Monday, February 04, 2008

Sri Lanka: Strategy needed to combat LTTE slaughter of civilians

Republished for information and discussion only. This report does not necessarily reflect the views of Mike Hitchen Consulting

"The multi-layered stratagem to stop terror attacks on civilians" By Dilrook Kannagara

Terrorists do what they excel at - killing civilians. LTTE terrorists increasingly find it difficult to take on the mighty security forces and as a result target civilians.

According to published statistics, by 2007 this war-and-surrender cycle has killed about 70,000; approximately 20,000 of that relate to combatants on each side. This leaves civilian casualties at 30,000. Undoubtedly this war, just like any other war, has killed more civilians than combatants on each side. In time to come as the war progresses, LTTE terrorists are going to target more and more civilians.

A comprehensive strategy is needed to combat this terror tactic.

Operational strategy - Eternal vigilance

Constant and undying vigilance on the part of civilians, security forces and the intelligence community can help avoid a large number of terror attacks. The government is trying very hard to educate the public on this. However, it is unfortunate that some media institutions seem to be enjoying civilian casualties like parasites enjoying human blood. On top of it the great political divide makes it difficult to rally the whole country under one banner to defeat terrorism in civilian areas. These unruly elements must recognize that terror knows no bounds and strikes civilians irrespective of political differences.

Use of sniffer dogs has already proved effective; this should be widespread throughout the country. It can also tackle other problems like concealed goods, drugs, etc. as well. Many recent terror attacks were carried out by placing explosives in crowded places. People must be vigilant about those who leave behind what they brought with them. It is a shame that the terrorists involved in the bombings of NOLIMIT, Fort railway station, near the Lake House, etc. were not apprehended. Suspicious behavior in public places can be detected by the public and relevant authorities must be contacted without delay.

Services of the bomb disposal squad must be made available to every part of the island.

Tactical strategy - Closing down avenues of explosive transport and storage

There are a few easy transport means for terrorists. Recently it was revealed that a lorry belonging to the Department of Health has been used to transport explosives. Since all explosives must come from Vanni, all routes from Vanni must be subject to checks. Vehicles traveling from Vanni must unload everything they intend transporting and must be reloaded to another vehicle. The same must apply to ambulances where patients must be transferred to another ambulance. This simple plan, though cumbersome, can save thousands of lives. In the same token, the Vavuniya-Colombo train need to be temporarily suspended pending an improvement in security. Unlike a road vehicle, the train is not subject to regular checks along its way and it provides an ideal means to bring explosives direct to the City.

A comprehensive security plan must be implemented at each police division where all temporary dwellers, residents living away from family members and lodgers must me scrutinized. May be it is not a bad idea after all to send the lodgers packing to where they came from until the security situation improves. For their assistance regional facilities must be established for passports, foreign job interviews, etc. The lodge community is blamed not only for supporting terrorism but also for heaps of other offences including prostitution, drug trafficking, robberies, murders, illegal trades, etc. It is no secret that during times of civil disturbances these 'trades' increase in volume and profitability!

The help of armed groups formerly associated with the terrorists comes very handy now. They know exactly how the terror system works and can be relied upon to squash infiltrators early. If the number of paramilitary activities and the number of terror attacks are taken together, there seems to be a clear direct correlation between the two. At all times of increased paramilitary activity (good, bad or ugly), there has always been a marked reduction in terror attacks on civilians.

The deployment of the STF in urban areas is a good thing. However, it cannot be expected that the STF would be as effective as it was during the late 80s and early 90s. This is because the changes in the legal status of the STF; the STF was considered a paramilitary group before 1994.

It should be emphasized that there is no way to provide public security while upholding the highest standards of human rights. There got to be a compromise. The right to life of the twenty million must be prioritized over inconveniences to a few thousand.

Higher level strategy - terrorists must be effectively deterred from attacking civilians

Above all, LTTE terrorists must be deterred from targeting civilians. However this cannot be done by providing media publicity to their barbarianism. This must be conveyed through the only language understood by the terrorists - terror. Immediate and catastrophic retaliatory attacks must be launched on terrorists each time they target civilians. Simply the terrorists should not be allowed to have the 'last laugh' in any episode. For instance take the present episode of targeting worshipers. The terrorists launched an attack in Madhu targeting Catholic Tamil Sri Lankans a few days ago. Immediately the LTTE blamed the security forces for the attack and vowed to 'retaliate'. What the LTTE referred to as the 'retaliation' attack came on the second of February targeting Sinhala Buddhists worshipers. These attacks should not go unpunished. The SLAF and other forces must be utilized to deal an immediate retaliatory attack on tigers with much more casualties. This should be done in addition to daily attacks by security forces.

It is a fact that the LTTE cannot afford to play the tit-for-tat game owing to their smaller number of cadres (both regular and civilian) and what's worse constant attacks on the de facto rulers of Vanni will drive away the Vanni civilians to seek refuge under the security forces thus exposing the tigers for direct attacks. Tigers' main shield has always been the human shield and the moment that collapses, tigers are history. Knowing this too well tigers will not engage in re-retaliating retaliatory attacks by the SLAF, etc.

This type of violent avengement would drive home the truth that the LTTE will not get away attacking civilians. This also serves another purpose. The international community always falls into tiger traps. As a result they tend to believe the tigers that it was the security forces that killed civilians in Madhu and therefore the tigers retaliated killing civilians in the 'south'. This mentality can be shattered only by way of a ferocious retaliatory attack on tigers that can awaken the international community from its deep sleep which is customary whenever Sinhala civilians are attacked. The awakened international community can then be enlightened to the reality.

Another advantage of heavy retaliations by the government troops is that it can stop civilians taking the law into their hands. Retaliation must be done by trained troops and never by aggrieved civilians.

The power of retaliation is amply visible from Israel although on many occasions it overdoes it. This small country is surrounded by terror groups (whatever the justification they try to make) and if not for violent retaliations, Israel would have long perished.

Ground troops that are engaged in defeating tigers very successfully must not be disturbed and retaliations must be carried out by other forces. The enormous success ground troops have achieved on all fronts must be maintained and continued. Contrary to what self-styled 'defence-analysts' claim, the present military approach has yielded fruits and there is no need for any change whatsoever. Changing this approach whenever tigers attack civilians is the worse thing that can happen; if that happens tigers will make it a habit to attack civilians whenever things are not going well for them.

Unfortunately previous administrations have trained the tiger to expect a favourable situation following an attack on civilians. This old habit is not easily changed. However it must be changed soon. The moment the terrorists are convinced that the government is capable of much more violence than them, tigers become pussycats. Unfortunately for earthlings, it is the ability to unleash violence that rules this world. The permanent members of the UN are those with the most destructive power. Needless to say that even resource allocation, retention and exploitation also strictly follows this destructive power. The UN has officially recognized this destructive power as the all powerful determinant of world order by allowing the five superpowers to make all important decisions, maintaining a fully fledged military under the UN command and using war as a means to bring peace.

The UN 'peacekeeping' militia has won so many awards for gallantry. It is also no secret that at the end of the day they have not been much different to other armed groups. The age old phrase (survival of the fittest) is now rephrased to suit the modern world as 'survival of the most violent'! It is actually unfortunate but this is the world order. Understanding this truth helps to function successfully at government level (of course this does not apply to individual relationships which are governed by an even more powerful thing called the law).

All efforts (legal and not-so-legal) must be made to keep civilians safe. Continued attacks on civilians will erode public support for the war. As it has happened, they may even seek protection from the terrorists if the government fails to provide them adequate security.

Source: Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order - Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka