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Sunday, 31 August 2014





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Sri Lanka's National Security – Part 2:

Reconciliation will enhance national security

Continued from last week

Another prominent LTTE-linked group emerged out of the British Tamils Association (BTA), which was active since 2001 in supporting the terrorism of the LTTE in Sri Lanka. In 2006, the leader of the BTA, Arunachalam Krishanthakumar, alias Shanthan, was investigated on suspicion of supporting terrorist activities.

 The Vembakkottai camp in Tamil Nadu was set up in 1990 to  accommodate Sri Lankan refugees.

As a result of these suspicions about the BTA, the British Tamils Forum (BTF) was formed in 2006 to carry on the same activities in a new guise. The BTF acted as an umbrella organisation that mustered support from the immigrant Tamil community and local British politicians to divide Sri Lanka.

With Shanthan's arrest by British authorities in June 2007 for providing material support to terrorism and his conviction in April 2009, and the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, the role played by the BTF needed to be changed to suit the post-war environment.

As a result of this, the Global Tamils Forum (GTF) emerged in February 2010, with many of the same members as the BTF. The head of the GTF is the so-called Father Emmanuel, a Priest who was once hailed by Prabhakaran as “a freedom fighter who has given leadership to a movement committed to setting up the homeland to Tamil Eelam.”

Father Emmanuel has been engaged in a pro-paganda campaign against Sri Lanka for many years, targeting Tamil expatriates, foreign governments and international organisations. He is known to have visited LTTE strongholds in Sri Lanka in mid-2000 to conduct training for selected youth who were earmarked to take up overseas appointments for fundraising and propaganda for the LTTE.

Inteligence cadre

Under Father Emmanuel's guidance, the GTF has successfully influenced a number of politicians from various political parties in European countries as well as the United States, Australia, Canada, and India to support the separatist cause. In addition, the GTF has courted officials within international organisations such as the United Nations, the European Union and various international non-govern-mental organisations. Part of the success of the GTF in these activities can be attributed to the influential pro-LTTE foreigners’ involvement in it. (All of the LTTE-linked groups are coordinated by the GTF and united by one overarching objective.)

Yet another group that is active internationally in supporting the separatist cause is the LTTE Headquarter Group, which is based in France and headed by Vinayagam, a senior intelligence cadre who managed to escape during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka. This group is known to engage in human smuggling, with some of its past operations including the sending of the Sun Sea and Ocean Lady vessels from South East Asia to Canada in 2009 and 2010.

The members of this group generally maintain a low profile and their movements are kept to a minimum as most of them have been issued Red Notices by Interpol for their involvement in criminal activities. They also keep their distance from both Nediyawan's and Rudrakumaran's groups, but still maintain links with the GTF.

International opinion

All of the LTTE-linked groups are coordinated by the GTF and united by one overarching objective. Their unwavering intent is the division of Sri Lanka and the setting up of a separate state of Tamil Eelam. There are several strategies through which they will try to achieve their objective.

These include: the winning of international opinion for the separatist cause; increasing international pressure on Sri Lanka in various areas including pushing for international investigations into war crimes and claims of genocide, and by encouraging international monitoring of the national reconciliation process; undermining all efforts of the democratically elected government of Sri Lanka to create a better future for its citizens through reconciliation and economic development; and continuing to push for the resumption of conflict through reorganizing local pro-LTTE elements within Sri Lanka.

The efforts of these LTTE-linked groups have been successful to a limited extent in that despite the war having ended four years ago, the internal affairs of Sri Lanka remain at the forefront of the UNHRC's sessions as well as at the top of the agenda of several prominent international NGOs.

It has to be noted that many of those who create this pressure by claiming to be human rights activists and victims of state repression are actually trained LTTE cadres and operatives now fully engaged in propaganda activities. It is important to understand that their attempts to pressure the government through international bodies such as the UNHRC and non-state actors, such as international NGOs, strengthen those who work against Sri Lanka's interests.

Same objectives

In this context it must be further realised that there are groups even within the democratic mainstream in Sri Lanka that obtain funding from the LTTE's international network and pro-LTTE elements overseas, which more or less openly talk about achieving the same objectives that the LTTE had. Though they appear to have a democratic face, their actions and remarks clearly show that the extremist separatist ideology has not yet disappeared.

Their ultimate objective is achieving the division of Sri Lanka. As a result of their actions and statements, it is very much a possibility that certain radical elements will feel empowered to once again attempt to take up arms in the name of separation. This is a major national security threat that needs to be taken with the utmost seriousness.

In addition to the threat of terrorism, Sri Lanka also faces a potential threat from other extremist groups. These are the remnants of the radical groups that were involved in previous insurgencies. Some of these groups are trying to reorganise within Sri Lanka and mobilise people to once again take up their extreme left wing causes.

There is information that some of these groups have started to establish ties to LTTE-linked agents to create further problems in Sri Lanka. Some of their activities include radicalizing students and encouraging them to take to the streets in various protests. Though such activities are still in their early stages, they pose another serious national security concern that must remain a consideration.

Ethnic cleansing

Another growing concern in the post-terrorism environment is the increasing communalism, which, if left unaddressed, could result in the rise of tensions in the future. During the period of the terrorism, it was not only the Sinhalese and Tamil communities that were affected by the terrorist separatism of the LTTE, but also the Muslims.

After the LTTE started engaging in ethnic cleansing in the North in the early 1980s, it expelled the Sinhalese community from Jaffna and soon after turned its attention to the Muslims. Several massacres were carried out at Mosques in the East, and in October 1990, the LTTE expelled more than 75,000 Muslim residents from the North. This was followed by further brutal attacks on Muslims in vulnerable villages near LTTE dominated territory.

In this environment, the Muslims also started to organize for their own protection against the LTTE. Since the LTTE's defeat, some of these groups have begun to engage in activities that stem far beyond self-protection. There is information that some of these groups have even tried to link up with global Islamic terrorist organizations. This is a situation that requires careful monitoring.

On a broader scale, it also must be acknowledged that one of the consequences of the terrorist conflict Sri Lanka endured for thirty years has been the increased insularity of ethnic groups. Rather than identifying themselves on the basis of nationality, the communities of Sri Lanka have begun to identify themselves on the basis of their ethnicity or their religion. Instead of calling themselves Sri Lankan, they identify themselves as Sinhalese or Tamils or Muslims or Buddhists or Christians.

This fragmentation of Sri Lankan identity is most unfortunate, because activists within these communal groups seek minority rights or ethnic rights rather than working within the framework of a common national identity.


The cross-border links that can arise as a result of such insular ethnic or religious identification are also troublesome. It is clear that there are some in the Tamil community who identify themselves more with the Tamil community of Tamil Nadu than with their fellow Sri Lankans.

This has been encouraged by some parties overseas who wish to promote the idea of a greater Tamil Nation. Similarly, it has been observed that there are some foreign groups that wish to encourage Sri Lankan Muslims to identify themselves more with the global Muslim community, thereby reducing their integration within Sri Lanka.

This trend has been particularly prevalent in the post-September 11 world in which a tendency among certain groups to try and influence the global Muslim community toward, religious extremism has become visible.

The increasing insularity and cohesion among minority ethnic groups has also led to the emergence of hard line groups from the majority community: the popularity of certain political groups and movements can be viewed as being largely a response to this trend.

In turn, the emergence of hard line groups in the majority community causes further tensions amongst other communities, which leads to a vicious cycle of greater fragmentation of the Sri Lankan identity.

Sri Lanka has had numerous divisions in the past that ultimately led to conflict, making this a very serious national security concern at the present moment. Sri Lanka must learn the lessons of its past, and ensure that history is not repeated.

The maintenance of maritime security is another serious national security concern for Sri Lanka. In the past, the only maritime security issues that had to be dealt with were the illegal movement of Indians into Sri Lanka and the smuggling that took place between Sri Lanka and South India.

Vast arsenal

Preventing these threats was one of the foremost duties of the military in the 1950s and the 1960s. However, with the evolution of the LTTE and other terrorist groups in the 1970s and beyond, maritime security imposed greater challenges.

For example, it is a well-known fact that the LTTE acquired a vast arsenal of weapons and equipment including artillery, missiles, mortars, armored vehicles and even light aircraft.

None of these items was produced in Sri Lanka, but were brought into Sri Lanka by sea. In addition to military supplies, the LTTE's cadres were initially trained at bases in Tamil Nadu. Given the recent activities of LTTE-linked organizations outside Sri Lanka and particularly in Tamil Nadu, this is very much a current threat.

The organised trafficking of persons or human smuggling is another significant maritime security issue. Organised groups, some of which are connected to LTTE-linked organisations, have lured many people seeking better economic prospects into this lucrative, illegal operation. In 2013 alone, more than 440 people have attempted to leave Sri Lanka illegally.

Having sold their properties and handed over all their wealth to the operators of these schemes, the victims of human trafficking find themselves trapped on board unsafe vessels along with hundreds of others, travelling to countries that will most often refuse them entry.

To make a compelling case for their acceptance by border control authorities abroad, such economic refugees often concoct stories about being persecuted in Sri Lanka, thereby damaging the country's reputation.

Furthermore, the mechanisms of human trafficking have enabled trained terrorists to escape justice in Sri Lanka and flee abroad to safe havens, from which they may once again attempt to cause problems to the country through other means.

Pirate fishing

A further consideration with regard to maritime security is the protection of our maritime assets. One of the problems Sri Lanka has faced in the maritime domain after the defeat of the LTTE has been the increasing incidence of pirate fishing in Sri Lankan waters by South Indian fishermen.

These fishermen use illegal practices such as bottom trawling to maximize their catch. This causes serious damage to the healthy fish stocks in Sri Lankan waters, and also adversely affects the livelihoods of native fishermen.

Protecting Sri Lanka's waters, both from these fishermen and others who might seek to exploit its other oceanic resources, including oil and gas, will be one of the key maritime security challenges for Sri Lanka in the future.

Somewhat further afield, the threat of international piracy is also a maritime threat to Sri Lanka.

The reach and sophistication of the pirates originating mostly from East Africa has been increasing in recent years. This factor undermines the security of these sea-lanes and could pose a serious problem to shipping in the region in the future.

This will have an impact on the country's economic security.

Terrorist groups

With regard to border security, one of the concerns Sri Lanka has is the possibility of the country being used as a transit point for transnational crime. The arrest of certain elements connected with extremist regional terrorist groups in India and Pakistan has shown that they have used Sri Lanka as a transit point from which to coordinate their activities.

Some, who are known to have been temporarily sheltered in Sri Lanka after claiming refugee status in the west, are known criminals engaged in illegal activities such as credit card fraud, drug smuggling and counterfeit currency printing abroad.

Organised crime in Sri Lanka is another issue that needs to be addressed. As a result of the rise of terrorism and the insurrections Sri Lanka experienced over the last forty years, and the response from the state, a considerable amount of arms and ammunition inadvertently fell into the hands of criminals.

In today's environment, the possibility of foreign interference in Sri Lanka's internal affairs remains a significant national security concern. With the involvement of countries like India, Norway, and the United States in Sri Lanka as a result of the recently ended terrorism, matters relating to this country's internal affairs have gained increased visibility within the international community.

India, in particular, is very sensitive to what is going on in Sri Lanka because of the large Tamil population in its influential southern state of Tamil Nadu. Especially during the elections cycle, Sri Lanka figures large in Indian politics.

In the recent past, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu even attempted to pressure the Indian government into opposing Sri Lanka internationally. This is a serious threat to Sri Lanka's security, and perhaps even its sovereignty.


Furthermore, as a result of the rapid economic and military development of countries like India and China in recent decades, the entire Asian region has become increasingly important in global affairs. Sri Lanka's important geostrategic position within the Indian Ocean region has brought it increasing attention.

It is conceivable some western powers might wish to have a Sri Lankan government that is closely aligned with their interests, and will seek to influence Sri Lanka's destiny so that it cannot pursue the independent course it is presently following.

A third factor that has led to Sri Lanka's increasing importance in the international arena involves regional power politics. Tensions between India and Pakistan and between India and China are particularly sensitive in this regard.

With China emerging as a world economic leader, there is a widespread belief that India will seek to align itself with the others similarly concerned at China's ascendancy. The likelihood of the United States showing more interest in the region and aligning more with India is a factor that may affect Sri Lanka.

Further, its establishment of a base in the Maldives is also changing the complexion of the region. These are developments that need to be monitored from the point of view of Sri Lanka's national security.


The final threat to Sri Lanka's national security is the emergence of new technology-driven media, including social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and other websites. Although the likelihood of events such as the Arab spring transpiring in Sri Lanka is minimal, because it is a democratic nation with an extremely popular political leadership that enjoys a very large electoral majority, this is still another threat that needs to be monitored.

Those with vested interests can exploit social media, causing problems in Sri Lanka or any other country, by circulating certain ideologies online and mobilising and organising people. This can be done with a minimal physical presence, and therefore constitutes a threat that is difficult to contain through the traditional tools of national defence.

National security response

The foregoing threat assessment makes clear that even in the present post-terrorism situation, national security remains very much a justified concern for the government. In addressing the challenges discussed above and developing a comprehensive national security strategy, it is important for the government to take a holistic view and incorporate many of its elements into a single policy framework.

In terms of internal security, the best response to most of the threats that we face is the development of the intelligence services. Sri Lanka has two primary intelligence arms; the State Intelligence Service and the Defense Intelligence, which comprises the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Directorate of Naval Intelligence, and Air Intelligence.

In addition, the police maintain the Special Branch, while the Special Task Force also has its own intelligence division.

The present government has brought these intelligence services under the Chief of National Intelligence.


Another important development in this regard has been the augmenting of resources allocated for the intelligence function. Although Sri Lanka today has no immediate need for offensive military operations, it is of the utmost importance that security measures not be relaxed.

The military is not engaged in law enforcement activities, and their visible presence has been greatly reduced. Still it is essential that the military remain in strategic locations throughout Sri Lanka. Particularly in the North and East, where we know that there are still potential threats to national security.

The recent arrest of some youth in Jaffna and Chennai, who had been recruited by a Chennai based LTTE-linked group funded by the LTTE's Europe-based network, shows the utmost need to remain vigilant.

Cordial relationship

It must also be underscored that as a sovereign nation, Sri Lanka has every right to place its security elements in any part of the country it so chooses. While some in the international community talk about the so-called militarization of the North and East, and some political parties in Sri Lanka decry the presence of the military in these areas, it must also be understood that the people of the North and East mostly have a cordial relationship with the military.

Regarding internal security the national identity system has been significantly improved. Because it was previously a manual, paper-based system, criminal and terrorist elements could easily obtain forged identity cards.

Enhancing domestic security will require national reconciliation and the forging of a common Sri Lankan identity.

Economic development is an absolute necessity in this regard. The fact remains that unless people enjoy a reasonable standard of living, peace and reconciliation are difficult to achieve.

Finally, it is of the utmost importance that Sri Lanka maintain cordial relationships with its allies.

Despite the present pressure from Tamil Nadu, it is essential to maintain a strong and healthy relationship with India. Relations with the many countries that helped Sri Lanka in the past, both in economic terms and political terms, should be strengthened further through skillful diplomacy and further development of mutual ties.

It is essential to continue to strengthen the existing cordial relationships with powerful nations such as China and Russia, which have permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. In this overall context, it is very important that the foreign policy of Sri Lanka is realistic.

Ultimately, the best way to ensure that Sri Lanka remains safe and strong in the future is for its citizens to put aside the differences of the past, unite as Sri Lankans, and work toward a better future for themselves and their fellow people.

Courtesy: CCO


LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lank
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)
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