|AMBASSADOR GOONETILLEKE CALLS ON STATES THAT HAVE PROSCRIBED
THE LTTE, TO ALSO TAKE ACTION TO
CURB ACTIVITIES OF ITS FRONT ORGANIZATIONS
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US Bernard
Goonetilleke has urged countries that have become State Parties
to terrorism related international instruments and particularly
those who have taken action to list terrorist organizations, to
take strict measures to ensure that their efforts are not undermined
by front organizations of listed terrorist organizations.
Ambassador Goonetilleke made this observation
when he addressed the International Center for Terrorism Studies
of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C.
today (28 June 2006).
Speaking on ‘International Cooperation
in Combating Terrorism’, Ambassador Goonetilleke said, when
civilized society is confronted with common dangers, the general
tendency is to circle the wagons and prepare to meet the common
threat. For example, when highly communicable diseases like SARS,
which threatened the entire world, began to spread, there was
rapid action regionally as well as internationally. Several years
later, the international community is gearing once again in a
similar fashion to deal with another deadly disease, the avian
flu. While the spread of terrorism is considerably different from
the spread of highly communicable diseases, effect of the spread
of terrorism is equally dangerous in a highly globalized world.
The Ambassador, who acknowledged the continuing
debate on how to define terrorism, traced the use of terrorism
since early times and the national, regional and international
efforts made to grapple with the problem. He emphasised that a
facet of terrorism to which hardly any attention has been paid
in the debates concerning terrorism and its manifestations is
the existence of numerous front organisations, dealing with humanitarian,
cultural, religious, commercial and social dimensions of ethnic
groups, which look quite innocuous at first sight, but surreptitiously
work in tandem with terrorist organisations. Much of the time,
these organisations carry out propaganda activities and raise
funds through licit and illicit means to keep the war chests of
parent organizations full. These funds are periodically laundered
at convenient locations and funnelled to purchase military hardware
etc., to carry out acts of sabotage and terrorism against selected
targets. In his view international efforts in addressing terrorism
should also take cognisance of this rampant insidious development.
Drawing on Sri Lanka’s experience to evaluate
the scope and limits of international cooperation and action in
combating terrorism in affected countries, Ambassador Goonetilleke
said, Sri Lanka had to face the onslaught of unbridled terrorism
for almost a quarter of a century before 9/11. Consequently, Sri
Lanka did not and shall not have the privilege of debating semantics
of defining terrorism. Until recent times, international support
Sri Lanka received to combat terrorism was at best lukewarm. For
many years, our plea for help was a cry in the wilderness as the
LTTE was seen as freedom fighters by some and underdogs by others.
The barbarity of LTTE action against the Tamil people, whom they
claim to represent, forcible conscription of teenage Tamil children
for armed combat, fund raising through intimidation and physical
threats against the Tamil Diaspora living particularly in the
Western Hemisphere etc., were ignored by the international community
He said Sri Lanka’s experience makes it
clear that terrorism is an international problem, which can only
be defeated with cooperation among states, and active support
of regional and international organizations. When dealing with
terrorism, any weakness or vacillation by the international community
will have the effect of feeding terrorism. He regretted that at
times, notwithstanding international conventions and other commitments,
some members of the international community have adopted an “ostrich
like” attitude shirking their responsibilities claiming
that terrorist violence do not directly affect their countries
or citizens. At other times, their lack of understanding of the
ground realities, prevent them from realising the nuances of the
situation, and end up literally being taken for a ride by terrorist
groups, whose preoccupation is to buy time.
Ambassador Goonetilleke noted that the fact that
Canada and the EU that listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation
recently, did so almost a decade after the US listed the LTTE
as a terrorist organization in 1997, is by itself an example of
the free run that organization had in many countries in the western
hemisphere for over two decades. While appreciating the US government’s
early listing of the LTTE as a terrorist organization, and emphasising
that the US, as the most powerful state in the world has an important
role to play in defeating terrorism, wherever it occurs under
whatever guise. Ambassador Goonetilleke regretted that so far
no action has been taken to stop the activities of LTTE front
organizations. If substantial amounts are collected by front organizations
of listed terrorist groups, and if these funds are fuelling terrorism
in third countries causing the denial of enjoying human rights
and democratic rights by people, then the affected countries have
a right to demand that stringent action be also taken against
such front organizations. He said it is noteworthy that countries
such as the U.K. and Canada, which banned the LTTE more recently,
as well as countries such as Australia and Denmark, which have
yet to legally proscribe the LTTE, have endeavoured to confront
front organisations’ challenge by raiding their offices,
scrutinising their accounts and financial transactions.
Drawing on Sri Lanka’s experience, Ambassador
Goonetilleke offered seven critical standards that have to be
met by states, if civilized society is to overcome the scourge
I. Refrain from using terrorist groups to achieve
political mileage in third countries.
II. Implement strictly national legislation against
terrorism related action.
III. Exercise strict control over smuggling of
weapons and money laundering.
IV. Make formal or informal arrangements to share
V. Take swift action to proscribe terrorist organizations.
VI. Take action against front organizations.
VII. Use a carrot & stick approach in dealing
with terrorist groups
The opening remarks were made by Mr. Frank J.
Cilluffo, Associate Vice President (Homeland Security) and Director,
Homeland Security Policy Institute, The George Washington University
and Mr. Michael S. Swetnam, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Potomac
Institute for Policy Studies. Prof. Yonah Alexander, Director,
International Center for Terrorism Studies and Prof. Edgar H.
Brenner, Co-Director, Inter-University Center for Legal Studies
co-chaired the meeting.
The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies is an
independent public policy research institute. The Institute’s
current endeavors have required the formation of special efforts
in Terrorism and asymmetry, Emerging threats and opportunities,
National health policies, Science and technology forecasting and
Embassy of Sri Lanka
28 June 2006