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.