World will see first-hand progress in Sri Lanka – Prof. Rohan Gunaratna
International terrorism expert Prof. Rohan Gunaratna in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer sheds light on the do or die attempts of key LTTE fronts and their affiliates to shift the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) venue from Sri Lanka and the reasons behind the move.
“The defeated terrorists and their supporters are aware that if the CHOGM is successfully held in Sri Lanka, the world will witness at first hand the amazing progress Sri Lanka has achieved in the last three years,” he said adding that the London-based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) is the umbrella organisation of the LTTE rump”.
Prof. Gunaratna is the Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
The excerpts of the interview:
Q: UK based Global Tamil Forum has said that it is planning to influence the British Government in a bid to discourage the UK’s participation in the forthcoming CHOGM in Sri Lanka. It is a known fact that GTF is one of the faces of LTTE’s international wing. Your comments?
A: The LTTE after its defeat, transformed from a terrorist group to a propaganda organisation. The LTTE international Secretariat’s functions are now carried out by the GTF. Except procurement and shipping weapons from North Korea, almost all the other activities from propaganda to lobbying, recruitment to financing, are carried out by GTF and its constituents from Canada to Australia. Located in London, GTF is the umbrella organisation of the LTTE.
Traditionally, the LTTE had its International Headquarters in London and those who staffed the HQ and conducted its activities now work in or support GTF and its affiliates. The Sri Lankan and foreign governments are aware of the origins and links of terrorism to GTF, but they have not legally listed GTF as a terrorist front. The individuals associated and entities affiliated with the GTF are under scrutiny by some governments. Until the GTF is proscribed, it will conduct activities inimical to the interests of Sri Lanka and will remain a threat to Sri Lanka.
Q: The degree of support the GTF has mustered is evident by the fact that for the past two years or so they have secured the House of Commons to hold one of their important annual events, the GTF meeting this year was concluded in February. Leading British Government members take part in this event. Do you think that they will succeed in their efforts in exerting pressure on the British Government to stay away from the CHOGM?
A: The GTF’s mode of operation is not different from the way the LTTE operated overseas. The LTTE never operated as the LTTE as the organisation is legally proscribed. Similar to the Like LTTE, the GTF also operates through various front, cover and sympathetic organisations that are very innocuous.
The GTF affiliated organisations take the face of human rights, humanitarian, political, social, cultural, educational, media, community and charity organisations. They approach governments, UN and other international organisations, NGOs especially human rights NGOs, the media, elite community in the host country, and Tamils living overseas.
The GTF and affiliates influence these six categories through lobbying and campaigning. The GTF and affiliates are becoming good at using Tamil votes and funds to convince British and Canadian politicians. Some are desperate to win the minority ethnic votes. The leaders and members of GTF and their affiliate organisations project they can muster tens of thousands of votes but increasingly the Tamils are distancing themselves from these LTTE tainted organisations.
Q: What is the history of GTF? Isn’t the British Government aware of its roots? The LTTE is a banned organisation in the UK, then how come their front organisations are allowed to operate at their free will?
A: The British Government is serious about fighting terrorist groups and their supporters who pose a threat to British citizens and interests. Like most governments, the UK acts against groups when they directly threaten their interests. The British political parties especially the ruling party is susceptible to electoral and constituency pressure applied by GTF and other LTTE constituents.
The British and Canadian politicians are most susceptible as they host the world’s largest Tamil migrant and diaspora populations. In turn, British and Canadian politicians put pressure on their government officials. Although New Scotland Yard in the UK and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Force is aware of the LTTE links to the GTF and its affiliates, banning the GTF is largely a political decision.
The Sri Lankan government has not been serious in countering the LTTE overseas: it has always relied on their foreign counterparts to do it. Its Foreign missions and staff are not oriented to this task and they have no plan of action. The Sri Lankan government focus is domestic.
Q: In your opinion what are they trying to prove by asking the world leaders to boycott the Commonwealth Summit scheduled in November?
A: CHOGM is one of the most prestigious events in the global calendar. The focus of LTTE remnants overseas is to disrupt CHOGM from being held in Sri Lanka. The defeated terrorists and their supporters are fully aware that if the CHOGM is successfully held in Sri Lanka, the world will witness at first hand the amazing progress Sri Lanka has achieved in the last three years. In record time, Sri Lanka resettled 283,000 Tamils held hostage by the LTTE, rehabilitated and reintegrated 12,000 LTTE cadres, and invested in unprecedented development in the war-affected North and East.
The LTTE and its premier umbrella organisation, the GTF have not given up its political goal of separatism and seeks to discredit Sri Lanka. By standards of other troubled zones like Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Xinjiang. Sri Lanka’s progress is immense since it defeated one of the world’s most ruthless and deceptive terrorists groups.
By Manjula Fernando