His Excellency Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke, Embassy of Sri Lanka

Ambassador's Remarks

In a forum such as this, the meaning of the word ‘terrorism’ is well understood. In other words, we know it when we see and experience that phenomenon. However, in many fora it remains a contested term and it is widely acknowledged that there exists no internationally accepted definition of terrorism.

Historical context

The use of terror as a weapon is not something that is unique to the modern world. It is widely known that terrorism has been practiced by various societies throughout history, in all corners of the world. Even in ancient times, the Greek historian Xenophon (c. 431–c. 350 BC) spoke of the effectiveness of psychological warfare against enemy populations, who were clearly non combatants.

In the modern period, the 20th century saw terrorism being practiced widely when it became the hallmark of movements representing the extreme right to the extreme left of the political spectrum. Technological advances, the spread of small arms and light weapons, and deadly explosive devises that can be electrically or electronically detonated, as well as the ability to circle the globe at ease thanks to air transportation, have given terrorists a new lethality and mobility. The Baader-Meinhof gang of West Germany, the Japanese Red Army, Italy's Red Brigade, the Puerto Rican FALN, the Shining Path of Peru, PKK representing the Kurds, universally dreaded al Queda and the LTTE of Sri Lanka to name a few, were among the most feared terrorist groups of the latter part of the 20th century.

When discussing terrorism, the collective mind of Americans goes to the most devastating attack that took place on 9/11. However, it must be remembered that the American experience with terrorism goes back to several decades before 9/11 or the 1995 Oklahoma bombing. For example, in April 1983, a vehicle packed with high explosives was driven into the US Embassy compound in Beirut killing 63 people. Six months later a large truck heavily laden with TNT exploded at the US Marine Corps headquarters in Beirut killing 241 US servicemen. Two months later in December 1983, another truck loaded with explosives was driven into the US Embassy in Kuwait killing many people.

Following these attacks, civilian airliners became targets and TWA Flight 840 was bombed in April 1986 followed by Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, killing 259. In February 1993, a rented van packed with explosives was driven into the underground parking garage of the World Trade Centre in New York City killing six people and wounding over 1000. After these and numerous other attacks against the U.S. nationals, terrorists focused their attention on two US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 killing 224.

I thought of narrating these morbid incidents to remind us, that terrorism has been a constant companion of many nations for many decades. However, the gravity of the problem and its insidious impact on vulnerable societies was not fully realized by the international community until recently. In fact, in most of these terrorist attacks the impact had been mostly on innocent civilians and not on armed combatants. However, this factor does not seem to deter the diehard terrorists at all.

Definition

The first attempt by the international community to arrive at an acceptable definition was made under the League of Nations. However, the convention drafted in 1937 never came into existence and almost seventy years later, Member States of the UN are still grappling with this Herculean task. The closest the U.N. has been able to achieve on its quest for a definition is contained in the General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 1999, which reiterated “that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstances unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them”.

However, at the national level, individual states such as the US have continued with their efforts to come up with a definition. For example, the Department of State in its “Country Reports on Terrorism” published annually has based its definition, as contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute regards international terrorism as involving citizens or the territory of more than one country and the term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. The term "terrorist group" means any group practicing, or which has significant subgroups that practice, international terrorism. It is also noteworthy that for the purpose of this definition, the term "non-combatant" is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel, who at the time of the incident are unarmed and/or not on duty. Further, the US considers that attacks on military installations or on armed military personnel, when a state of military hostilities does not exist at the site, as acts of terrorism. This definition is of considerable significance at a time when in Sri Lanka, military personnel, checkpoints and even vessels carrying unarmed troops are being targeted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a group seeking to establish a separate state in the north and the east of the country by engaging in acts of terrorism, during a ceasefire brokered by Norway.

Right to Self Determination

The lack of agreement on a definition has led some apologists to ask the question “What is the difference between terrorism on the one hand, and waging a legitimate guerrilla struggle on the other”, seeking to exercise the right to self determination.

One of the reasons that has prevented arriving at a definition of terrorism is the excuse given by some members of the United Nations that those people, who are under foreign occupation or alien domination, have the right to carry out armed struggle to realise their right to self determination. In advancing this view, notwithstanding the General Assembly resolution 51/210, some states have taken the position that armed struggles in the exercise of the right to self determination cannot be equated with terrorism. In other words, a vocal group of countries (mainly representing the OIC) seems to strongly espouse the view that in pursuit of the right to self-determination, affected people have the right to resort to armed struggle. While it is admitted that the universal right to self-determination is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in the International Covenants on Human Rights, as well as in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, it must be emphasized that none of these international instruments encourage or condone terrorism in pursuit of that lofty goal.

There are instances where terrorist groups argue that acts of terror are permissible or acceptable in their quest for self-determination. Indeed some such groups tend to bolster their case by making partial reference, to the 1970 Declaration on Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States. However, it is pertinent to point out that in 1993, having deliberated on the matter extensively; Member States of the United Nations, while recognizing that all peoples have the right to self-determination, declared “Taking into account the particular situation of peoples under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, the World Conference on Human Rights recognizes the right of peoples to take any legitimate action, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations”. The crucial point made in the Vienna Declaration was that, those who are seeking to exercise the right to self-determination should take “legitimate action”, and such action should be “in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations”. I need not emphasize the fact that acts of unbridled terrorism are wholly illegitimate and such actions are not condoned or encouraged in the Charter of the UN.

Whether the United Nations succeeds in finding a universally acceptable definition or not, the fact remains, states that are forced to confront terrorism have no choice but to grapple with this hydra headed monster. Lack of a definition, will not deter countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Russian Federation, Indonesia or for that matter Sri Lanka and numerous other countries, which had and still have to confront this scourge.

Role of Front Organisations

There is of course another facet of terrorism to which hardly any attention has been paid in the debates concerning terrorism and its manifestations. That 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 my view our efforts in addressing terrorism should also take cognisance of this rampant insidious development.

Why International Cooperation?

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, the effect of the spread of terrorism is equally dangerous in a highly globalized world, where perpetrators can communicate using new developments in information technology, move from one continent to another in a matter of hours and transfer funds for financing of terrorism electronically with a mere push of a button. In this regard, I need not give more examples than to point out to the ‘al Queda’ operations, whose activities span several continents.

If one were to look at certain developments that have taken place in the past, it is possible to come up with instances, where regional and international cooperation has been effective in dealing with terrorism. Here are few examples.

i. In January 1999, acting on information provided by American intelligence, Uruguayan police arrested three members of the Egyptian terrorist group Al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya, who were wanted for two bombings in Egypt that killed 80 people.

ii. In May 1999, France extradited to Germany Hans-Joachim Klein, a former accomplice of international terrorist Carlos the Jackal, who was wanted for his role in the 1975 kidnapping of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna in which three people were killed. Through collaborative action between France, the USA and Sudan, Carlos himself was arrested in Sudan in August 1994.

iii. Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish insurgent leader was captured in Kenya in February 1999, while being transferred from the Greek Embassy to the Nairobi internatioanl airport, in a joint operation between the CIA and the Turkish National Interlligence Agency (MIT) and was flown to Turkey for trial.

iv. In March 2001, a French court convicted in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment six Libyan intelligence agents accused of bombing flight UTA 772 in September 1989 over Niger that killed 171 passengers.

Of course, there have been many other recent instances of cooperation between two or more countries with a view to combat terrorism. However, given the rapid increase in terrorist bombings in the recent past, such as those in Madrid, London, Bali, Jakarta etc., and other acts of terrorism such as Beslan, Jerusalem, Colombo and many other locations, it has become absolutely necessary for the international community to join hands and act resolutely with a view to eradicate this fast spreading menace.

Regional and International Action

As for the regional instruments developed in this regard there are numerous examples. Following the devastating attacks against the US on September 11, 2001, the OAS, meeting in Lima on that very same day adopted a resolution, which condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks and reiterated the need to strengthen the hemispheric cooperation to combat terrorism. After deliberating on the matter extensively, by the following summer, the OAS became the first regional group to adopt an anti terrorism treaty in the wake of 9/11.

Another regional group to focus on combating terrorism was ASEAN. At their 7th Summit on 5 November 2001 in Brunei Darussalam, ASEAN heads of State adopted the 2001 ASEAN Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism. The ASEAN leaders viewed terrorism as a profound threat to international peace and security and "a direct challenge to the attainment of peace, progress and prosperity of ASEAN and the realization of ASEAN Vision 2020". They underlined that "cooperative efforts in this regard should consider joint practical counter-terrorism measures in line with specific circumstances in the region and in each member country". In May 2002, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines signed an Agreement on Information Exchange and Establishment of Communication Procedures to cooperate among them to combat transnational crime, including terrorism.

The SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism was one of the first attempts made by a regional group to combat terrorism as far back as November 1987. The seven South Asian countries, on a proposal made by Sri Lanka, at the first SAARC Summit in 1985, decided to take this important step having realized the adverse effects of terrorism and realizing that concerted regional effort was necessary to prevent terrorism from spreading in the region affecting its security and stability.

In addition to the regional instruments what I have already mentioned, there are other regions that have taken similar action. The Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, signed by the League of Arab States in Cairo on 22 April 1998; The Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism, adopted at Ouagadougou on 1 July 1999; The European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, concluded at Strasbourg on 27 January 1977; The OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, adopted at Algiers on 14 July 1999 and The Treaty on Cooperation among States Members of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Combating Terrorism, done at Minsk on 4 June 1999, are some other concrete measures taken by regional organizations in combating terrorism.

International/Multilateral Action

Given their well organized networks linking major cities in numerous countries and the manner in which majority of terrorist groups operate, raising funds in one country, purchasing arms from another, transporting them through several other countries, training in some isolated outposts and carrying out attacks in different countries at different times or sometimes simultaneously to have maximum impact, terrorism is a phenomenon that requires tangible and concerted international action to suppress and eventually eliminate the scourge.

International action to combat terrorism goes back to several decades and could be divided in to two broad groups. The first group consist of those legal instruments that were negotiated outside the UN system, some of which were finalised in the early sixties, when there was a spate of terrorist activities targeting civil aviation, particularly in the Middle East and the Caribbean. Consequently, of the 8 international instruments negotiated beginning with the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, signed at Tokyo on 14 September 1963, there were three other conventions signed in the Hague and Montreal in 1970, 1971 and the 1988 Protocol focusing on civil aviation and related facilities.

The second group of instruments consist of five conventions negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations. They are, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents, adopted in December 1973; International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, adopted in December 1979; International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, adopted in December 1997; International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted in December 1999 and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, adopted in April 2005.

While there seems to be a fairly widespread collection of international instruments designed to combat terrorism, these efforts remain fragmented due to non existence of a single overarching instrument to cover all acts of terrorism, thus creating difficulties in pursuing a comprehensive and concerted approach to combat terrorism. The efforts made by the United Nations to address this issue in the form of a ‘Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism’ has been frustrated for several years as there is no agreement in the Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism on several crucial areas including the definition of terrorism.

As the principal organ dealing with international peace and security, the Security Council of the UN has also adopted several significant resolutions to combat international terrorism. By resolution 1267 (1999), the Security Council created a Sanctions Committee that maintains a list of individuals and entities belonging or related to the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and al Queda. That resolution directs member states of the UN to freeze the assets, prevent the entry into or the transit through their territories, and prevent direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer of arms and military equipment with regard to the individuals and entities on the list.

Meanwhile, Resolution 1368 (2001) adopted in the wake of 9/11 recognized "the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence in accordance with the Charter" and expressed "its readiness to take all necessary steps to respond to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations”.

Lastly, SC Resolution 1373 (2001) declares that "acts, methods, and practices of terrorism are contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations and that knowingly financing, planning and inciting terrorist acts are also contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations." It calls on member states to "prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts" and "refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts." Member states are obliged to criminalize terrorist activity and financing, freeze terrorist-related funds and assets, deny safe haven to those who "finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts, or provide safe havens," prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups, cooperate with other governments and the international community on the anti-terrorism front, and become parties to all terrorism-related conventions and protocols.

From what I have stated above, it is clear that although the international collaboration to arrest the threat of terrorism clearly predates 9/11, developments since then clearly establish the fact the international focus on terrorism became concretized only after that fateful day. This may be partly due to the shock waves created by that attack globally, which was perhaps the first foreign attack on the US soil since the Pearl Harbour.

It is noted that the interest of the international community in the international instruments crafted by the UN has also increased substantially since 9/11, which is reflected in the ratification of counter-terrorism conventions, as seen for example in the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing (1997), in which ratifications have risen from 28 countries to 146, whereas the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, (1999) saw ratifications increasing from five to 153 countries.

Despite the shortcomings, we have to accept the fact that the UN has made considerable contribution to combat terrorism. Despite the very nature of the organization, which dwells if not thrives on semantics, its dependence on consensus if not general agreement, being weakened by positions taken by regional organizations and having different viewpoints on the subject, it has made a major contribution over the years in addressing terrorism. Since the adoption of SC Res. 1373 (2001 ), and the establishment of the Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) and the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) in 2003, considerable progress has been achieved by the UN in coordinating the capacity and efforts of international, regional and sub-regional organizations and providing assistance to those countries requiring technical expertise to meet their 1373 obligations.

However, while the US and many other countries were galvanized into action against terrorism as a result of that attack, UN action against terrorism has been challenged by terrorists through their attack against the UN office in Baghdad in August 2003. That first ever-direct attack against the UN killed 22 persons, including the Secretary General's Special Representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

While we have to admit the fact that the UN is doing what it can under severe limitations, it is important to point out that individual governments also have an equal responsibility to speedily adopt national legislation and give teeth to some 12 international instruments developed within and outside the UN system to which they have become party and to demonstrate the necessary political will to implement these instruments in good faith. This is exactly what those countries, which have become victims of terrorism, expect from the international community, so that terrorists will not find safe havens in third countries.

International cooperation in combating Terrorism in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s experience is a useful case study to evaluate the scope and limits of international cooperation and action in combating terrorism in affected countries.

Most of those who are gathered here should have a general understanding of the terrible tragedy Sri Lanka had to face for nearly three decades due to acts of terrorism perpetrated by the LTTE. During this period we have experienced countless number of terrorist bombings directed at civilians and economic infrastructure; numerous assassinations, which systematically wiped out the political leadership of the country representing the Sinhala as well as the Tamil communities, and forcible enslavement of under aged children for armed combat, thereby killing generations of young men and women of the country. These ruthless acts of terrorism perpetrated by the LTTE in its quest for a separate mono-ethnic fascist state has effectively prevented the country, which had enjoyed universal adult suffrage since 1931, a functioning democracy since 1948 and embraced market economy as far back as 1977, long before many countries in our region, from achieving its true potential.

What is noteworthy is the fact that 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. 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 until recently. 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.

It is against this background Sri Lanka strived hard to make the SAARC Regional Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism and the subsequent Protocol on Financing of Terrorism a reality. Having worked with the region to come up with a legal instrument to address terrorism, Sri Lanka worked hard to muster international support through the Ad-Hoc Committee on Terrorism of the United Nations, which succeeded in formulating the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the latter under the chairmanship of Sri Lanka. Dr. Rohan Perera, who played a pivotal role in ensuring the building of consensus for the SAARC Regional Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, is once again spearheading the international effort to formulate a Comprehensive, Convention on Terrorism as Chairman of the UN Ad-hoc Committee since 2000.

Until recent times, international support Sri Lanka received to combat terrorism was at best lukewarm. I vividly recall one instance of proceeding to a European capital in mid 90s, with the late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, who was felled by an LTTE assassin’s bullet last August. When Minister Kadirgamar expressed his concerns to his counterpart, the latter’s response was “Mr. Minister, we know very well what happens here. There is no terrorist activity here involving the LTTE”. However, when Minister Kadirgamar visited that country sometime later, the authorities concerned had found out the extent of the LTTE activities in that country, cracked down hard and the leader of the LTTE in that country, had been taken into custody. Similarly, I recall an instance several years ago when Sri Lanka made representations to the authorities in a South East Asian country with regard to smuggling of weapons by the LTTE through that country. The initial reaction on that instance was also total rejection of any such activity followed by a complaint that Sri Lanka was wrongly accusing a friendly country. It took considerable time as well as exposure by the print media of that country, for the authorities to acknowledge the situation and crack down on illicit gun running by the LTTE. Last year Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly admitted that the LTTE had been procuring weapons from corrupt officials of that country for transportation to Sri Lanka and god only knows where else, a fact conveyed to the Cambodian Administration in 1999 by Minister Kadirgamar during a visit to Phnom Peng.

The experience of Sri Lanka and other countries that are similarly placed, whose endeavour is to overcome this menace is that, there has been no unified or concerted, international action to meet the threat of terrorism head on. At times, such countries have found out that 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.

As a result, the situation is bound to become progressively worse as has been the case with the LTTE. It is noteworthy that the Indian proscription of the LTTE in 1992 was made after the group became bold enough to assassinate the former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, employing a Sri Lankan woman suicide bomber with the active support of a group of Indian men and women. For many years before the assassination, the LTTE as well as other Tamil terrorist groups that had espoused a separate state in Sri Lanka through violent means had enjoyed considerable hospitality particularly in South India throughout the 1980s, and were also alleged to have received arms, training and succour from government agencies during that period.

The Canadian ban of the LTTE in May was a welcome decision in the light of the operations of the LTTE in that country since mid 1980s. A report regarding forcible collection of funds, acts of intimidation and physical violence against members of the Tamil diaspora in Canada by the LTTE was published in April this year by the Human Rights Watch. Recent Canadian action is all the more important in the light of the recent evidence made public by the authorities regarding a terrorist plot to bomb the parliament building, take parliamentarians hostage and even go to the extent of beheading the prime minister by suspected Islamic terrorists.

While from a Sri Lankan perspective the decision by Canada on May 10 followed by the EU on May 29, to add the LTTE to their respective lists of terrorist organisations is a welcome decision, there has been a very strong view expressed not only by Sri Lanka but also by the U.S. administration that the LTTE should have been included in these lists a long time ago. It took an assassination of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minster, subversion of the democratic process during the Presidential election in November 2005, unprovoked attacks against the armed forces since December 2005, a suicide attack by a pregnant woman against the Army Commander in April and an attack against a vessel carrying unarmed soldiers, escorted by Scandinavian monitors during a ceasefire in May, for Canada and the EU to reach that decision.

The excuse given by the LTTE and its supporters against a listing has been that, such a decision is ill timed and would take the country back to war as that organization would not return to the negotiating table under threats by the international community! It is noteworthy that the same argument was parroted at the time where the UK was contemplating to ban the LTTE in 2001. However, despite that proscription, which took place in March 2001, the LTTE signed a ceasefire agreement within a year. Time will tell whether the Canadian and EU bans would drive the point home that the organisation will have to change its strategy in order to avoid international isolation or continue regardless resorting to terrorism.

It must be emphasised that the Government of Sri Lanka remains committed to resolving the conflict through a negotiated political settlement based on maximum devolution of power in an undivided Sri Lanka. An all Party Conference is presently deliberating on the contours of such a settlement assisted by a recently appointed a group of experts, including legal and constitutional experts as well as academics to make recommendations on a framework for devolution of power.

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. Moreover, the international community cannot ignore acts of terrorism drawing consolation from the fact that such developments are taking place in countries far away from theirs or none of their citizens are affected by such acts. A war on terrorism, which destabilises democracies and prevents the enjoyment of human rights by the affected populations, requires total commitment on the part of all.

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.

In this regard Sri Lanka deeply appreciates the positive role played by successive U.S. administrations to address the escalation of violence by the LTTE. It is noteworthy that it was in 1997, well before 9/11, the U.S. took a principled stand to proscribe the LTTE as a terrorist organisation following the LTTE’s single largest bombing, which the State Department described as the world’s worst terrorist bombing in 1996 (Sri Lanka’s “9/11” if you like ). That bombing destroyed part of Sri Lanka’s commercial district including the Central Bank building, killing over one hundred civilians and injuring over 1400 persons. We are equally grateful for the unequivocal stand taken by the U.S. in the face of the recent and continuing intransigence of the LTTE. The U.S. recognises the LTTE for what it is – a terrorist organisation. However, as in the case of the Sri Lanka government, the U.S. also acknowledges that legitimate grievances of the Tamils and Muslims have to be addressed while maintaining the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and upholding, democracy, the rule of law and maintaining a liberalised economy.

INTERNATIONAL ACTION TO CURB TERRORISM

Drawing on Sri Lanka’s experience, I wish to posit seven critical standards that have to be met, if civilized society is to overcome the scourge of terrorism.

I. Refrain from using terrorist groups to achieve political mileage in third countries

States should refrain from covertly or overtly supporting terrorist groups with a view to pressuring third countries in the expectation of achieving desired political or economic goals. While such action may serve the purpose in the short term, that would not only destabilize the targeted country, but also in the medium and long term, might result in unexpected consequences in the targeted country, its neighbouring countries and even the country which had originated the destabilisation process.

II. Implement strictly national legislation against terrorism related action

With the ratification of some 12 international instruments directed against various acts of terrorism, national governments are expected to introduce legislation to curb such activities. State parties to such instruments should not only take urgent action to adopt national legislation as a matter of priority but also take action to enforce such legislation so that terrorist organizations and their collaborators will feel the heat and terminate their activities in the countries concerned.

III. Exercise strict control over smuggling of weapons and money laundering

Availability of weapons from the underground arms bazaar and money laundering are not only interrelated but also provide life blood that sustains terrorism. The well documented saga of the LTTE in these two areas is one good example. During the past several decades, the LTTE succeeded in persuading the Tamil diaspora to part with funds under various ruses and used those funds to procure weapons either from or through South and South East Asia; explosives such as RDX from Eastern Europe and other military hardware including surface to air missiles from several other countries. Against this background all countries should employ strict measures against money laundering and interdict smuggling of military hardware by terrorist groups, or their procurement agents.

IV. Make formal or informal arrangements to share intelligence

In a highly mobile world where travel and communication has become easy, terrorist groups can plan, fund and carry out acts of terrorism in distant countries with great ease. Due to various restraints, targeted countries are not able to respond to such threats on their own due to lack of dependable and accurate intelligence. Terrorism being a common threat to the civilised world, particularly to democracies, there should be cooperation among states for sharing intelligence, including flow of illegal finances among states, with view to frustrate the attempts of terrorist groups.

V. Take swift action to proscribe terrorist organisations

Although the LTTE commenced its acts of violence and terrorism in Sri Lanka and India in early 1980s, international action against the group was painfully slow to come. It took the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, former prime minister of India in 1992, for India to list the LTTE as a terrorist organization, and the US took five more years to take similar action while Canada and the EU took that step almost a decade later in May 2006. Many other countries, where the LTTE is active, are yet to take action against the group. Slow or no action against terrorists groups have enabled such groups to consolidate themselves and carry on with their operations in many countries with impunity.

VI. Take action against front organizations

It is important for those 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. For example, fraudulent charitable solicitation is a criminal offence under the USA PATRIOT Act. However, I wonder how many prosecutions have been made under this provision of the Act. If substantial amounts are collected by the front organizations of listed terrorist outfits, 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.

It is noteworthy that countries such as 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 and scrutinising their accounts and financial transactions.

VII. Use carrot & stick approach

In the past we have witnessed instances where certain governments come up with endless carrots as incentives to wean terrorist groups away from violence. Instead such action, a graduated level of incentives should be offered to persuade such groups, and where such efforts are ignored, consequences should be clearly spelt out so that they will be fully aware what to expect. Many groups, including the LTTE have exploited good intentions of foreign governments to the maximum and are adopting a hard stance when it comes to delivery on their part. The attitude taken by the LTTE delegation on June 8 after having gone to Oslo for a meeting with the Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission at the invitation of Norway is a case in point to use the carrot and stick approach.

I wish to conclude my presentation by highlighting once again the fact that terrorism is an international phenomenon, eradication of which requires concerted and tangible action on the part of the international community.

--

The Ambassadors Roundtable Series is designed to provide Ambassadors to the United States and their key diplomatic staff with a forum to discuss current and future counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts on a regional or country-specific basis. In an effort to draw upon various insights and experiences, the Ambassadors Roundtable Series builds upon and institutionalizes efforts over the past two years to engage in a dialogue with members of the international community, policy makers, and practitioners.