Push for LTTE ban in foreign States should continue
President Rajapaksa taking a closer look at Naval operations
Deputy Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda of the Attorney General’s
Department is a key figure involved in the anti LTTE operations
overseas, by coordinating and assisting in investigations and
prosecutions by foreign governments law enforcement agencies.
Also a regular member of the delegation to the UN Human rights
council since 1999 he shares his views with the Daily News on the local
legislative response to LTTE terrorism and the international effort to
crack down on the LTTE.
During the early years, the LTTE was involved in common bank
robberies and incidents where police officers were intimidated to snatch
their weapons with or without causing any injury. These were relatively
unsophisticated sporadic acts of violence. The normal criminal law and
the criminal justice system was applied to enforce the law with regard
to such incidents.
In 1975 the then Mayor of Jaffna Alfred Duraiappah was assassinated.
That was one of the first well organized terrorist acts. No special law
was brought in to deal with the incident. The only special feature was
that the CID conducted a detailed investigation. Inspector Bastian
Pillai of the CID was sent from Colombo along with a team. During the
course of the investigation, terrorists assassinated him as well.
Recently (before the
successful completion of the Wanni Operation) Senior Superintendent
of Police of Kankasanthurai (who is also a former CID officer) tracked
down a vital witness (an elderly Tamil gentleman who is leading a
religious life in Jaffna) who had seen Prabhakaran personally shooting
at Alfred Duraiappah at point blank range, when Duraiappah came to the
Ponnalai Hindu Kovil in the Jaffna Peninsula to engage in Sunday
Before the victim arrived, Velupillai Prabhakaran and his accomplices
had been waiting for him for quite some time. Having fatally wounded the
Mayor of Jaffna, Prabhakaran and three others who were with him had fled
in the vehicle in which Duraiappah arrived at the Kovil. Now with the
death of Prabhakaran, the case can be officially closed.
During the formative years of the LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran who
was then one of the vital activists of the organization was virtually
chased away from the LTTE. For well over one year he was disassociated
with the LTTE and spent much of his time in India. Uma Maheshwaran was
at the helm of affairs of the organization at the time. Then Prabhakaran
made a come back and chased away Uma Maheswaran. Thereafter, Maheswaran
formed the PLOTE. Of course later Prabhakaran killed Maheshwaran.
Since then and particularly following the riots of 1978, the trend
changed and a gradual increase in violence and sophistication was
witnessed giving the general sense that an organisation or an organised
effort was behind these acts. Those involved in these acts of violence
started sending explicit political messages by defacing street name
boards leaving only the Tamil and English versions, causing damage to
government property and
attacking the police and the security forces. During this period,
more and more Jaffna youths were seen joining hands with the
First ever legislative response
During this time the first ever legislative response to eradicate
terrorism in Sri Lanka was introduced. Parliament enacted a special
provisions law, the ‘Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act
of 1979’. It was imposed for just one year. The Government thought the
whole problem would be resolved within a year.
This basically criminalized certain specific terrorist activities and
imposed penal sanctions. Search and arrests without a warrant were
Incidentally, there appears to have then been an internal recognition
that the crimes committed by these groups were politically motivated.
There are international norms when people are convicted for having
committed political crimes, they ought not to be sentenced to death and
therefore murder of even the President under this special law carried
only life imprisonment as
apposed to the death sentence. In addition to the Prevention of
Terrorism Act, Emergency Regulations were brought in under the Public
Security Ordinance by the President on the
grounds that there was a threat to national security, maintenance of
public order and essential services.
At the end of the year, the Government realized that terrorism had in
fact increased as opposed to being abated or controlled. Therefore the
Parliament decided to extend the operational period of the Prevention of
Terrorism Act by another three years.
At the end of those three years, also terrorism was not over. In fact
the situation had further aggravated, and therefore, the Parliament took
away the ‘temporary provisions’ part and made it a permanent law. The
PTA remains in force to-date.
In 1978 the Parliament proscribed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE). Only the LTTE was proscribed, though during this era there
were a few other groups also involved in terrorist activities. However,
the real threat was posed by the LTTE. There was total justification to
proscribe the LTTE.
LTTE activities outside Sri Lanka
However, the mere proscription of the organization does not appear to
have controlled the LTTE and its activities both within and outside Sri
Following the proscription in 1978, becoming a member of the LTTE,
wearing their insignias, attending in meetings, distributing leaflets,
displaying flags, all these were criminalized and penalized. This law
was repealed in the mid 80s to facilitate the political dialogue with
the LTTE in Thimpu.
For this very noble cause the proscription was lifted. But the
emergency and the PTA continued. Of course the LTTE made use of the
de-proscription to organize and strengthen their ranks further and were
not committed towards the development of a political solution to the
Again following the terrorist attack on the Sri Dalada Maligawa in
January 1998, the LTTE was once again proscribed under the Emergency
Regulations. Of course by this time the LTTE was a full blown terrorist
organization de-facto and illegally controlling certain area of the
Northern and Eastern Provinces and engaged in conventional war-fare with
the security forces.
During the very early stages of the Norwegian brokered Peace Process,
an undertaking under the Ceasefire Agreement, the Government under took
not to cause arrests and searches under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Contrary to public belief, the PTA was never officially repealed.
However, in practice a de-facto moratorium on enforcement of all
provisions of PTA took place. Further, certain LTTE cadres who were in
detention were released in early 2002. This included most of the members
LTTE wanted to be released. We later saw repercussions arising by such
Following the change of Government in late 2005, the entire policy
towards the LTTE and terrorism perpetrated by the organization changed.
Following the failed attempt on Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
(December 2006) a new set of regulations called ‘Emergency (Proscription
of Terrorism and Specified Terrorist Acts) Regulations 2006’ was brought
in under the Public Security Ordinance. The primary objective of these
regulations was to isolate the LTTE and also to prevent people and
transacting with the LTTE.
This was a time various bodies, particularly International non
governmental organizations were engaged in various transactions with the
LTTE in relation to various projects in the Wanni area.
Under the new regulations, a Competent Authority was established to
give clearance for projects which involved transactions with the LTTE.
Further, provision was made to external agencies to provide humanitarian
assistance and emergency medical services.
But the most important feature of that set of regulations was, for
the very first time in our history we defined and declared in the
regulations what in our view terrorism is - ‘a definition of terrorism’.
In the international front there is no consensus on a common
definition for what terrorism is. There are two major debates. One is a
philosophical argument as to where liberation (which is lawful) ends and
terrorism (which is unlawful) begins.
Liberation is a lawful right, even under the UN charter. If a group
of people who have the right to self determination under International
Law engages in the use of force for the purpose of liberating its people
so that they could exercise the right to self determination, that is a
lawful process. That is why independence movements are not contrary to
This was why the Palestine Liberation Organisaton was considered
lawful and the Uva Wellassa uprising as well as other freedom struggles
can be deemed legal.
Theory of the traditional homeland
This was the very reason late Foreign Minister Mr. Lakshman
Kadirgamar spent nearly a full decade in attacking that lobbying
strategy of the LTTE. He successfully ensured that there was a global
rejection of the Eelamist theory that the Tamil people acting alone has
the right to self determination. It is the entirety of the Sri Lankan
people; the Sinhalese,
Tamils, Muslims, Burgher acting together who have the right to self
determination. Mr. Kadirgamar also demolished the LTTE theory of the
That is why the international community finally accepted that the
LTTE was not a ‘liberation movement’, that they were not engaged in an
‘independence struggle’. Therefore the international community started
accepting our position that violence perpetrated by the LTTE was
unlawful even under International Law, that those acts were criminal,
what the LTTE was doing amounted to terrorism and therefore that the
LTTE was a terrorist organization. That was how the international
proscription of the LTTE commenced. We cannot and should not ever forget
Mr. Kadirgamar’s contribution towards the elimination of the LTTE.
We are actually indebted to him for ever. On a day like this, we have
to remember him with a great degree of gratitude and appreciation. I
need to also add that, he really loved and appreciated our security
He held them in high esteem. In view of the need for an international
comprehensive Convention on Terrorism, India mooted a single convention
on terrorism which contains amongst other provisions a definition of
This draft is being debated by countries for the last decade in New
York, without consensus emerging. At the end of 2006, we came out with a
very indigenous definition on terrorism under the Emergency Regulations.
This was made after extensive study of the Indian definition, the UK’s
Anti Terrorism Law and the USA’s Patriotic Act.
Early this year (2009) Sri Lanka again listed the LTTE as a terrorist
organisation. This is the local legislative response to LTTE terrorism.
Internationally following the initiatives by the late Foreign
Minister and currently continued by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama
and the Foreign Secretary Dr.Palitha Kohona, the LTTE was proscribed by
Canada, US, UK, EU, India but unfortunately not in Australia.
Soon after 9/11 the Security Council took this new initiative and the
famous resolution 1373 was adopted, applicable to all member states.
This declares 17 organisations including Al Qaeda, Kurdish Republican
Army and the LTTE as terrorist organisations. Member states are required
to take certain measures to stop fund raising activities. Australia also
enacted these laws.
By virtue of that LTTE is declared a terrorist organisation in
Australia and thus required to prevent terrorist funding. But still the
LTTE is not a proscribed terrorist organisation on Australian soil.
We have to continue our Foreign Ministry initiative to engage the
Australian government extensively to get the LTTE proscribed.
The elimination of the LTTE here does not mean an end to LTTE
internationally. A weakened LTTE still exists overseas thus there is the
need to continue our diplomatic push to get the LTTE proscribed in other
countries under national laws. The military operations would have come
to a conclusion but the next fight will be on the diplomatic front to
ensure the complete demolition of this terror outfit.
Crack down on LTTE international cells
In US, UK, France and Australia, there have been major successes in
attacking LTTE cells and fund raising initiatives. In particular
Operation Osmium conducted by Scotland Yard as well as Operation
Halophyte by the Australian Federal Police have led to major
breakthroughs, leading to the arrest of major suspects and prosecutions.
The FBIs crackdown on the LTTE cell in New York had been so successful
the suspects in the end agreed to plead guilty.
Operation Halophyte was initiated following a confidential memo
submitted by the then Sri Lankan Envoy Maj.Gen. Janaka Perera on the
fund raising activities conducted by LTTE operatives in Australia.
Four suspects were arrested in connection and the main suspect P.
Jeyakumar died of an heart attack before the arrest was made.
It has been found the first LTTE aircraft was procured by the funds
collected by this suspect. The arrests were made in May 2007 and the
prosecution began in July the same year.
The case is still continuing. Jayakumar was posthumously conferred a
Mahaveer title which only three others so far have received including
Balasingham, by Prabhakaran and a parallel funeral in Kilinochchi while
his last rights were being performed in Sydney.
Operation Osmium by Scotland Yard was initiated after a close
surveillance on three LTTE leaders who organized a mass rally in Hyde
Park in London in 2005. Four were arrested in the operation including
the London’s LTTE leader A.C.Shanthan (51). The case has been concluded
with convictions but the suspects are yet to be sentenced.
This was one of the most successful operations conducted by a foreign
state against the LTTE. Four LTTE operatives S.Sarachandran,
S.Sabaratnam, T. Thanigasalam and N.Yogarasa pleaded guilty on January
27, 2009 to all charges including conspiracy to acquire several dozen
surface to earth missiles and provide material support to LTTE.
They were caught in an LTTE undercover sting operation while
attempting to purchase heat seeking anti aircraft missiles, missile
launches and 500 AK-47 automatic rifles. They face a statutory sentence
of 25 years in prison.
The Director of American Wing of the LTTE Karunakaran Kandasamy from
Queens, NY was also arrested by the FBI in a separate case. Karunakaran
operated through a front organisation called the World Tamil
Coordinating Committee (WTCC). The crackdown on the LTTE is still
continuing in the US.