Tooth less Tigers and their final breath

An exclusive Interview with Shanaka Jayasekara - Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Expert.

-“The LTTE on many occasions purchased dual use equipment from Germany”.
-“but what surprised me was that a high UN official spoke to an international fugitive with an INTERPOL arrest warrant”
-The “Tamil Eelam Project” was a failure, it squandered millions of dollars taken from the Tamil diaspora.

Interviewed by our correspondent Lalith Ganhewa in Germany

(April 12, Berlin, Sri Lanka Guardian) Shanaka Jayasekara is an Associate Lecturer at the Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism (PICT) at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. He holds a M.Litt in International Security Studies from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, and a B.Com with a double major in International Relations and Politics/Public Policy from Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. He received the British Chevening Scholarship awarded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (UK) in 2004-05.

He served as Director (Policy) at the Secretariat for Co-ordination the Peace Process (SCOPP) in Sri Lanka and attended seven rounds of peace talks with the LTTE as an Advisor to the Sri Lankan Delegation (2002-2006). Prior to that, he worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Colombo in relief and rehabilitation projects.

Shanaka has completed a Postgraduate Internship with the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He has also contributed to the research activities of the Council for Asian Terrorism Research (CATR) and presented his research at the CATR conferences in Bali, Colombo, Sydney and Tokyo. He was invited to address the Eighth World Summit on Counter Terrorism (2008) hosted by the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya, Israel. Shanaka was awarded the START Fellowship for 2008-2009 by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a centre of excellence of the US Department of Homeland Security in support of his research on weapons procurement networks of ethno-nationalist armed groups and assessment of their involvement with Islamist groups.  

Shanaka has done extensive research on the international network of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and has a good understanding of the international operations of the LTTE.

1 Q: The LTTE is at its very last breath in Sri Lanka, how will they survive in the future?

A: The LTTE controlled territory and had conventional capability with infantry units, artillery units, suicide units, maritime units and even a fledgling air wing. The Sri Lankan security forces have completely destroyed the conventional capability of the LTTE. The LTTE will no longer have the capacity to hold any territorial assets. So the LTTE will have no choice but to return to guerrilla warfare using terror tactics.

2 Q: In 2002 when the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE went in to a Ceasefire agreement, LTTE was controlling almost 2/3 of Sri Lanka. Although the world hoped peace would return to Sri Lanka, it is evident that they became stronger ?

A:
In February 2002, the LTTE controlled much of the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
After the 9/11 attacks in 2001 in New York, the LTTE needed disassociate itself from terrorism and the Norwegian brokered ceasefire provided an opportunity to launder its terrorist image. The LTTE which believed they controlled territory wanted to achieve parity with the Sri Lankan state. The LTTE’s sole intent of the LTTE was to seek recognition as a “State-in-Waiting” a type of Proto-State. They had military control over territory now they were after international legitimacy. They regularly spoke of East-Timor and Kosovo as examples.

On the military side, the LTTE used the ceasefire to replenish stock and buildup military strength. On several occasions the SL Navy intercepted LTTE smuggling operations and which the SLMM naval monitors observed as well. There is no doubt that the LTTE used the ceasefire period to stregnthen its military capability.

3 Q: So what went wrong for the LTTE?

A:
The LTTE leadership made a strategic miscalculation when they decided to boycott the November 2005 presidential election and stop Tamils voting for the United National Party (UNP). The group assumed that UNP, with its close links to global liberal-conservative politics, would inhibit the group's international ambitions, where as the SLFP and its allied nationalist parties, was a less favorite to the international community.

4 Q: But LTTE did try to kill the defense Secretary Gotabaya isn’t it?

A:
The LTTE underestimated Mahinda Rajapakse. When he appointed his brother Gotabaya, the LTTE realized the danger for them. So LTTE tried to assassinate Gotabaya on 1 December 2005, but the assassination attempt was unsuccessful.

5 Q: In your assessment what did Gotabaya do differently compaiering to former defense Secretaries?

A:
Being a former Colonel in the Army especially during the Vadamarachchi operations in the 1980s, Gotabaya understood the strengths and weaknesses of the forces. He knew troop numbers were inadequate to meet the LTTE challenge as well as hold the territory. He increased the troop strength by 40 per cent between 2006-2008. He was determined to cut the supply chain operations of the LTTE. The Navy was successful in destroying nine merchant vessels in international waters, this in my view was the turning point for the government. The LTTE strength was heavily dependent on regular supplies, the destruction of their merchant fleet meant they had no alternate supply channels. The added advantage of being the President’s brother, meant he had the confidence of the military and the political leadership.

6 Q: Lately the recovery of large stocks of weaponry and ammunitions for. E.g. like self made submarines, artillery guns etc. It demonstrates how strong the LTTE has been financially and also build up their strength in the past?  

A:
Yes, this is true. The security forces re-designated a new safe zone on the coast near Velanayanmadam north of Mullaittivu on the 12 February. In my view the aim of this move was to deprive the LTTE of the weapons it had hidden underground in the first safe zone. As the civil population left, the LTTE made desperate effort to recover its weapons. But the forces have moved in within 48 hours of announcing the new safe zone and managed to recover large stocks of weapons.This was a smart move by the Army.

7 Q: Now you said about possibility of LTTE turning back to a guerrilla group in Sri Lanka; but the LTTE leader Prabhakaran has lost a large number of his senior leaders in this fight. So don’t you think it will be difficult for him to continue even with guerrilla methods?

A:
Well the LTTE has little choice but to transform itself back into a guerrilla group. But to do that, they will have to re-organize its self. Currently the LTTE operate like a conventional army with high profile leaders, but as a guerrilla group with no territorial control they will not have that luxury. Somewhat like the IRA Army Command, the will need have anonymous commanders to lead the guerrilla war. Having high profile leaders will be a liability in guerilla warfare. When the LTTE mutates into a guerrilla outfit there will be only room for a selected few senior leaders.  

8 Q: Prabhakaran has never really trusted any of his commanders. So without experienced and trusted commanders can he carry on fighting?

A:
The LTTE is very much cult around Prabakaran, so if Prabakaran is eliminated the LTTE will no longer be a structured organization as in the past. The senior commanders are battle hardened and their loss will definitely impact on the fighting ability of the LTTE.

However, if Prabakaran is eliminated that’s the end of the LTTE as we know it. There will be a power struggle among the senior leadership and it is likely to splinter the group. It is imperative for the LTTE that Prabakaran survives.

9 Q: It is said that the LTTE leader is living among the civilians in the safe zone. Some belive he has already fled the country. What do you think?

A:
Military sources believe he is hiding with Mahaveer families in the civilian safe zone. The SLAF has been undertaking UAV night flights to track Prabakaran, I believe its a matter of time before his luck runs out.  

10 Q: One of the most important points why LTTE was so successful was their International network. Now Selvaraja Pathmanathan (better known as KP or Kumaran Pathmanathan) who is on the Interpol warrant list was named the international chief of the LTTE lately. So what would be their position with these changes based on the battle front internationally? Out of all the die hard LTTE loyalists living overseas why did LTTE name KP as International representative?

A: The appointment of Selvaraja Pathmanathan (alias KP, Kumaran Pathmanathan) as the LTTE international representative, a fugitive indicates that Prabakaran is desperate to protect the covert operations of the LTTE international network, rather than pursuing any political lobbying. This shows that the LTTE is focusing only on its overseas assets.

The overseas assets are essential to support the future of Prabakaran’s family that fled. Most of Prabakaran’s wife (Madhivadini’s) relative live in Denmark. In a post-Prabakaran period, it is very possible that the LTTE overseas assets will be managed from Denmark.

11 Q: So if Interpol could arrest KP, it will break the financial backbone of the LTTE internationally.

A.
KP was out of favor with Prabakaran immediately following the ceasefire. This was after the LTTE established multiple procurement channels undermining KP’s operation. It is only recently, to be specific after Tamilselvan’s death that KP is back in the fold.

Now, after the death of Finance head Thamilenthi, yes it is most likely that KP will have a good idea of the LTTE’s overseas assets.

12 Q: Some here believe that Diaspora families living abroad, who have lost relatives as LTTE cadres will remain faithful to LTTE. For e.g. the Sister of the LTTE Pilot who was shot dead lives in Germany. So some belive LTTE will not die off……

A:
The “Tamil Eelam Project” was a failure, it squandered millions of dollars taken from the Tamil diaspora. what’s the return on investment, nothing.

The memories of the LTTE will live among the diaspora specially the families that sacrificed siblings or relatives. As you can see, with Tamil protesters blocking Westminster bridge in London and Parliament House in Ottawa, the annihilation of the LTTE is inconceivable to the Tamil diaspora.

13 Q: According to your knowledge has KP visited Germany?

A:
KP is known to have attempted to relocate to Sweden at one point, but I have no information on visits to Germany.

14 Q: Has LTTE purchased any military equipment from Germany? If so what are they?

A:
The LTTE on many occasions purchased dual use equipment from Germany. Many of the aviation manuals found by the Security Forces in LTTE air wing camps were German editions.  

15 Q: Although KP is wanted internationally, the UN representatives have been talking to KP with the mediation of Norway. This throws out many questions about the role of Norway and the UN dealing with terrorism and the LTTE. What is your opinion/assessment about this?

A:
I was not surprised by the fact that Eric Solhaim has spoken to KP, but what surprised me was that a high UN official spoke to an international fugitive with an INTERPOL arrest warrant.

16 Q: Now that UN and Norway knows the whereabouts of KP, shouldn’t the international community and also Sri Lanka demand that they assist Interpol to arrest KP?

A:
I think the UN is duty bond to pass on any information regarding phone numbers and contact information to INTERPOL. We are always ready to blame others, but has the Sri Lankan Police taken steps as State representative to INTERPOL asked for this information ?

17 Q: Civilians held by the LTTE as human shields have been major international concern. Even after many demands from the UN, US and EU, it seems that LTTE will not release these innocent civilians. What alternatives have the Sri Lankan Government to free them?

A:
It is vital for the LTTE keep the civilians as they need the human shield to protect themselves. The LTTE will attempt to hold out till the Indian elections in May and if a BJP led government is elected then hope that the new government will impose on Sri Lanka a ceasefire to save Prabakaran.  

18 Q: How do you see we can achieve durable and lasting peace Sri Lanka ?

A:
Firstly by eliminating the LTTE, the moderate Tamil opinion will finally have a chance to be heard. In my view majority of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka do not want a separate state, rather they want dignity and respect in the land of their birth.

We have come a full circle since 1956 and now we are at the crossroad again. If the current government adopts a “winner takes all” approach and does not address the genuine concerns of the Tamil people, we have lost a great opportunity for durable peace. However, if the government receives this as a “magnanimous victory” and addresses the underlying grievances we will have durable peace.

Sri Lanka Guardian Correspondent Germany can be contacted through slgfrg@srilankaguardian.org . Copyrights 2009 Sri Lanka Guardian. All rights reserved. Any other form of reproduction, publication or redistribution of this material should be only with proper acknowledgement to Sri Lankan Guardian. Breach of copyright will be considered actionable.
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