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Fighting terrorism the British style

by Shamindra Ferdinando

British High Commissioner in Colombo Dominick Chilcott on Friday declared that the international community and the British government expected the highest standards of conduct from the Sri Lankan security forces, even at this moment of provocation – because they were representing and defending democracy. No nation’s armed forces were perfect – but when serious lapses in discipline occurred, they should be investigated fully and the perpetrators dealt with under the law. Emphasis is mine.

Three days later an LTTE suicide bomber blew up the Sri Lanka Army’s number three Maj. Gen. Parami Kulatunga on High Level road near Pannipitiya as he was being driven to Army headquarters. The killer will be remembered Wednesday (July 5) when the LTTE celebrates the annual Black Tigers’ Day in memory of a TULF MP’s son who carried out the first suicide mission.

Contrary to expectations the government did not at least order retaliatory strikes on pre-identified terrorist targets. This would have gladdened the international community. The government ordered limited retaliatory strikes in the immediate aftermath of high profile terrorist attacks beginning with the April 25 assassination bid on Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Government leaders are on record saying that they would pursue what defence spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella termed as a tit for tat policy. Did the government’s attitude change due to international pressure?

Chilcott chose a well attended party to celebrate the Queen’s 80th Birthday to pressure the government.

"The British Government shares with other governments and the people of Sri Lanka the strongest sense of horror and outrage at attacks on innocent civilians," he said. He welcomed the President’s statesmanlike call for restraint after the assassination attempt on the Army commander. The British Government shared the President’s belief that a tolerant, multicultural society was the best answer to those who foment hatred and ethnic division, he said.

The tone of Chilcott’s talk did not put off the locals from gobbling up and enjoying the British hospitality. What would have happened if Sri Lankan High Commissioner in the UK Kshenuka Seneviratne urged the British to quit Iraq or any other theatre of operations they were deployed in support of the US military?

Britain went ahead with her Iraq deployment despite protests by major EU powers including the French and Germans.

The government appears to have taken Chilcott’s advice seriously. The bottom line is that the Tigers could blow up Deputy Chief of Staff who may have succeeded the Army Chief even without facing a retaliatory artillery barrage. This would facilitate Tigers’ murderous quest for a separate State in the northern and eastern provinces. Wouldn’t the forces be demoralised?

The likes of Chilcotts should advise the London based Anton Balasingham, a former British High Commission clerk to give up violence. The British passport holder and his Australian-born wife Adele promote terrorism despite the group they represented being a proscribed entity in the 25-nation EU. The involvement of the British in helping the Balasinghams to reach the UK via Thailand after clandestinely leaving Sri Lanka during the CBK presidency and a hardcore LTTE cadre’s visit to HMS Chatham during the vessel’s deployment off Batticaloa in the aftermath of tsunami revealed British double standards. Sri Lanka is one of the few countries which backed the British military action against Argentina over the seizure of the Falklands Island in the 80s.

Sri Lanka has a legal right to self defence under the UN Charter. Are we going to give up this right? Are we merely going to condemn LTTE terrorism? Dear Mr. President, take meaningful action before it is too late.

Dear Mr. High Commissioner please take tangible steps to neutralise Tiger activity. The recent EU ban on the LTTE and the British proscription which came into operation years ago had not neutralised the group. The presence of Balasinghams and many other operatives is evidence that the group was largely free to operate. Funds raised in foreign countries facilitate LTTE terror. The UK based Tamil Diaspora remains perhaps the largest contributor.

A colleague of Chilcott years ago acknowledged this. David Tatham during a visit to Jaffna late August 1998 emphasised the urgent need to prevent overseas funding of the LTTE. Addressing a small gathering, he said, "What I would urge you to do is to appeal to the Tamil Diaspora-to your relatives and friends living abroad-to help, not in destroying this Island but in rebuilding it. I think you should be asking people living in England, Canada, Australia, wherever to send money to restore civilian life." It was Tatham’s third visit to Jaffna since troops brought it under government control in December 1995. Stressing the need for a negotiated settlement to Sri Lanka’s national problem, Tatham said, "WAR WAS WISHED ON THE GOVERNMENT." Emphasis is mine.

Tatham’s visit came in the backdrop of the assassination of Jaffna Mayor Sarojini, the wife of assassinated TULF MP Vettuvelu Yogeswaran. Referring to assassination (of Sarojini), he said, "We have to build the democratic structures of local government and I know that the murder of your previous Mayor was deplored all over the world. This was a blow to democracy and a blow to representative government and everyone saw this. It was an attempt to impose what you have described as gun culture."

Sarojini Yogeswaran’s successor P. Sivapalan who was among the audience as Tatham attacked the LTTE was killed the following month. Mrs. Yogeswaran was killed on May 17 1998. The LTTE blew up Sivapalan inside the building put up during Alfred Duraiappa’s tenure as the Jaffna Mayor.

I knew Parami Kulatunga for over 15 years. A devoted Buddhist, Kulatunga believed in a negotiated settlement but acknowledged the impossibility of bringing the LTTE back to the negotiating table. He strongly believed in no nonsense approach towards the LTTE.

In the aftermath of two claymore blasts last December National Peace Council Chief Jehan Perera claimed "these are tragic yet inevitable results of the stagnant peace process in which the CFA itself is not being fully complied with. The one-page statement dated December 9 justified LTTE terror. I believe the NPC included the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar too in this category. The international community was worse. The UN Security Council insisted on the implementation of the Oslo-arranged CFA. Japan in a statement issued as the serving UN Council’s country president said that UN Security Council wanted the government and the LTTE to implement the provisions of the CFA and to continue their dialogue to attain sustainable peace and stability. This statement came two days after Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala and Foreign Secretary H. M. G. S. Palihakkara called for an urgent review of the CFA. Dhanapala said that there would have to be a serious review of certain policies and procedures followed upto now in relation to the peace process. Sri Lanka’s call was ignored. Now the LTTE wants to amend the CFA to protest against the EU ban. Did Kadirgamar die in vain? No one will be able to fill his vacancy. HE WAS PEERLESS. As the international community and the British government expected the highest standards of conduct from the Sri Lankan security forces, even at this moment of provocation – because they were representing and defending democracy, the government did not at least order a limited retaliatory attack. Maj. Gen. Vajira Wijegoonewardene who proposed a genuine crackdown on LTTE activity in the city and its suburbs was unceremoniously removed from his command. Maj. Gen. Wijegoonewardene’s action plan was to neutralise the growing threat in the aftermath of Kadirgamar’s assassination.

For the benefit of Colombo-based peace merchants let me reproduce a report by Sky Television. This was in the immediate aftermath of a series of blasts in London on July 7 last year. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair was quoted by Sky Television as saying, "…I think we are quite comfortable that the (shoot-to-kill) policy is right but of course these are fantastically difficult times." Asked if the instructions were to shoot to kill if police believed a suspect was a suicide bomber, he said, "Correct. They have to be that." This statement was made after British police shot 27-year Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes five times believing the illegal immigrant was a suicide bomber. The London police paid for a holiday for one of their colleagues involved in the fatal shooting, a day after at least four suicide bombers botched a second string of attacks across London. The initial blasts in three subway trains and a bus killed over 50 people. Want to know who personally authorised the vacation for the officer involved in the shooting? Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, Britain’s top cop. All right thinking people would regret the killing of the Brazilian but hats off to Blair for standing by his men. I hope our top brass would do the same. -Island


June 28, 2006 - Posted by | Media Journalism, News and politics, South Asia, World News

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