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Neutralizing KP must be a key national security priority  - Prof.Rohan Gunaratna

Prof. Rohan Gunaratna

Head of International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Prof.Rohan Gunaratna is an expert on LTTE affairs. He was interviwed by the Daily News on the LTTE's defeat, Sri lanka's victory and beyond.

If you table the events/decisions and mistakes that caused the LTTE's downfall?

The decline of the LTTE commenced when its leaders at home and overseas lost their head. Extravagant lifestyles and corruption by LTTE leaders both at home and abroad as well as wastage of Tamil public funds by the LTTE to build an airforce and a maritime capability led to the steadfast decline of the LTTE. Instead of remaining a lean and a mean organization, the LTTE grew fat. The LTTE invested in aircraft, ships and other expensive technology projects that had no appreciable gain for the LTTE.

Furthermore, using the hard earned money of the suffering Tamils, the LTTE leaders both in Sri Lanka and overseas decided to live in luxury. The LTTE built aboveground and underground structures that were air-conditioned and purchased brand new vehicles including bullet proof vehicles.

Some of the recovered weapons used by the LTTE

To maintain this high level of expenditure, the LTTE built a systematic taxation system at home and abroad. By implicitly coercing and at times explicitly extorting the Tamils, the LTTE lost public Tamil support. Finally, in its last act to survive, the LTTE leader Prabhakaran held over 100,000 Tamils as a human shield. The LTTE as a group and Prabhakaran as a leader earned the anger of both the Tamils and the international community.

What would you term as 'the' biggest/fatal mistake the LTTE made during the final battle?

For two reasons, Prabhakaran was overconfident that the international community will come to his rescue.

First, Prabhakaran engineered a humanitarian crisis to save himself and the LTTE.

The very fact that the human shield was created by Prabhakaran could not be properly explained by the Sri Lankan diplomatic missions. Furthermore, the LTTE engineered demonstrations by Tamil diaspora and migrants from Canada to London and Sydney. However, only a few heads of Sri Lankan missions and staff in the foreign service were capable of communicating the deceptive role of the LTTE.

Second, the LTTE had penetrated Tamil community organizations in North America, Europe, Australia and in New Zealand. In return for pro LTTE statements in parliament and other public fora, the LTTE supporters approached Western politicians and promised them Tamil votes.

LTTE activists wore T-shirts of Canadian, Australian and New Zealand politicians and campaigned. LTTE financers supported the election campaigns of US and British politicians. When the defeat of the LTTE was imminent, few Western politicians with Tamil constituencies urged Sri Lanka to stop the fighting and agree to a ceasefire with the LTTE. Although a few shameless British and other European politicians came to the aid of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan Government did not fall into Prabhakaran's trap.

How did Sri Lanka managed to conquer one of the most ruthless terrorist organisations in the world in as a short period as 3 years?

The Government understood the importance of fighting the LTTE on all its fronts. Towards this, Government engaged and locked the LTTE on all its fronts, except the international front that needs to improve.

Unlike previous governments, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary of Defence coordinated the armed forces, the police, the intelligence service and other kinetic capabilities.

He was ably assisted by the army chief General Sarath Fonseka, Navy Chief Admiral Wasanthta Karannagoda, and the Air Chief Air Marshall Roshan Gunatillake. They had all suffered from the LTTE: their friends, colleagues and family members were killed.

They were highly motivated and highly competent.

They had all experienced battle and knew what exactly the ground commanders and troops needed to win. They worked hard, day and night, and every day, supporting the front line warrior to fight to the end.

Three principal strategies worked against the LTTE. The strategy of the army adopted by General Fonseka was to fight the LTTE in multiple fronts. It was not a fight for territory but to reduce the military strength of the LTTE.

The LTTE made a mistake by pouring in its fighters and resources to challenge the advancing Government forces. Once the overconfident LTTE was stretched out and weakened, the military started to dominate strategic stretches of land and close in on the LTTE leadership.

The strategy of the navy was to detect and disrupt the flow of weapons and other equipment to the LTTE fighting force. The strategy adopted by Admiral Karannagoda was to go after the LTTE.

Unlike any previous commander, Admiral Karannagoda guided his fleet to go out to the international waters and destroy LTTE ships supplying the killing machine in Sri Lanka. In addition to destroying high value targets, the strategy of the air force was to work closely and support the army and the navy to do their job effectively and efficiently.

How do you rate International community's role in the context of current op? What was their real objective?

There was a failure on the part of a few politicians in the West to recognize the brutality of the LTTE. The LTTE invented the suicide bodysuit in 1991. Today, a three dozen groups worldwide use this technology. The LTTE pioneered the use of maritime suicide attacks.

Although the LTTE kills in Sri Lanka, its propaganda, fund raising, procurement and shipping network is global. However, the foreign ministry had not been 100 percent successful in formally and informally educating foreign governments, international organizations and others that have an international voice of the true nature of the LTTE. Like the military, law enforcement and intelligence services, the foreign ministry should be proactive - before the threat develops, it must preemptively neutralize it.

What will be the LTTE's fate and KP's role hereafter?

(Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam alias Kumaran Pathmanadan (KP) is the Head of LTTE's International Wing, he has an Interpol red notice in connection with Rajiv Gandhi assassination. He is known to use 23 aliases and believed to have obtained Thai citizenship. This terrorist was recently named the LTTE's international spokesperson and was issuing LTTE media statements during final war).

If KP is not arrested or killed, he will revive the LTTE. In addition to working with the Thai authorities, Sri Lanka must initiate its own operation. More than ever before neutralizing KP must become a key national security priority for Sri Lanka. The principal function of the foreign service of Sri Lanka should be to advance its national security and foreign policy goals. The Sri Lankan foreign minister and the head of the Sri Lankan intelligence service must visit Thailand and remain in Bangkok until KP is arrested and handed over to Sri Lanka.

KP claim that LTTE leader is still alive?

KP is as deceptive as Prabhakaran. There is no question that Prabhakaran is dead. I have met him before and I saw the pictures of his body. But a DNA test would clear all doubts.

Rehab and reintegration of ex-cadres, a challenge?

Terrorists are the worst human rights violators. Although they are indoctrinated into believing that they are fighting for freedom, they have killed, maimed and injured thousands of people. They have also destroyed the dreams of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. To prevent regeneration, we have to dispel their ignorance.

As LTTE is a conscript and not a volunteer group any longer, Government should offer an amnesty to LTTE leaders and members.

Except for tier one leaders and others who have committed serious crimes, every member of the LTTE should be entitled for an amnesty, a job and security for the family. Government has appointed Suhada Gamlath, a very capable leader to head the rehabilitation effort. However, the rehabilitation authority needs resources. Foreign Governments, who are so much concerned about Sri Lanka should be asked to assist in the rehabilitation of LTTE members in the rehabilitation centres.


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