Editorial

Sri Lanka and the Global Alliance on Terrorism

The general refrain of political commentators and even political leaders on the Attack on America has been the outright condemnation of the attacks as being inhuman, barbaric and going against all norms of civilisation. Sympathies have been expressed to the government and the people of the United States. But most of these analysts in reviewing the tragedy have posed the question: Why did this hitherto unidentified group of terrorists harbour such venom against the United States to wreak vengeance in this manner?

The pundits on terrorism often tell us that terrorism is merely a symptom of a deeper underlying disease that has to be addressed first if terrorism is to be eradicated. By and large this contention is correct, but quite often the godfathers of terrorism are not susceptible to logic, reason or plaintive cries of humanity and have their own visionary objectives which they are determined to achieve come hell or high water. Adolf Hitler, Japanese imperialists of the Second World War, Communist revolutionaries of Russia and China and our own Third World tin pot dictators like Pol Pot, Vellupillai Prabhakaran and Rohana Wijeweera are some such examples. The cause for this kind of terrorism is the leader who does not listen to reason. Will bin Laden listen to reason?

With the end of the Cold War, we witnessed the mushrooming of many religious and racist organisations, each believing that their case was just and taking to arms to achieve their objectives. The former Soviet republics such as Chechnya and Georgia, in the Balkans, Serbia, Bosnia and now Macedonia are examples. In Asia, Latin America and Africa there are many such groups and organisations that want to carve out their own homeland or are seeking justice in various forms, through violent means. There are the half century old conflicts like Kashmir and that of Israel and Palestine, the end of which is nowhere in sight.

Even if we are optimistic enough that the day will come soon when all these conflicts are resolved through addressing the causes of the conflagrations and the entire world transforms itself into a democratic nirvana, considering human nature, it is very likely that there will be further proliferation of different groups and organisations hell bent on securing their objectives by challenging legally established democratic governments through the force of arms and other violent means.

The Attack on America brings home the fact that while addressing the cause is called for and a long term endeavour should be attempted, organisations that use extreme violence to wreak havoc and kill innocent people by the thousands have to be dealt with by force immediately. History tells us that terrorism has always been part and parcel of humanity and the difference between then and now is that with access to hi-tech today, the damage inflicted is enormous. Humanity may not be able to survive unless terrorism is killed before it proliferates further. Nuclear experts are today talking of the Suitcase Nuclear Bomb that anyone could be carrying about but which could annihilate entire vast metropolises.

The Attack on America has brought home the fact that the attitude of the west in combating terrorism has been lackadaisical and demands a much more vigorous and co-ordinated global effort. Today we publish a speech on the front page made by Lord Nese by in the House of Lords spotlighting the dangers of the LTTE to Britain and pointing out that though the LTTE has been proscribed by the British government, the so-called spokesman for the LTTE, Anton Balasingham, is continuing to make statements from London. Quite clearly these cosmetic changes will not do.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, soon after the Attack on America, called for the establishment of a Global Alliance Against Terrorism. If the world is to tackle this global menace, it is quite obvious that the entire approach to fight terrorism has to be changed. He said that the very fact that the US State Department has listed 25 foreign terrorist organisations and proscribed them, (which includes the LTTE) means that these organisations too would be targeted.

Sri Lanka cannot afford to take a backseat on this issue. We must be at the forefront of the Third World nations including the Non-Aligned Group at the United Nations, and helping the United States to put together this global alliance. There is much work to be done because the big powers have been looking at international terrorism from quite a different perspective than poor nations that have been affected by it. Western nations are aware that even the social relief given to Sri Lankan refugees by their government is being extorted or contributed and end up in the terrorists war chest but are not concerned about it.

Sri Lanka must rally round Third World nations by the time the UN General Assembly begins its sessions at the end of September and impress upon the West that Sri Lankan terrorism has struck roots in their countries such as Canada and are beginning to eat into the social fabric of that country as well as in Europe.

This country has played leading roles on world issues at the UN such as on the Law of the Sea Conference over which Ambassador Shirley Corea presided and the Indian Ocean Peace Zone proposal, which was moved by the late Prime Minister Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike. Sri Lankan Jayantha Dhanapala presided over the conference that sealed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is today the Under Secretary of Disarmament at the UN.

We must use all available resources. This is an opportunity that must be made use of to eradicate the disease that has been plaguing us for long years.


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