Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sri Lanka: The Lahore Files and the Axis of Evil

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

"Terrorism anywhere is terrorism and there are no good terrorists or bad terrorists."

This clear and succinct observation on terrorism was made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the 15 Summit of SAARC in Colombo in August last year. On previous occasions the President has described this in more detail, saying that whether the attacks take place in New York, London, Madrid or Colombo, terrorism remains the same.

This week's attack on the Sri Lankan Cricket Team in Lahore, Pakistan, follows Mumbai last November, and adds to the tally of Lahore's count of terrorist attacks. It reminds us of the ubiquitous presence of terrorism today, in case one believes that terrorism comes from Al Qaeda only or is planned by Osama bin Laden alone.

Whether it is Stephen Sackur in HARDtalk on BBC or commentators on the Sri Lankan situation, whether from Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, or the touchdown and speed-off journalists of most international media, they are trying hard to pressure Sri Lanka into agreeing to a ceasefire the Government is clearly not agreeable to.

This is not because it does not care for international opinion, or is unconcerned about the suffering of the Tamil people trapped by the LTTE in the North. It is because the Government understands well the nature of the enemy it is dealing with, having all too often experienced how contemptuous it is of international opinion and the basic norms of humanitarian practice.

Although the attack took place in Pakistan, possibly by different exponents of terror, and maybe for a different cause or goal, the trauma that Sri Lanka underwent in those hours of fear for the lives of its players - the idols of the vast cricket loving population here - was a grim reminder of the reality of terrorism.

It is not strange that we have not had one word of condemnation from either AI or HRW of the attack on a team of sportsmen, on a mission of goodwill to a friendly country, by a pack of all too well armed terrorists. Sport is not important to these 'humanitarian' pleaders for the LTTE.

One recalls the efforts of AI to smear Sri Lanka through its antics at the last Cricket World Cup Tournament in the West Indies. With the intrusion with venom against Sri Lanka, bringing their own brand of politics into cricket, AI and others like it, may well have paved the way for the terrorists in their attack on the Sri Lanka cricketers and cricket in Pakistan.

Rights of governance

In the cacophony of calls for a ceasefire with the LTTE, supposedly to ensure the release of the civilians it holds, and not give a respite to its fighters for 'Rest & Recuperation', one is reminded of what President Rajapaksa told the UN General Assembly last September. "What the Government would not, and could not do is to let an illegal and armed terrorist group, the LTTE, to hold a fraction of our population, a part of the Tamil community, hostage to such terror in the northern part of Sri Lanka and deny those people their democratic rights of dissent and free elections.

"Our Government would only be ready to talk to this illegal armed group when it is ready to commit itself to decommissioning of its illicit weapons and dismantling of its military capability, and return to the democratic fold. The Government has also made it clear that the elected Government cannot and will not permit undermining of the territorial integrity of the sovereign UN Member State of Sri Lanka and the division of its territory. We are clear in this message."

Whatever the proxies, advocates, pleaders and many other sorts of the LTTE may say, wearing a mask of humanitarianism, in calling a ceasefire with the world's most brutal terrorist organisation, the Government's refusal to give in to this is fully in keeping with its rights as a sovereign member state of the United Nations.

Which means it cannot permit undermining of the territorial integrity of the sovereign UN Member State of Sri Lanka and the division of its territory, nor cannot it allow its own citizens to be held hostage by the forces of terror. The liberty of these people is the greater humanitarian cause.

The LeT - LTTE axis

The intelligence organisations and defence think-tanks in key South Asian capitals are studying considerable information that seeks to uncover those behind the attack on the Sri Lanka cricketers in Lahore, Pakistan, earlier this week, and their motives.

Their focus is not limited to a single group. They see in the attack, through a link of terrorist forces, the possibility of creating a major diplomatic crisis in the entire region bringing Sri Lanka into a crisis with two of its close regional friends, India and Pakistan.

Of considerable interest is that the current suspicions on Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), the group blamed by India for the attacks on Mumbai, being responsible for this attack, have led to serious considerations on the possibility of an LTTE link in the attack on the Sri Lanka cricketers, in view of the known connections the LTTE has with this group, dating back to 1992.

That was when Kittu, a key figure of the LTTE at the time, was known to have been negotiating arms purchases for the LTTE in Peshawar. Subsequently, in 1993, Indian intelligence is known to have destroyed at sea the vessel carrying arms for the LTTE, killing Kittu, too.

There had also been considerable speculation that the Tigers may have had external help in firing the shoulder held missiles that brought down two Avro aircraft near Palali airbase in April 1995, killing all civilian passengers and crew. It was believed at the time that the Tigers may have used mercenaries with links to Peshawar or Afghanistan, to fire the missiles which hit the aircraft.

The LTTE's links with the LeT continued and there are many substantiated reports by the intelligence community in South Asia, particularly India, of the LTTE and LeT exchanging terrorist expertise, the former being a conduit for arms to the LTTE, and both carrying out joint training.

Intelligence sources

The information that the attackers had planned to take the Sri Lankan players hostage, is also being viewed by intelligence sources in South Asian capitals, in the context of the LTTE's current position of near defeat, and the search for a bargaining tool for its call for a ceasefire. Some Indian analysts are of the view that had the attackers been successful and taken all or any of the Sri Lankan players hostage, they could have been used for bargaining with Sri Lanka, or either India or Pakistan or both, which would have led to a major diplomatic crisis in the region.

There is also good cause for suspicion that the LTTE may have been trying to seek revenge for the strong support Pakistan has given to Sri Lanka in its fight against terror, especially from 1999; support that has done much to bring the LTTE to its present situation of near defeat.
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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