5 December, 2020

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Counter-Terrorism: Learning From The Sri Lankan Experience

By Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

I thank the Malaysian Institute of Defence and Security for organising the Putrajaya Forum, which affords an invaluable opportunity for those involved in Defence and Security from many countries to discuss topics of mutual importance. This session, which examines the Influence of Non State Actors and their Impact on Global Security, essentially sums up much of the content discussed at this Forum over the last two days. Strengthening Security and Regional Stability in today’s context requires us to pay considerable attention to the emerging threats posed by non-state actors.

As a country that suffered three decades of ruthless terrorism, there is a great deal that can be learnt from the Sri Lankan experience with non-state actors. Described by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation as “among the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world”, the LTTE was no ordinary terrorist group. Among its more than one hundred thousands victims were a serving President of Sri Lanka, a former Prime Minister of India, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and many other politicians and state officials including most moderate Tamil leaders, as well as tens of thousands of civilians. They attacked some of Sri Lanka’s most sacred places of religious worship, and many of the country’s most important economic targets including the Central Bank and the International Airport. At its height, the LTTE had more than 30,000 battle-hardened cadres and a large number of auxiliary forces; large stockpiles of modern armaments, ammunition and equipment; a sophisticated naval wing and a fast developing air wing. It effectively controlled large extents of the country’s territory and a considerable proportion of its coastline. It was a non-state actor of great power and reach, and it posed an extreme threat to Sri Lanka until its defeat in May 2009 through a military operation launched by the Government.

A key part of the LTTE’s modus operandi was to mobilise support for itself by heightening ethnic and communal feeling in expatriate Tamil populations all over the world, a considerable number of whom are of Sri Lankan origin. Extremist elements within the diaspora were mobilised by LTTE operatives and front organisations in more than thirty countries around the world to help fund terrorist activities in Sri Lanka. The scale of funds mobilised is estimated to have been between 50 to 75 million US dollars on an annual basis from 1993 to 2002, and 200 million US dollars per annum from 2002 to 2008. Fundamental to the fundraising effort was a carefully orchestrated propaganda campaign that gave wrong information to expatriates and the international community about what was happening in Sri Lanka. Fear was created within the diaspora through extortion and gang activity to help raise funds. A number of organised illegal activities including various types of fraud, the smuggling of narcotics, and the illegal trafficking of persons were also used for fundraising. Funds were also invested in various business ventures, and even in hedge funds.

The vast majority of the funds raised by the LTTE was used for its procurement of arms internationally. The scale of this arms procurement and trafficking operation provides a worrying illustration of the strength to which non-state actors can sometimes aspire. Over the years, the LTTE managed to procure a formidable arsenal of weapons from various sources around the world. In this arsenal were surface to air missiles, all calibres of artillery guns, heavy and medium mortars, anti-aircraft guns, armoured vehicles, light aircraft, rocket propelled grenades, machine guns, small arms, ammunition, and large stocks of high explosives and landmines.

These items were transported through the terrorists’ shipping network, which comprised more than 20 large vessels and a considerable number of trawlers registered under different flags. These ships used the harbours and ports of many different countries on pretence they were transporting civilian cargo, or by circumventing security measures through unlawful means. Their crewmembers of were terrorist cadres traveling under assumed identities using passports of different countries. Several large vessels lay anchored in international waters off the coast of Sri Lanka, functioning as floating warehouses from which weapons were smuggled to shore through smaller boats. During the Humanitarian Operation, the Sri Lanka Navy went a long distance into high seas on several occasions to destroy these floating warehouses, which ultimately helped curtail the terrorists’ offensive capabilities.

That a non-state actor can mobilise, maintain and successfully utilise a global network to strengthen and sustain terrorist activities in a sovereign nation is a matter of very serious concern. The establishment of such a network effectively involves the setting up of terrorist cells in a number of countries. That this could take place virtually unhindered is a serious threat to global security. Even today, although there is no more terrorism in Sri Lanka, the terrorists’ global network continues to function largely unhindered. It continues to sustain an international propaganda campaign against Sri Lanka through front organisations that have now put on a democratic face. Some nations seem to have chosen to turn a blind eye to these front organisations and their activities because they claim to support political activism or humanitarian relief. At the same time, the network’s operatives, most of whom are trained terrorists, remain involved in various illegal activities, and are constantly seeking ways to revive terrorist activities in Sri Lanka.

In addition to the direct threat to sovereign states posed by the existence of a non-state actor’s global network, there are less obvious security considerations also to be borne in mind. The likelihood that the resources of one non-state actor can be used by other groups for different purposes should not be taken lightly. Furthermore, non-state actors have shown a capacity to learn and emulate one another’s tactics. For example, the LTTE was the first terrorist group in the world to use suicide cadres wearing bomb jackets as an effective weapon against its targets. This tactic has been replicated by a number of terrorist organisations around the world. The LTTE’s use of high explosives laden vehicles in attacks against civilians has also been replicated by other terrorist groups in later years. The tactic of using bomb laden small boats for terrorist attacks was pioneered by the LTTE in the 1990s, but was also used by al-Qaeda against the USS Cole in the year 2000. This cross fertilisation of ideas amongst non-state actors engaged in terrorism is a considerable concern from the point of view of global security.

Apart from terrorism and arms trafficking, the most serious activities by non-state actors in today’s context include people smuggling, narcotics trafficking and sea piracy.

People smuggling is a serious issue affecting the Asian region as well many other parts of the globe. Primarily due to economic reasons, large numbers of people seek to leave their countries of origin and migrate illegally into developed nations. Between 2009 and 2013, 88 boats transporting 4273 illegal migrants out of Sri Lanka were intercepted and arrested by the Sri Lanka Navy. The Navy has also been involved in the mid-sea rescue of three people smuggling vessels originating from other countries, which were headed towards Thailand, Malaysia and Australia. In addition, 1,315 illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka have been repatriated to this country by other nations over the last three years.

People smuggling has become a lucrative business for organised criminals, who paint a false picture about the lives illegal immigrants will lead after they have reached their destinations. But in reality the victims of people smugglers most often find themselves in very serious trouble. Having sold or mortgaged their properties and given over their entire wealth to the smugglers, they end up in terrible conditions, trapped aboard unsafe vessels along with hundreds of other illegal migrants. Sometimes these boats fall into serious difficulties, threatening the lives of all on board. If and when their passengers are rescued or intercepted by the Navies or Coast Guards of other nations, these nations face the problem of accommodating them. Quite often, the legal mechanisms for dealing with illegal immigrants are cumbersome and time consuming. Ultimately, most illegal immigrants end up in temporary accommodation for a very long time until eventually repatriated or settled in a third country.

The links between people smuggling and other transnational crimes carried out by non-state actors remains a matter of great concern for global security. Much of the people smuggling activities that has taken place out of Sri Lanka has involved the LTTE’s international network, which turned to this lucrative business after the defeat of its terrorist outfit in May 2009. Charging thousands of dollars per person, its ships transported large numbers of illegal immigrants through international waters to other nations and regions such as South East Asia, Europe, Australia, and Canada since the end of the war. In addition to continuing to fund the terrorists’ agenda, this is especially disturbing because it has allowed trained terrorists and other criminal elements to escape justice in Sri Lanka and pose a threat to the domestic security of nations they have entered.

The illicit trafficking of narcotics is another serious concern in today’s context. Although narcotics smuggling through land routes used to be at a much higher scale than it is on sea, the increase in conflicts in certain nations and the greater countermeasures taken by various states to obstruct land routes for drug traffickers has resulted in sea routes being used more and more often. Some African ports are emerging as transhipment hubs for Drug cartels. These use fishing boats, specially modified vessels and even exploit containerised cargo to transport drugs including opiates from the Golden Crescent and the Golden Triangle, and cannabis and amphetamine-type substances from these and other regions. The increasing presence of narcotics detection forces on the high seas, and the resulting increase in interceptions has provided some deterrent to drug trafficking in recent years. However, this remains a serious problem that needs to be addressed by many nations. It should also be noted that, as with the issue of people trafficking, money generated from the drugs trade has also been linked to terrorism and other transnational crimes.

The solution to money laundering, the illicit trafficking of weapons, people smuggling, and drug trafficking, is to increase cooperation amongst nations. More effective sharing of intelligence between countries, increased coordination between law enforcement agencies and the relevant Government departments, and the establishment of bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to combat these issues cooperatively is critical if they are to be prevented. Countries cannot effectively address transnational crimes on their own accord. For its part, Sri Lanka has worked together very closely with Australia on the issue of human smuggling in the recent past. Measures taken to discourage illegal travel through advertising campaigns and public awareness programmes, as well as enhanced surveillance and ground patrolling by Security Forces has led to a decline in people smuggling out of Sri Lanka in recent years. The Sri Lankan Government has also recently worked with the Governments of India and the Maldives on establishing a trilateral agreement for cooperation in the maritime domain. Under this agreement, which is now being considered for expansion to the Seychelles and Mauritius, there will be sharing of information to enhance maritime domain awareness, technical cooperation on the tracking of vessels, coordination of maritime search and rescue, and greater cooperation on curbing illegal activities such as drug trafficking, people smuggling and sea piracy.

The rise of Somali piracy around the turn of this decade seriously threatened one of the world’s busiest trading routes. Incidence of Somali based pirates attacking passing ships and taking crews hostage became more and more common in the Arabian Sea off the Gulf of Aden. The range of the pirates began to increase significantly with the use of mother ships that transported small skiffs to attack and capture commercial and fishing vessels. Ransoms paid for the release of such ships and their crew increased over time, as did the physical dangers posed by the pirates, which led to considerable pressure on the international shipping industry. However, as a result of international naval pressure and other mechanisms, Somali piracy has seen a significant downturn in recent years.

Apart from the counter piracy operations conducted by various multinational task forces, one of the primary causes of this downturn was the increasing presence of armed private security teams on-board merchant vessels. I am pleased to note that Sri Lanka is one of the countries that has taken the lead in providing such security services. The Government created a Maritime Division in a fully state-owned security company to provide weapons and ammunition to private maritime security companies engaged in on board security duties. Later, through a Public Private Partnership with a local private security company, Sri Lanka started to provide vessels with on board security teams. These teams include former Navy personnel with considerable experience in combating attacks on sea. Further, the Sri Lankan Government provides considerable logistics support for on board security teams from other nations, subject to stringent regulations and strict supervision.

In summary, upholding national, regional and global security is a tremendous responsibility, and adequate safeguards are required to curb the threats posed by various non-state actors. One of the most critical strategies that nations can employ in this regard is to increase cooperation with each other on this issue through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms. In concluding, I hope that these brief remarks will provide several points of departure for the discussions that will take place during the rest of this session.

Thank you.

*Full text of the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s speech “Influence of Non-State Actors: Impact on Global Security” at the 14th Defence Services Asia Exhibition and Conference currently underway in Malaysia. 

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Latest comments

  • 3
    6

    Nowadays nations are extremely careful about declaring war against another nation. Yet super powers use internal wars as strategies for achieving external objectives. Destabilizing production, disrupting markets, blocking market access and challenging market and political dominance are some of the external objectives. Sri Lanka is caught in such a cold war due to super powers suffering from China and India syndrome. The west has now gone down to very low levels of using drug barons as informants. The GOSL need to exercise care in sharing experience and intelligence because the west has begun to liaise with the underworld to create internal disputes to achieve strategic external objectives.

    • 4
      1

      I mean, what (@Professional)above says is very informative….

      But, we prefer line that says in his comment:
      ” The GOSL need to exercise care in sharing experience and intelligence because the west has begun to liaise with the underworld to create internal disputes to achieve strategic external objectives.”

      The GOSL was never cared when they decided the uncaring law or the fools in 1956, then in 1983, 2009….

      The self control has gone out of the hands of the GOSL. 100 years of careful initiation & implementation of Racism on the minority population has gone over the roof. ITS PAY BACK TIME.

      No matter what speech given by who, to whom…the world is going through a complete overhaul of the prevailing systems that governs the world populations with mass murder and mayhem.

      God has decided to give the MASS MURDERERS their due back to them.
      We will have wait and see how the MMG (Mass Murdering Govts.)in world around going to find a refuge….THERE”S NO REFUGE FOR THEM.

      UPFA is getting ready to feel the pain of murder and death….LET’s WATCH THE SHOW…anybody having Popcorn?????

      • 1
        0

        “Counter-Terrorism: Learning From The Sri Lankan Experience”

        Yes, if anything can be learned here, first one is to label fight for self determination and war of liberation as terrorism, and get it approved by the world powers to suit their selfish ends.

        Get all independent reporters out of conflict zones.

        Starve the civilians and deprive them the basic needs such as medicine, fresh water, shelter, safety, etc.

        Indiscriminately kill the civilians and tell the world that you are killing terrorists.

        Ask the civilians to gather in “No Fire Zones” and bomb them intensively to kill the most.

        Don’t allow any independent reporters to visit the war zone during and after the end of war.

        Dispose the bodies of civilians killed without trace.

        In summary, commit genocide of people demanding freedom and self determination.

        Get the UN to praise you for finishing the war using your shills from various countries in the UN.

        That’s all you have to learn: Commit mass murder under cover of fighting terrorism and fool the world!

  • 4
    1

    LTTE, the armed freedom fighters, collected money, bought arms and fought with the oppressors.

    1983, when the government soldiers were attached, the government attached the Tamils on the entire island, in retaliation. That is how the GOSL taught LTTE how to retaliate, without meeting the fight. But, LTTE changed that method as if the peoples attached by government in the name of communal trouble, they attached peoples. If conventional fighting carried out they matched it too. So, from 1983 to 2012, when Mahinda threatened Sampanthar with communal violence and stopped him attending the UNHRC meeting, there was no talk of communal troubles in Sri Lanka. Every Tamil protected from communal Trouble liked the method LTTE used to fence off the communal Troubles which were carried out by successive GOSL as an annual celebration. Government murdered Pararajasingam, Ravi, Kathirgamar and many other Tamil politicians, Many NGO employees and so on….. It is not investigating. International Eminent Personnel, who participated in the murder inquiry committed by the GOSL, resigned because of the government’s partiality. Pirapaharan was arrested in Indian and he was constantly sought after by Indian army that invaded Sri Lanka. It ended up in revenges.

    Government Killed 300,000 to 500,000 Tamils during the war, which it fought after banning local and international media and deporting International NGOs. Everybody is asking if the government can rebut it, come for and international inquiry. As an answer to that, Lalith Weeratunga went to America and threatened with chaos in Sri Lanka, to prevent truths coming out. To deliver that promise, last week, three Tamil boys were murdered like a human sacrifice in Nedunkerny.

    Human smuggling, illegal arms trading, narcotics trading are done, in large scale, by GOSL. Britain has been employing spies in Pakistan to catch GOSL. Sri Lankan ships involved in arms smuggling, has been stopped in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Abu Dhabi, …. The Sri Lankan arms smuggling plane was stopped in Thailand and the Eastern European pilot said he was taking those to Sri Lanka. Australia has many times caught the human smuggler claiming they are of GOSL personals. The only Western Democratic country that did not proscribe LTTE, but voiced against any international action on Sri Lanka is Australia. They know if they do not do it that these goons will strip the Tamils to penniless as fee and dump them in Australia.

    If these goons have something tell to the International Community why they are scared of seeing them at the UNHRC? If these goons are talking at least one sentence of truth, will they call in the investigators to country and tell them all what they wants to tell? They know they can have it written in Sri Lanka and take to Malaysia, read it there for hours, but cannot stand up for one minute cross examination of the truth of the statements they read.

    • 0
      0

      “1983, when the government soldiers were attached, the government attached the Tamils on the entire island, in retaliation. That is how the GOSL taught LTTE how to retaliate, without meeting the fight. But, LTTE changed that method as if the peoples attached by government in the name of communal trouble, they attached people”

      Please Read this as

      “1983, when the government soldiers were attacked, the government attacked the Tamils on the entire island, in retaliation. That is how the GOSL taught LTTE how to retaliate, without meeting the fight. But, LTTE changed that method as if the peoples attacked by government in the name of communal trouble, they attacked people”

  • 5
    1

    Bunch of tosh and tripe from a psychopath and murderer of Sinhalaya Modayas…

    • 0
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      ADo gona

      Since you all lost to the modayas what does that tell of your capabilities .

      cheers

      Abhaya

  • 1
    2

    It’s amazing how neo-cons decide which seal should stamp on whom.

    For example, ‘F*** the EU’ Nuland of the US, took cookies for protesters against the elected government in Kiew saying they were freedom fighters. When Nazis in the guise of freedom fighters overthrew that elected government and installed an unelected government, amazingly for Nuland, protesters against unelected government has become terrorists.

    Sri Lankans should learn who the two-tongued devils are.

    • 4
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      Banda

      “When Nazis in the guise of freedom fighters overthrew that elected government and installed an unelected government,”

      Shortly after Nazi party was democratically elected to form the government it suspended all democratic institutions and practices.

      You need not to worry about the clan planning for final putsch for they are not Nazis. However they are the modern day Pol Potistas.

      • 0
        0

        Why, aren’t the clan also Aryans.

  • 3
    0

    “The scale of funds mobilised is estimated to have been between 50 to 75 million US dollars on an annual basis from 1993 to 2002, and 200 million US dollars per annum from 2002 to 2008.”

    What happened to the money that was allegedly controlled by KP ? To which accounts were ther siphoned?

    • 0
      0

      Be assured it will not be used to kill innocent civilians, soldiers or destroy central banks, aeroplanes, airports or to bump off foreign heads of state..:-)

      • 0
        0

        Do you say you guys are earmarking it to have a Mullivaikkal for Muslims or even another ceremony for Tamils?

        • 0
          0

          You are saying so, I did not.

      • 0
        0

        Probably not. Just use it to silence the citizens who talk against corruption, mismanagement and state sponsored terrorism.

    • 0
      0

      truth You should have asked that question from your leader Velupillai when he was alive.

  • 0
    0

    First of all, my congratulations to the ignorant speech writer. Speech writers should not only be good but also knowledgeable.

    Why is Rajapaksa speaking in general? What about private security companies and floating armouries in which has vested interests in?

    Although arrogant and boastful, we all know who won the war for us Sri Lankans.

    • 0
      0

      Sathya, I hope your allegations about private security firms owned by GR or his family are true. However please provide evidence instead of making unsubstantiated allegations: registered name of the company and name(s) of owners or shareholders. Note names of directors aren’t enough since government owned or for that matter any business can apoint directors who are has no ownership rights.

      • 0
        1

        You wants answers? Let the UNHRC to bring experts and investigate of complex techniques those lawyers had used to hide the real owners and publish a reports about the honesty of the Royal family. What is the big deal? You don’t have to implements anything. You can create another National Action Plans and dope everyone just the ways avoided implementation of LLRC recommendations. No need to fear of anything. Just let them to investigate if you not covering anything by your questions. At least, a part of the 1.5 Million dollars will be spent in Sri Lanka too. It will become a tourism boost too. Royal Family also will get chances to have a drink with foreign lawyers.

        Come on man; Go for it. Please don’t decline one more time.

        • 0
          0

          Malla, by definition every war involves hr violations. In SL, LTTE violated massively violated hr’s over its 30 year rebellion. In my opinion SL soldiers too were involved in them first when suppressing JVP thereafter in annhilating LTTE. No point in investigating these selectively: Make it international law to investigate hr violations in very conflict on an ongoing basis without the consent of the warring parties: Ukraine, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon , Sri Lanka, Indo-Pakistani war without exception. Don’t appoint native or ethnic of warring parties to making decisions on this. The one proposed against sl is an international conspiracy selectively initiated by the west to undermine sl alliance with their nemesesz russia, china, india to name a few.

  • 0
    0

    Muslim countries have always been best friends of SL.

    KP was handed over to government by Malaysian government.

    Tamil Elam in hell.

    • 0
      0

      Muslim countries are our good friends. They keep their religion we keep ours. Silly wahhabis in Sri Lanka aim to upset it.

  • 0
    0

    Hello Bandage!

    Ideal place for Gota to run his mouth off, the scene of Malaysian Airlines gone missing thanks to correct Malayasian Internal security arrangement and communication with relatives of victims…

    So nice place to start talking about Ethics of raping captured LTTE women cadres, Hambantota Mayors running with a pistol and a sarong Half Raised! Yes, keep fighting whats up the Sarong in your own backyard! without touching the marbles of your brother! Otherwise you may have hell to pay for another military mission against Marble terrorism!

  • 0
    0

    He is not looking at the root causes of the terrorist problem.He is totally focused on eradicating the symptoms.Other than that a good article. Gota must learn to do backward integration starting with 1956 to fully understand the problem and how to get rid of it altogether permanently.For that he has to have a helicopter view,not a view through a drive past through the streets in a car.Full picture is needed here.

  • 0
    0

    .
    GoRa,

    Suppose if your brother is not a president, what will you be doing?

    :-)

  • 0
    0

    Nobody seems to be gutsy enough to ask this guy why he is holding a person with Interpol red notice in his pocket and patronising him with funds and facilities, while having 111 people in the red notice now and intending to extend that list to 200!
    http://www.interpol.int/@en/notice/search/wanted/1998-4743

  • 0
    0

    Oh !!!!!!! The modays have gobbled the money………….
    Prabakaran is not dead or has risen again start collecting money…

    As long as the selfish chauvanist diaspora clamour for better life and Catholic Clergy such as Emmanuels,/Rayappus attempting to imortalise Velupillai Prabakaran, WE SHALL NEVER SEE PEACE DURING OUR LIFE TIME.
    They’ve just not had enough of destroying the lives of Tamil Youth & Chirldren IN an unproductive 30+ year war they funded & supported.

    So who cares what the Rajapakshes does or the Diasspora does or the Super Powers does?
    THAT IS THE ORDER OF THE DAY……
    NEW WORLD ORDER.

  • 0
    0

    “As a country that suffered about Two decades of ruthless state terrorism, there is a great deal that can be learnt from the Sri Lankan experience for the rest of the world. Described by the UNHRC as “among the most dangerous and deadly extremist rogue states in the world”, the Rajapaksha Regime was no ordinary state terrorist country. Among the country’s more than one hundred thousands victims were rights activists, journalists, clergy, school children, garment workers, fishermen and many others including politicians and state officials including most moderate Tamil leaders, as well as tens of thousands of civilians. Rajapakshas vandalized some of Sri Lanka’s most sacred places of religious worship for treasure hunting, and usurped many of the country’s most important economic targets including the Central Bank and the International Airport. At its height, the opposition had more politically-hardened cadres and a large number of citizenry; large stockpiles of country’s treasures, resources, lands, forests existed before the Rajapakshas grabbed power of the country by bribing the LTTE and preventing the voters from exercising their democratic rights; a sophisticated and thriving shipping shipping business centering around Colombo harbor existed but now denied to the country as the port has been sold to Chinese by the Rajapakshs for 40% commission…………!

    • 0
      0

      Truth You have passed the test to be reporter to lankenews with flying colours.

    • 0
      0

      I keep repeating on CT threads:get your victim numbers -all humans and all property, pre and post 2009, annualised – and all will see through your damn lies.

  • 0
    0

    This is the new twist of “you need a thief to catch a thief”. You need a terrorist to catch another terrorist. At least all of us agree LTTE terrorized the people, but Gotha also terrorized the people not only during the war but even worst his terrorist activities have become worst after the war. So the new twist is “you need a Terrorist to catch a Terrorist”!

  • 0
    0

    If you need a $1.5 million investigation to find out the owners name of a company you claim to be owned by GR, then you do not have any basis to make the allegation at present. Just hold your fire until such time evidence is available. I accept the statement by GR recently that he does not own any assets in Sri Lanka. The challenge is for you clowns to prove him wrong. :-)

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