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Published On:Thursday, April 18, 2013
Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian

Who amongst us is not a Terrorist?

| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

( April 18, 2013, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the Sri Lanka Guardian article ‘The Boston Marathon Bombing - Understanding the terrorist’ by Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne

Very interesting insight into academics who want it both ways. Dr. Abeyratne begins by saying ‘In 1943 the American psychologist Abraham Harold Maslow published a paper in which he propounded a hierarchy of human needs. Diagrammatically, this hierarchy takes the form of a pyramid with five layers, starting at the bottom with the most important. After receiving the very basic human needs in the bottom most layer such as breathing, food, water, the human climbs to the next layer which includes security of body, health, family and other needs that ensure stability and safety. The other three layers leading to the top involve such needs as friendship, sexual intimacy, self- esteem, confidence, respect of others, morality, creativity, spontaneity and others of a similar nature.

Obviously, the terrorist is not interested in attacking the needs identified in the top three layers of Maslow’s pyramid simply because he cannot have any influence on them.’

In other words anyone who qualifies as a terrorist or anti-terrorist through the bottom two layers is not fit to be in governance section of those in the top three layers.

Dr. Abeyratne proceeds to ask ‘So who is a terrorist? One definition is: “one who uses the threat of violence, either by oneself or with small groups against non-combatants of large groups, for avowed political goals. The key to this definition is the combination of small groups killing non-combatants. Terrorism is the warfare of the weak, the recourse of those desperate for a cause that cannot win by conventional means”.

By using the above definition objectively, the New South Wales Government that had me arrested to oblige the Senior Administrators of the University of New South Wales who resorted to using armed Police and therefore threat of physical violence - because they could not win by conventional means of Research and Teaching – also qualify as terrorists. This Government was then headed by Mr. Carr who is now our Minister for Foreign Affairs. But then Mr. Carr presided over the inaugural services of the Coogee memorial for victims of Bali bombing. It is my belief that if Mr. Carr had actually listened to my pain and used his powers to compensate me for the injustice when he led the government at state level, he would have protected these Australians from that tragedy. Without such natural connections at the deeper root levels – one does not need belief in Truth / God. If something has happened despite our maximum efforts to prevent it – we need to accept that we need God’s help to prevent. Then we do not need to understand. We need to include and share our goodness with the perpetrators – so that they would look elsewhere / some other avenue through which to vent the rest of their violence – in an area that can take on their attacks on equal basis – as happens in the animal world. The stronger our inner peace the weaker their violence becomes.

When choosing the objective path – one does not have the protection of subjective powers. Hence one must be ready to apply the rule / definition to both sides in a conflict. The answer is then to be weighted as per the official status of the person to account for responsibility for which the official gets paid. The Sri Lankan Government is being faulted by Tamil groups on this basis. The UN itself is applying pressure on the Sri Lankan Government due to the government resorting to unconventional methods during which civilians/non-combatants were seriously injured and/or lost lives.

The Sri Lankan armed forces became like their terrorists (as per their definition) and many of them remained like them – thus turning against their own civilians. If they had instead ‘included’ - all people of that area as part of themselves they would have either worked through the Tamil leaders of that area – using the ‘conventional means’ that Dr. Abeyratne refers to above and / or mourned with the rest of us for the injury and / or loss of civilian / non-combatant lives during the operation. To my mind, one who kills to ‘win’ is also a criminal and the more violent the suffering is the more the person qualifies to be called a terrorist. Killing / injuring to win rather than to protect to keep one’s independence is the key to defining terrorism. When it becomes one’s predominant nature to do so – s/he is no longer a criminal but a terrorist.

Dr. Abeyratne quotes ‘A Report prepared under an Interagency Agreement by the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress and published in September 1999 (note, before 9/11) titled : The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism : Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why? states:’

“Unable to achieve their unrealistic goals by conventional means, international terrorists attempt to send an ideological or religious message by terrorizing the general public. Through the choice of their targets, which are often symbolic or representative of the targeted nation, terrorists attempt to create a high-profile impact on the public of their targeted enemy or enemies with their act of violence, despite the limited material resources that are usually at their disposal. In doing so, they hope to demonstrate various points, such as that the targeted government(s) cannot protect its (their) own citizens, or that by assassinating a specific victim they can teach the general public a lesson about espousing viewpoints or policies antithetical to their own”.

The above is a good example that academic work alone cannot protect a group from terrorism pain and loss. It does contribute towards educating the public who could then be aware of the problem. But it does not come with the democratic solution.

The democratic solution is transformation at grassroots level. Towards this the high ranking citizen needs to come down to the grassroots level and include her/himself with the community that feels alienated by the rulers in their area. Those who discriminate may not think they are wrong. But those at grassroots level would think as per their belief and/or hearsay. The latter is temporary and hence the stronger their belief that they are part of the whole – the weaker the problems associated with alienation.

Dr. Abeyratne concludes by stating ‘It would be interesting to learn of the types of security measures were applied at the Boston Marathon. Were they sufficient to repel the displacement theory? Why did the terrorist/s attack the Marathon rather than Times Square on New Year’s Eve? Should there be more vigilance at places where crowds gather and should places be cordoned off and cleansed before a major event?

Questions…questions… but no answers’

One who does not have the solutions and the answers that flow from that solution – is separated from the issue. Dr. Abeyratne by his definition is in the top three layers of the above mentioned pyramid – about which he says ‘three layers leading to the top involve such needs as friendship, sexual intimacy, self- esteem, confidence, respect of others, morality, creativity, spontaneity and others of a similar nature.’

Dr. Abeyratne confirmed this by identifying more with the directions shown by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka and less with the ones I am showing from grassroots level of the community that suffered more due to the war. The transformation continues to happen through those of us who have accepted as ours the weaknesses in our parts of the Sri Lankan society. This would be very difficult adjustment for academics who mark rights and wrongs as per highest common principles – even though they have little or no relevance in that part of the world..


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