abduction, detention and ill-treatment of suspected terrorists – carried out by the CIA, in Europe, between 2002 and 2006." The bottom line is that European human rights champions had no misgivings in joining the US project.

Open Society Foundation in its report (page 109); "...at least one flight operated by Richmor Aviation (a company that operated flights for the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme) landed in Sri Lanka in 2003. The documents show that between August 12 and 15, 2003, a Richmor flight, registered as N85VM, took off from Washington, D.C., and stopped in Bangkok before making another stop at Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport, in Colombo, and then flying on to Kabul, Dubai, and Shannon airport in Ireland. That flight coincided in time with the capture of Riduan Isamuddin (Hambali) in Bangkok in 2003. Isamuddin spent the next three years, in secret CIA prisons, before ultimately being transferred as a "high value detainee" to Guantanamo Bay, in September, 2006, where he remains detained. There have been no known judicial cases, or investigations, in Sri Lanka, relating to its participation in CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations."

The US had no qualms about securing the expertise of those who had been widely accused of gross human rights violations. Iran, Syria, Libya and Saudi Arabia worked closely with the US. The CIA project underscored the US readiness to secure the assistance of those it publicly despised for its benefits. The enhanced interrogation methods, used on al-Qaeda, had been compared with those employed by Nazi Germany. Journalist, Ben Norton, in Dec. last year, in a report titled, ‘The anti-imperialist nations of Iran, Syria and Libya, participated in CIA torture programme, pointed out that whistle-blower, John Kiriakou, had been the only person to receive punishment for the CIA torture project. Kiriakou had been the first to confirm the existence of the clandestine operation, in 2007. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison for the worst crime of all: telling the truth.

The US cannot be faulted for securing the support of all countries for the implementation of a project which it considered necessary for its security. The US killed the mastermind of the humiliating al-Qaeda raid, Osama bin Laden, carried out on May 2, 2011. Although the US proudly declared that its special forces had hunted Osama, hiding in Pakistan, on its own, some asserted that Islamabad facilitated the raid. The US, or Pakistan, will never confirm what really happened, on May 2, 2011 or the circumstances leading to the raid. Whatever the circumstances, the US raid proved that a wanted terrorist could be taken out anywhere (with or without the cooperation of the government in control of the country giving refuge to him or her).

Against the backdrop of the National Unity Government questioning the conduct of the military, during eelam war IV (Aug 2006-May 2009), it would be pertinent to examine a statement made by wartime US Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Robert O Blake, during a visit to Colombo, close on the heels of Osama killing (Blake unaware of UN raising accountability issues over Osama killing, with strap line, Denies U attempt at regime change in SL-The Island May 5, 2011)

Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Blake, told the media, at the US Embassy, in Colombo, on May 4, 2011, that al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, had been a ‘lawful target’ and the government of the United States of America stood by its actions.

However, he said as he had been travelling in Sri Lanka over the last few days, he wasn’t aware of specific allegations levelled against the US over the Osama killing. "Let me tell you, that Osama bin Laden was the leader of an armed group that was engaged in armed conflict against the government of the United States. He was, therefore, a lawful target. We certainly stand by our actions," Blake said.

Osama’s killing was an important step in America’s fight against international terrorism, he said.

The Assistant Secretary was responding to a query by the writer at the press briefing held at the USIS, whether his country’s battle against international terrorism was likely to be undermined by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and groups, such as the International Crisis Group, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, raising accountability issues on the grounds that bin Laden was unarmed at the time he was shot.

Pillay has urged the White House to make public the "precise facts surrounding Osama’s killing’ to ensure the operation adhered to international law.

The statement was made in the wake of President Obama’s Press Secretary, Jay Carney, acknowledging Osama hadn’t been armed at the time he was shot in his head and chest by the raiding party.

Responding to another query, Assistant Secretary Blake said that for want of a domestic mechanism to investigate issues of accountability, international mechanisms could become appropriate in case the state concerned was unable to meet its obligations (Blake was referring to Sri Lanka. Of course, he didn’t see anything wrong in Sri Lanka’s role in extraordinary rendition)

Blake served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. mission, in New Delhi, from 2003 – 2006, before moving here as Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. At the conclusion of the war, in May 2009, he received the appointment as Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs.

Assistant Secretary Blake said that he had had the opportunity to meet Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris. Blake arrived in Colombo, on Monday (May 2), within 24 hours after heli-borne elite US team stormed Osama’s hideout outside Islamabad.

Blake said that he accepted congratulations of the Government of Sri Lanka on the killing of bin Laden.

The US resorted to unprecedented security measures in accordance with its overall security plan to meet the al-Qaeda challenge. The US went all out to apprehend those wanted for terrorism. The then US President, George W. Bush, personally intervened, in 2003, to have the wanted foreign al-Qaeda suspect extradited from Sri Lanka to an unknown destination. The then UNP-led UNP administration operated on the so-called need-to-know basis. Having received a request from the US for immediate cooperation to track down one of those high on the CIA’s wanted list, the government launched a countrywide hunt, quickly leading to the arrest of the fugitive taking refuge in the Puttalam police division. The arrest had been made by a special Criminal Investigation Department (CID) squad.

The Defence Ministry confirmed the arrest of the fugitive and handing him over to the CIA in Colombo. A senior New Delhi-based US official had arrived in Colombo, immediately after the arrest was made, to take charge of the suspect.

Later, a special private flight, hired by the CIA, had landed at the Bandaranaike International Airport to move the suspect to a secret interrogation facility. Sri Lanka never bothered at least to record a statement from the suspect.

When the then government explained the difficulty in handing over a non-Sri Lankan to the CIA in violation of the international law, the US Embassy had promptly issued a travel document identifying the suspect as a US national to facilitate the transfer.

Those involved in the operation had sedated the suspect before moving him to the special aircraft under guard. Airport authorities, too, were kept in the dark as regards the prisoner transfer.

During that time, Sri Lanka and the US agreed on non-surrender of ‘criminals’ to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Israel, Pakistan, Kuwait and Afghanistan were some of the countries which reached bi-lateral agreements with the US.

Under the agreement, the US and Sri Lanka will not surrender, or extradite people, including security forces and politicians of either party, present in the territory of the other, to the ICC, without the consent of the country concerned.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa joined the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) in early 2007 to facilitate US military operations. The highpoint of US-Sri Lanka cooperation was the Sri Lanka Navy receiving intelligence to hunt down four LTTE ships in two separate confrontations in 2008. Both agreements remain in force.

No country should be criticized for adopting security measures which a particular government deemed is necessary for the protection of its citizens. Having experienced devastating ISIS attacks in Paris, France resorted to unprecedented security measures. France never realized the requirement for tangible security measures meant to face the threat of terrorism, until ISIS humiliated the French on their soil. The terror on French soil prompted the 28-country European Union to take unprecedented measures to tackle the growing domestic security threat posed by groups like the Islamic State. 

France, for the first time, activated a special law that required its European neighbours to help them by all means possible, in light of "armed aggression" within its borders. But, the EU never took the threat posed by the LTTE to the Sri Lankan state though the EU proscribed the LTTE during Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s tenure as the President.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Post-January revolution issues: Israeli factor



By Shamindra Ferdinando

July 10, 2015: President Maithripala Sirisena receiving a briefing from the famed Katunayake-based No 10 squadron comprising Israeli-built Kfirs. President Maithripala Sirisena standing near a Kfir multi purpose jet fighter. No. 10 squadron, comprising 10 aircraft, carried out about 1,400 sorties during eelam war IV. Altogether, Israeli, Ukranian and Chinese jets carried out 2,700 sorties during eelam war IV.

Cease diplomatic ties with Jewish State
- Israeli General’s son declares in Colombo

Mike Peled, formerly of the Israeli military, recently declared, in Colombo, that developing countries should boycott the Jewish state. Peled, son of General Matti Peled, urged developing countries to cease diplomatic relations with his country until the government of Israel met legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians. Peled was here on the invitation of Sri Lanka-Palestine Solidarity Committee to deliver a lecture to mark the United Nations Day for International Solidarity with the Palestinian people. Addressing a gathering, at the Sports Ministry auditorium, at Race Course, on Dec 4, Peled pushed for sanctions against Israel. Among those present were Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, former Minister Imthiaz Bakeer Marker and Palestine ambassador in Colombo Zuhair Mohammed Hamdallah. Although the right of the peace activist and author of The General’s Son to propagate his opinion should never be disputed, Sri Lanka need to decide her foreign policy on the basis of her own requirements. It would be a mistake to adopt a course of action that could distance the country from those who stood by a beleaguered Sri Lanka during three decades of turmoil caused by separatist terrorism.

An SLFP delegation met Pakistan High Commissioner, in Colombo Maj Gen (R) Syed Shakeel Hussain, at the latter’s office, in Colombo, on Nov. 25. The delegation assured the Pakistan envoy of the SLFP’s strong opposition to a proposed move to establish an Israeli diplomatic mission in Colombo. The delegation stressed that it was a matter of deep regret, and disappointment, for the SLFP, against the backdrop of twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa backing for the creation of a State of Palestine. The delegation was led by former External Affairs Minister, Prof. G.L. Peiris, and included UPFA MP Udaya Gammanpila, and former Minister, A.H.M. Azwer. Praising Muslim Arab countries for backing the previous government, the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and elsewhere, the delegation expressed strong opposition to having an Israel diplomatic mission in Colombo. Of course, the delegation was making representations, on behalf of those UPFA members, still loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The delegation also raised the failure, on the part of the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government, to represent the interests of the Muslims here during a recent visit undertaken by US Permanent Representative to the UN, Ms Samantha Power. The Rajapaksa loyalists’ move reflected a sharp split in the SLFP vis a vis Sri Lanka’s foreign policy with President and SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena declaring in no uncertain terms his commitment to a robust relationship with Western powers. President Maithripala Sirisena is on record as having said that the January 8 revolution enabled the restoration of Sri Lanka’s ruptured relations with Western powers.

Now that the Rajapaksa Camp had played politics with a critical foreign policy issue it would be pertinent to examine Sri Lanka’s relationship with the Jewish state in the backdrop of rapidly growing India-Israel ties. A meeting between Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, last week, on the sidelines (during the international climate summit, near Paris), highlighted their relationship. The Israeli media quoted Netanyahu as having told Modi: "We have the best of relations, and they can be made even better. Modi responded: "I am happy that often we can talk easily on telephone, we can discuss everything." Modi is also planning to visit Tel Aviv in the wake of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit last October. It would be pertinent to mention that the Indian leader skipped meaningless Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), in Malta, which was held immediately prior to the Paris summit.

Israel also established formal diplomatic ties with China, in 1992. The two countries are now in the process of working out a free trade agreement. Decades long Israel-Japan diplomatic ties, too, are further growing with the latter asserting that Tokyo’s relationship with the Arab world shouldn’t be at the expense of the Jewish state. Unfortunately, a section of the SLFP, in spite of knowing Israeli support to Sri Lanka’s triumph over LTTE terrorism, had declared opposition to having an Israeli diplomatic mission here.

Israeli ambassador in New Delhi concurrently functions as their ambassador in Colombo. Sri Lanka re-established, in May, 2000, with the setting up of a diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv, in October.

The then President Ranasinghe Premadasa closed down the Israeli Interests Section on April 20, 1990, much to the delight of the Muslim community here. The President’s illogical move was meant to silence the then SLFP leadership, which had been clamoring for the closure of the Israeli Interest Section, since President Premadasa’s predecessor, JRJ invited the Israelis to Colombo, in accordance with a tripartite agreement involving the US, Israel and Sri Lanka. The agreement also envisaged the establishment of Voice of America (VOA) station at Iranawila, much to the apprehension of India.

Premadasa acted in the wake of claims that Israel provided training to Tamil terrorists in Israel. The President exploited the situation to accomplish a domestic political requirement.

The then US administration of Ronald Reagan was instrumental in setting up the Israeli Interest Section, here, in response to the growing threat posed by Indian - sponsored terrorist groups. Having declined to provide direct US military assistance as it didn’t want to annoy India, President Reagan instead facilitated a working relationship between Israel and Sri Lanka for the latter to receive both weapons and expertise. The setting up of the Israeli Interest Section, in Colombo, took place in the wake of several high level visits by US officials, including Defence Secretary Casper Weinberger on Oct 1, 1983. Weinberger’s visit was followed by US General Vernon Walters, President Reagan’s special envoy.

Regardless of Premadasa’s absurd move, Sri Lankan military continued to received arms, ammunition and equipment from Israel with the country making some significant acquisitions during the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s tenure. Kumaratunga acquired Kfir multi purpose combat aircraft as well as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The SLAF’s famed Katunayake-based No 10 squadron of Kfirs served Sri Lanka 15 years with a stupendous feat during eelam war IV (Aug 2006-May 2009).

No less person than former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in an interview with the writer, in 2013, discussed how the Pakistani and Israeli instructors had conducted simultaneous training projects at Saliyapura, Anuradhapura and Maduru Oya, respectively. While the Pakistanis had trained Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and junior leaders, whereas the Israeli conducted live firing exercises for those who had been second-in-command of fighting battalions, as well as Captains. Among those who had undergone training, under Israelis, were Sarath Fonseka and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, at that time, with the first battalion of the Sinha Regiment (1SR). Pakistan had never made an issue out of Sri Lanka’s relationship with Israel in spite of some politicians exploiting it for personal gain.

Rajapaksa said: "Unstinted support from Pakistan as well as Israel to train the fighting forces should be examined against that background. In fact, the Pakistani and Israeli training projects were responsible for the success of Operation Liberation conducted in May-June 1987. Foreign expertise gave us confidence at a crucial time during the conflict. Had the SLA failed to obtain foreign training, we would have experienced a major crisis."

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa acknowledged that the SLA could never have successfully faced the threat of terrorism on its own. It would be pertinent to mention that Sri Lanka was the first country in the region targeted by a group of terrorists, sponsored by neighbouring regional power, India."

Pakistan threw its full weight behind successive governments until the LTTE was brought to its knees, on the banks of the Nanthikadal Lagoon, in May, 2009.

Sri Lanka earned the wrath of New Delhi for securing Israeli support during 80s though the situation changed in the wake of India and Israel establishing full diplomatic ties, in 1992. India has emerged the largest importer of Israeli armaments with the relationship between the two countries reaching an extraordinary status. The recent test firing of jointly developed next generation Barak long-range surface-air-missile system, from an Israeli warship, underscored the strategic relationship between Israel and India. In spite of having the third largest Muslim population, India is pursuing an extremely friendly policy towards Israel whereas some political groups here engage in silly games at the expense of national interest.

Sri Lanka could never have achieved victory over the LTTE without Israeli armaments. In addition to Kfirs and UAVs, acquired in 1996, the Jewish State provided Fast Attack Craft (FACs), a pair of Fast Missile Vessels (FMVs) anti-missile systems mounted on helicopter gunships as well as a range of other items. The writer had the opportunity to meet New Delhi-based Israeli ambassadors, concurrently functioning as Tel Aviv’s representatives for Colombo, during their periodic visits here to meet government representatives. Unfortunately, the SLFP had conveniently forgotten the Israeli support to pursue political agenda which in the long run would be inimical to the country as well as the SLFP.

Sri Lanka should take a cue from India and China seeking stronger ties with Israel though the latter often disagree with Israel at the UNHRC. Russia, too, maintains full diplomatic ties with Israel.

Kumaratunga’s government sought full diplomatic ties with Israel in the immediate aftermath of the crushing defeat suffered by the Army at Elephant Pass, in April, 2000. Jolted by the stunning battle-field defeat, undoubtedly the worst single debacle during the war, the PA administration appealed for a Israeli diplomatic mission. Much to Sri Lanka’s relief, Israel responded positively. Full diplomatic relations were established the following month. Interestingly, Shiv Shanker Menon, who had been India’s first ambassador to Israel, following the setting up of diplomatic ties, in 1992, was New Delhi’s High Commissioner here, in 2000. Kumaratunga sought Israeli ties in the wake of India declining to intervene in Jaffna to save nearly 40,000 security forces and police personnel. If not for the timely deployment of multi-barrel rocket launchers from Pakistan and Czechoslovakia in support of the besieged Army in the Jaffna peninsula, the LTTE would have finished off them.

The then Army top brass made a pathetic effort to call the loss of strategic Elephant Pass base as a tactical withdrawal. Had it being the case, the Kumaratunga administration wouldn’t have sought diplomatic ties with Israel in such haste. Having evicted the Army from Kilinochchi and Paranthan, the LTTE routed the 54 Division headquartered at Elephant Pass. The 54 Division commanded by Maj. Gen.K.B. Egodawela became the first and the only fighting Division to suffer the ignominy of defeat during the war.

The war took a turn for the worse with the Elephant Pass defeat. By then the LTTE had regained the entire area in the Vanni lost to the Army, since May, 1997, and was threatening to overwhelm the Jaffna peninsula. Resumption of diplomatic ties had been a key initiative of the PA in the wake of the LTTE threat.

Over six years, after the conclusion of the war, Israeli aircraft, ships and FACs remain in service. If the Opposition is really concerned about post-war stability, it shouldn’t hurt the feelings of those countries which backed Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE. Sri Lanka needs continuous Israeli cooperation unless the government intends to do away with Israeli arms, ammunition and equipment. Those playing politics with Israeli issue, here, should not forget that even Muslim states, including Egypt and Algeria, had obtained Israeli equipment.

The Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government should go ahead with its plans, regardless the Rajapaksa camp’s opposition. In fact, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Israel during the second week of January last year. He was accompanied by the then first lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa. They were in the Jewish state for their visit to three Middle East countries. Rajapaksa was the first Sri Lankan head of state to visit Israel since its inception. Among the government delegation was the then External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris.

The Sri Lankan delegation included, Monitoring MP of the Ministry of External Affairs Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, Parliamentarian Roshan Ranasinghe, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Israel, Sarath Wijesinghe.

The Israeli side consisted of Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli National Security Advisor Yossi Cohen, Chief of National Information Directorate Liran Dan, Israel’s Non-Resident Ambassador to Sri Lanka in New Delhi Alon Ushpiz and Ambassador of Israel to the United States Ron Dermer. The presence of Dermer was significant against the backdrop of US going all out for a regime change in Sri Lanka. Rajapaksa visit to Israel took place two months before the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a US resolution meant to conduct an external investigation into accountability issues during the war. Israel could have intervened on behalf of Sri Lanka. When the writer inquired at that time from a member of the delegation the outcome of Rajapaksa’s visit as well as the inclusion of Israel ambassador to the US in the delegation, he asserted that it shouldn’t be discussed. The writer was told media discourse could be inimical to Sri Lanka’s interest. At the conclusion of the talks, they said that in the area of agriculture, Israel agreed to provide technological assistance, including support to expand the scope of utilizing the drip irrigation system in Sri Lanka. (Israel is known for the drip irrigation technology that it invented for the agricultural sector to cope with the water crisis in the region) Another water-related technology that was discussed was desalination, a process through which potable water is produced from sea water.

Information technology and employment were other areas identified for strengthening cooperation between the two countries. At that there had been approximately 7,000 Sri Lankans working in Israel as caregivers. The two leaders agreed to work towards increasing employment in this sector as well as seasonal employment in agriculture. Israel pointed out that Israeli farmers were quite satisfied with quality of Sri Lankan employees working in the country.

Before the conclusion of the meeting, President Rajapaksa also thanked Israel for the tsunami assistance it provided.

Israel made financial donations and provided relief goods, food and clothing, field kitchens and a mobile medicine clinic for the Sri Lankan tsunami survivors.

The bottom line is that the Israeli assistance in the wake of tsunami didn’t amount to much. But, the war couldn’t have been brought to a successful conclusion without Israeli armaments and expertise. In fact, the LTTE could have succeeded in dividing the country on ethnic lines years if the US stopped Israeli support.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Seeing Paris massacre through domestic lens



French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during a solemn ceremony on November 27, 2015 at the Hotel des Invalides, for the National Tribute to the 130 people killed in the November 13 Paris attacks. Families of those killed in France’s worst-ever terror attack, claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, will join some of the wounded at ceremonies at the Invalides (AFP Photo)

by Shamindra Ferdinando

French President, Francois Hollande, vowed last Friday (Nov 27) to avenge the Nov. 13 Paris massacre. Hollande: "I promise you solemnly that France will do everything to destroy the army of fanatics who carried out these crimes." The French President was leading a memorial service for those who had perished in the largest ever coordinated terrorist operation, on ground, in Europe.

The unprecedented assault emphasized that no country is immune to cross-border terrorism. France stressed, in no uncertain terms, that the threat would be dealt through military means. One hundred and thirty men, women and children, from 19 countries, died in the carnage.

It is certainly not just European Union member, France, that is dealing with the implications of the Paris massacre. Belgium and Germany, both members of the EU, struggled to cope up with the situation, in the wake of the alleged involvement of Germans and Belgians, in the worst atrocity in France, a current member of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council, since World War II.

Hollande’s pledge can be compared with the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reaction to the massacre of nearly 70 men, women and children in a claymore mine blast, directed at an SLTB bus, at Yakawewa, Kebitigollewa, on the morning of June 15, 2006. Having flown in to Kebitigollewa, in spite of strong objections by those in charge of his security, Rajapaksa directed the military top brass to eradicate the LTTE. In fact, the weeping loved ones of those victims urged the President to finish off the LTTE for once and for all. Rajapaksa gave a personal assurance to Priyantha Dissanayake, (who lost his son, as well as 27 other relatives, in the directional bomb), blast that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam would be eliminated.

Rajapaksa fulfilled his dream, on the morning of May 19, 2009, when troops mowed down LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and his close associates, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

Over six years, after the conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka faces war crimes investigation at the behest of Western powers who had turned a blind eye to India sponsoring terrorism in Sri Lanka. The heinous Indian strategy, meant to turn Sri Lanka in to a battlefield, had been revealed by no less a person than the late Indian Foreign Secretary, J.N. Dixit, in his memoirs, Makers of India’s Foreign Policy: Raja Ram Mohun to Yashwant Sinha launched in 2004.

Western powers reiterated their commitment to destroy the ISIS when they gathered in Paris for the global climate change summit. Rajapaksa’s successor, Maithripala Sirisena, was among them. In the aftermath of the Paris massacre, and simmering tensions in Europe, Western powers should adopt a common strategy against terrorism. Perhaps, coordinated ISIS strike reminded them the severe difficulties experienced by successive governments when countering high profile attacks planned by the LTTE. The LTTE exploited the ground situation to its advantage, as well as the political environment, to achieve its strategic political objectives. The Aug. 12, 2005, assassination of the then Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, at his Colombo residence, underscored the LTTE’s strategy. Although, Western powers realized the LTTE strategy, they continuously maintained that whatever the atrocity, Sri Lanka should reach a political understanding with the LTTE. Their position was reiterated loudly in the immediate aftermath of Kadirgamar assassination. The then President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government lacked the strength to counter Western strategy. The LTTE had the backing of Western powers to continue with its sordid operations. In fact, those wanting to appease the LTTE felt that Kadirgamar was nothing but a serious obstacle to resumption of direct talks, between the government and the LTTE. The LTTE quit the negotiating table, in April, 2003, during Ranil Wickremesinghe tenure as the Prime Minister. Although, the LTTE suspended negotiations, a Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) underwritten by the US, EU, Norway and Japan, was in operation when the LTTE eliminated Kadirgamar. Instead of taking punitive action against the LTTE, Western powers demanded that the status quo remained. An ungrateful government quickly forgot Kadirgamar’s untiring efforts against the murderous LTTE.

Various statements issued by foreign governments and organizations reflected the overall thinking of the West. US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice: "We must honour Kadirgamar’s memory by re-dedicating ourselves to peace and ensuring that the CFA remained in force."

European Union Commissioner, Ferrero-Waldner: "We must all honour the passing of Foreign Minister Kadirgamar by continuing his work for peace and maintaining the CFA."

French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy: "France believes that more than ever the respect of the CFA and the continuation of the peace process is necessary."

Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer: "It is our strong hope that despite this terrorist act the Sri Lankan peace process will continue, including through early implementation of the Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS). I urge all communities in Sri Lanka to remain calm and uphold the CFA."

India expressed hope that Sri Lanka wouldn’t allow the assassination to derail the peace process.

Japanese Foreign Minister, Nobutaka Machimura: "I strongly hope for calm response by all parties at this moment so that the move towards the peace process will not be hindered."

Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jan Petersen: "The killing puts the peace process to a serious test. It is now of great importance that both parties, to the conflict, do their utmost to fully fulfill their obligations, according to the CFA."

UN Security Council strongly advised Sri Lanka against launching a ground offensive against the LTTE in the wake of the assassination. The UNSC demanded that both parties implement the provisions of the CFA. Could there be anything as strange as this statement issued under the chairmanship of Japan against the backdrop of CFA prohibiting search operations and arrest under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). In other words, the UNSC wanted Sri Lanka to adhere with a provision that may have facilitated the LTTE build up in Colombo.

Kadirgamar was sniped at his Bullers Lane residence. The gunman used the second floor of Lakshman Thalaysingham’s house to snipe the much respected politician. It was very much similar to the plot in former French leader De Gaulle assassination attempt, on Aug 22, 1962. France executed the French Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who made the abortive assassination bid. Lakshman was a former Captain of the Royal College cricket team. Kadirgamar was shot through his heart. Lakshman was the son of retired SP T. Thalaysingham. The then government never bothered to inquire into Thalayasingham’s role. The police accepted Thalayasingham’s strange explanation that he wasn’t aware what was going on, on the second floor of his own house.

Western pressure on the then government was so much it couldn’t utilize the PTA though the police were directed to investigate the Kadirgamar assassination. Almost immediately after the assassination, the then government ruled out resumption of war, much to the delight of those who believed the assassination could facilitate the recommencement of direct negotiations. The Paris massacre jolted the French and their allies. France extended the state of emergency until the end of February, 2016, as police stepped-up searches. Human rights advocates promptly expressed serious concern over French counter measures much to the disappointment of those who still believe there could be further attacks. For years, Western powers, and their agents here, opposed security measures, in place here, in accordance with overall strategy to thwart LTTE attacks. They depicted anti-terrorism measures, such as the PTA, as a challenge to the freedom enjoyed by public. The PTA, introduced by the late President JR Jayewardena, is certainly affront to human rights on a massive scale. There shouldn’t be any doubt about the need to abolish the PTA in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE. The previous government pathetically failed to realize the urgent need to amend the PTA. Now that the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government had assured the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that the PTA would be abolished to pave the way for a new law, the world must realize such a measure could never have been even contemplated if not for the eradication of the LTTE.

Western powers, and those well-funded Colombo-based NGOs, never acknowledged that the PTA, as well as other security measures, adopted by successive governments, were meant to counter the terrorist threat. Sri Lanka had no option but to resort to such measures to thwart the LTTE. France is experiencing the same threat, hence the decision to declare a state of emergency which is likely to be extended again until Hollande felt safe. France placed people under house arrest, under emergency laws, as police took measures to thwart possible large scale protests during the climate summit this week. French had no alternative but to discourage large gatherings to thwart possible attacks. Those protesting against French emergency measures ignored that security was being tighten to save their own lives. Campaigners vowed to defy French police and go ahead with demonstrations during the 12-day event. Now that France has been humiliated, Europe would step up offensive against ISIS. The human rights will, of course, will have to take a back seat. Europe will have to tighten border controls as citizenship to foreign elements, as this measure is of pivotal importance if the region is to be protected. Eastern Europe, too, faces similar threat. Europe accommodated all sorts of undesirables. LTTE ideologue, Anton Balasingham, one-time Veerakesari staffer, and British High Commission employee, received British citizenship. Balasingham retained the title in spite of his organization waging a terrorist campaign in Sri Lanka, a member of the Commonwealth. Now, we are told that Commonwealth judges may join the proposed war crimes court to try war-time political and military leaderships as well as troops allegedly responsible for atrocities. Balasingham’s British passport facilitated his travel all over the world on behalf, of the LTTE. Balasingham and his Australian-born wife, Adele, promoted terrorism, with the latter publicly endorsing use of children as cannon fodder. The Balasinghams survived the LTTE’s proscription, as a terrorist organization, in the UK, and publicly represented the interests of the group. Europe never realized the folly in giving citizenship to foreign elements as long as they didn’t threat European political and security interests. European political parties loved citizens of foreign origin as they could be easily won over. TULF leader V. Anandasangaree’s son, Gary, would never have secured a Canadian parliamentary seat if not for successive Canadian governments offering citizenship to Sri Lankans. The UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF), too, wield immense influence due to electoral factors s revealed by a confidential US diplomatic cable, originating from its London mission, during the final phase of the Vanni offensive.

Europe should examine the circumstances under which Belgium offered citizenship to Abdelhamid Abaaoud (27), the mastermind of the Paris massacre. Abaaoud, a Belgian citizen, of Moroccan origin, and a notorious Islamic State extremist who died in a confrontation with French police at Saint Denis, on Nov. 18, ridiculed European security in the run-up to the operation. According to international media, Abaaoud mocked the European open-border Schengen system which allowed him to exploit the Syrian refugee crisis, faced by Europe, to enter France, unnoticed.

The French couldn’t have tracked down Abaaoud without the support received from the Moroccan intelligence services. On the other hand, France is among those countries which refuse to assist Sri Lanka to establish identities of those listed here as missing. France cited privacy laws to turn down a request made by the Paranagama Commission, inquiring into disappearances and alleged war crimes. The Report on the Second Mandate of the Paranagama Commission complained about Western powers refusal, though the report didn’t name any particular country. Those killed in France, on Nov 13 and 18, as well as suspects still evading arrests, are foreign elements though some of them had received citizenship in European countries. Obviously, Morocco responded positively to the French request. Had Morocco asserted that information couldn’t be passed to the French, regarding a Belgian of Moroccan origin, Abaaoud would have had an opportunity to mount a second phase of his campaign. France has admitted that there had been specific plans to launch major attacks, close on the heels of the Nov. 13 massacre. Morocco has revealed that the Belgian King Philippe sought Moroccan assistance in a telephone conversation with Morocco’s King Mohamed VI, calling for "close cooperation" in the fields of "intelligence and security."

Hollande is on record as having said: "Nov. 13 acts of war were decided and planned in Syria. They were organized in Belgium and perpetrated on our soil with French complicity with one specific goal: to sow fear and to divide us," Hollande told Parliament in a rare joint session convened at the Palace of Versailles.

"Syria has become the biggest factory of terrorism the world has ever known and the international community is still too divided and too incoherent."

The world turned a Nelsonian eye to what was happening in Sri Lanka for well over two decades in the wake of Indian intervention. Those demanding accountability, on the part of Sri Lanka, never bothered at least to deny safe havens to Sri Lankan terrorists. The UK, now on the forefront of the battle against ISIS, went to the extent of allowing the LTTE to set up its international Secretariat at No 211 Katherine Road, London E6 IBU. France was another safe haven.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The original suicide bombers of the world



by Shamindra Ferdinando

The French response to Nov. 13 Paris massacre should be examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka having to address accountability issues during eelam war IV (Aug 2006-May 2009).

In accordance with overall Western strategy, France, a current member of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), pushed for war crimes probe, targeting Sri Lanka. The Western project was meant to undermine the previous government of war - winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Western powers accused Sri Lanka of atrocities, as well as excesses. However, French counter-terrorism operations, launched in the wake of the Paris massacre, underscored the use of maximum force against a ‘target,’ according international media. Obviously, the French wanted the alleged ‘mastermind’ of the Paris massacre dead.

The French police fired over 5,000 rounds at a safe house, at Saint Denis, where Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, the suspected ‘mastermind’ of the Paris massacre was hiding. The French tracked down the jihadist within days after gunmen killed 130 persons in coordinated attacks.

According to the media, the suspect was first hit in the head by a police sniper and then blown to pieces by numerous grenades, during the raid in the suburb of Saint-Denis. The French had to conduct forensic tests to identify the mutilated body. The media, quoted Paris prosecutors, as having said the suspect’s body had been ‘riddled with bullets’, adding that it was unclear whether Abaaoud had detonated a suicide belt.

Three persons died in the assault, namely the Paris attack mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, his cousin, Hasna Ait Boulahcen, and another man who detonated his own suicide bomb which caused a massive explosion, (not Ait Boulahcen as previously thought).

France also dispatched her only nuclear aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle, to join the ongoing assault on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. The warship left for the Persian Gulf on Thursday (Nov. 19), six days after the massacre.

French delegation meets Army Chief

French Ambassador, in Colombo, Jean-Marin Schuh, and Rear Admiral Antonie Beaussant, Joint Commander of the French Forces in the Indian Ocean, paid a courtesy call on Friday afternoon (Nov 20) on Army Commander Lt. Gen. Crishanthe De Silva. Rear Admiral Beaussant arrived in Colombo to attend the sixth edition of the Galle Dialogue 2015 International maritime conference, organized by the Navy. Having expressed condolences, Lt. Gen. De Silva offered to share Sri Lanka’s experience in combating terrorism.

Sri Lanka can share her experience in fighting terrorism with France, as well as other members of the European Union. In spite of on and off setbacks and shortcomings, Sri Lankan police and military gained vast experience in fighting small groups of terrorist infiltrators, not only in the then operational areas, but Colombo, as well. Having sponsored terrorism, in Sri Lanka, in accordance with her Geo-political strategies, India, too, experienced small groups of Sri Lankan infiltrators, mounting attacks in the late 80s and early 90s.

Before further discussing India’s experience, in hunting down Sri Lankans, and Indians, involved in the May 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination, it would be pertinent to recollect the unprecedented LTTE assault on the World Trade Centre, and the Hotel Galadari, before a small group of terrorists seized control of a section of Lake House, during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s presidency. The LTTE struck around 7, on the morning of Oct 15, 1997, three days after the opening of the World Trade Centre. In spite of heightened security, in the city, and its suburbs, and severe restrictions on the movement of people from areas under LTTE control, to the South, the LTTE succeeded in infiltrating again. Prabhakaran mounted a devastating attack, on the Central Bank, on the morning of January 31, 1996.

The LTTE developed a fine strategy for infiltration. Those tasked with mounting attacks even used places of religious worship to coordinate attacks.

Europe under ISIS pressure

The ISIS would have found it relatively easy to infiltrate Paris due to lax border controls. Absence of effective security measures, within French borders, obviously facilitated the largest ever coordinated assault, within EU borders. The French assault, on the Saint Denis hideout, revealed their inexperience in handling such a situation. The firing of over 5,000 rounds of ammunition, during the siege, on the suspects safe house, revealed the absence of a clear strategy. Obviously, two hugely embarrassing incidents,, in the wake of Russia having to acknowledge the possibility of ISIS planting a bomb in a Russian airliner, last month. The Oct 31 blast, over Sinai, killed 224 persons, on their way from Egypt to Saint Petersburg.

In the aftermath of the May 21, 1991, suicide bombing that killed the then Congress leader, Rajiv Gandhi, at Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, India launched a major manhunt for those responsible. The wanted included both Sri Lankans and their Indian accomplices. The operation, spearheaded by the Special Investigation Unit of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), lasted nearly 100 days. Perhaps, Europe should closely study the LTTE infiltration, as well as the Indian search operation, leading to the elimination of the killer squad. There had never been an operation similar to that undertaken by India against a foreign undercover team.

At the time of humiliating security failure, Tamil Nadu had been under direct rule of the Central Government of India due to dismissal of the then DMK government. The take over took place after the Centre blamed the DMK for rapid deterioration of law and order situation.

The French tracked down the Belgian mastermind, of the Paris massacre, after having followed Hasna Ait Boulahcen, who also died in the police raid, whereas India was lucky to have retrieved a camera, from the Gandhi assassination site, which contained a series of shots of the scene, before the blast, captured by an Indian, on the LTTE’s payroll. The Indian photographer had been positioned close to the blast and he, too, perished. As the digital technology hadn’t been available at that time, the Indians didn’t realize the paramount importance of available evidence until the film roll in Chinon was developed. If not for the LTTE overwhelming desire to have the Gandhi’s assassination captured on film, the killer squad could have easily returned to Jaffna, across the Palk Strait.

The killer squad (remember, the team comprised Sri Lankans and Indians) carried out a ‘dry run’ at a propaganda meeting of the then Prime Minister V.P. Singh, at Chennai on May 7, 1991. Clearly, Indian security agencies hadn’t considered a real threat from the LTTE though its battlefield capabilities were known.

Israeli ambassador on LTTE


Former New Delhi-based Israeli ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mark Sofer, during an interview with this writer, in early 2011 said that his country was a victim of suicide bombing, pioneered by the LTTE. Sofer said that many Israeli civilians had been killed and wounded due to human bombs and Sri Lanka should be proud of achieving military victory over the LTTE. Sofer emphasized the strongest possible measures against terrorism and those sponsoring violence. At that time, Europe wouldn’t have at least considered the possibility of ever experiencing a security nightmare. Of the 10 ISIS personnel, killed in Paris, on Nov 13 and Nov 18, at least four certainly committed suicide by exploding explosives-laden vests.

Sofer said that the LTTE had influenced those causing mayhem in the Middle East. He alleged that LTTE suicide attacks had inspired those targeting Jewish targets.

It would be pertinent to recall that India created the LTTE, in the 80s, and the West paved the way for gradual build-up of the ISIS in accordance with its overall political-security strategy until it was too late. Having received Western financial and military backing, including advanced training, ISIS took on the West with devastating success.

LTTE inspires Oslo massacre

The LTTE, which once received the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) recognition as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people, inspired violence abroad. Norway’s worst atrocity is a case in point.

Norwegian Anders Behring Brevik massacred 77 persons, in July, 2011, in two separate attacks in Norway. Before the mass slaughter,

Breivik, in his 1,518 manifesto, which was released hours before he carried out the massacre, said had felt that Europe should follow the LTTE example of expelling the Muslims from Sri Lanka He had interpreted the expulsion of Muslims, from the North, in October/November 1990, by the LTTE, at gun point, as a move by the then government of Sri Lanka to drive out the Muslim community. 

The killer’s manifesto also referred to the Anuradhapura massacre, in 1985, and the slaughter of Muslims at the Kattankudy Mosque, in August 1990.

Remember, the al Qaeda attack on USS Cole in the port of Aden, on Oct 12, 2000, prompted the LTTE to proudly claim the operation was inspired by its own tactics. The mission killed 17 US personnel and injured 39 others.

The international community never bothered to examine the LTTE influence in grooming international terrorism.

The state-of-the-art Destroyer was rammed by a small craft, laden with explosives, which blew a 40 foot hole in the side of the guided missile ship.

The operation was very much similar to the Black Sea Tiger hit on surveillance command ship, ‘Edithara’, in the Kankesanthurai harbour, in the mid 90s.

Sea Tigers employed similar tactics in another successful attack on another SLN vessel, ‘Abeetha’, off Point Pedro, on May 4, 1991.

Soosai on Al Qaeda attack on USS Cole

Thillaiyampalam Sivanesan, aka Soosai, in an exclusive interview with BBC’s Francis Harrison, during the Oslo-managed Ceasefire Agreement, boasted Al Qaeda copied tactics from the LTTE. Soosai is quoted as having said that other terrorist groups should learn from the LTTE as the Al Qaeda had already copied them.

The interview, with Soosai, recorded during the LTTE celebrations of Heroes’ Day, and broadcast over BBC Television, was posted on the BBC Website’s South Asia section, under the heading, "Tamil Tigers Reveal Suicide Secrets" as a video clip. The news feature introduced the Black Tigers as "the Original Suicide Bombers of the World."

Referring to the attack on USS Cole, Soosai said "They are using our tactics. I think in Yemen they used our strategy of suicide attack to blow up an American ship. That is exactly what we used to do."

Soosai is believed to have been killed, in May 2009, while crossing the Nanthikadal lagoon with LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and his family.

Examination of LTTE’s project to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi, during the polls campaign in Tamil Nadu, should be a case study for Western intelligence services. The LTTE picked Pakischandran, of Udippidy, Jaffna, to spearhead the operation. The man was also identified as Raja Arumainayagam. The operative was also called ‘one-eyed Jack’, Sivarasan, Raghu and Raghu Anna. Having received military training from Indians, in the early 80s, Sivarasan had been a veteran undercover operative responsible for a spate of operations in India, including high profile killing of the EPRLF leader, Padmanabha, and 12 of his key associates, on June 19, 1990. India turned a blind eye to LTTE operations in Tamil Nadu. Having wiped out the EPRLF group, Sivarasan, who personally carried out the attack with another LTTE operative, returned to Jaffna. Although, Sivarasan could have crossed Palk Straits few times, subsequently to carry out Prabhakaran dictates though there was no record of such movements. However, the Sivarasan’s hit squad, assigned to assassinate Gandhi, reached Tamil Nadu on May Day, 1991, after leaving Madagal, on the previous day. The squad included two female suicide cadres. The squad stayed with Indians committed to the eelam cause until the May 21 assassination of Gandhi. Interestingly, Sivaran, wounded in action during Operation Liberation, was believed to have been moved by the Indian Air Force, Jaffna to India, soon after the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord, in late July, 1987.

Sivarasan, and the other suicide cadre, evaded Indian security agencies for near 100 days until troops surrounded their Bangalore hideout, on Aug. 19, 1991. Following a 30 - minute exchange of fire fight, the Indians laid siege to the building with the Black Cats deciding to delay a frontal assault until the next day. When the Black Cats entered the building without facing resistance, they found seven bodies, two female and five men, including Sivarasan; the man with many aliases Sivaran shot himself in the head while others took cyanide. The dead included Subha, the second suicide bomber sent in case Dhanu, for some reason, couldn’t go through the operation.

India disposed the bodies of those Sri Lankans perished in crackdown. At least 21 Sri Lankans committed suicide to avoid arrest. In addition to them, suicide cadre Dhanu claimed the life of Rajiv Gandhi. India never offered to send bodies of those terrorists back, nor Sri Lanka ever asked for them.

Western media, particularly some British media outfits, glorified the LTTE. The BBC’s coverage of LTTE suicide cadres promoted those who believed in violence.

In the wake of the Paris massacre, Europe stepped up security with Belgium recently experiencing a massive security scare.

The unprecedented crisis will compel Western powers to review granting of citizenship to outsiders. Tamils, of Sri Lankan origin, received citizenship at Sri Lanka’s expense. Having obtained citizenship of a particular country, they put pressure on that government and also worked jointly with similar groups to achieve political objectives. Sri Lanka having to face international scrutiny is a case in point.