An Interview with Shanaka Jayasekera by Shanika Sriyananda
A Sri Lankan counter-terrorism expert highlighting the attempts of pro-LTTE elements trying to get recognition for the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) from South Sudan, urged the government to renew its counter-terrorism strategies to defeat the former LTTE criminal network and its negative political lobbying to discredit or defame Sri Lanka internationally.
Associate Lecturer of the Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism (PICT), Macquarie University Australia, Shanaka Jayasekara, told the Sunday Observer that the government needed to develop close dialogue with the allies of South Sudan, in particular Kenya which is most influential in terms of South Sudan.
He said the Sri Lankan embassy in Nairobi needed to urgently take a proactive role preventing any form of legitimacy being afforded to the TGTE.
“Though active pro-LTTE lobby groups are in the UK, Norway, US, Switzerland and Canada, LTTE assets are believed to be in Eritrea, I don’t think any recognised member of the international community will take the TGTE seriously”, Jayasekara said.
Jayasekara cautioned that TGTE in the hands of the Nediyavan faction could pose a significant political and security threat to Sri Lanka as the TGTE could act as a catalyst for a LTTE revivalist movement with a militant agenda.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
Q: The country is heading for massive development in the post conflict era. How do you view this progress?
A: The government is undertaking infrastructure projects in all parts of the country and there is a sense of optimism in the people. This has happened after thirty years. While the government keeps pace with development activity, it must address political issues.
Q: What is the current status of the LTTE overseas network?
A: Following the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009 and the elimination of the top tier leadership, overseas operations of the LTTE fell into the hands of the second and third tier leaders. The extraction of Kumaran Pathmanathan also led to a credible leadership deficit amongst the LTTE sympathetic groups.
The overseas pro-LTTE network splintered into four key factions that claimed to represent the Tamil separatist ideology in some form or fashion. They are the Nediyavan faction (Oslo Group); Joe Emmanuel faction (London Group); Rudrakumaran faction (New York Group) ; and Vinyagam faction (Brussels Group).
Q: What are the countries with an active pro-LTTE lobby?
A: The LTTE had TCC branches in twelve countries and you will still find a few remnants holding on to the past. However, the most active pro-LTTE lobby groups are in the UK, Norway, US, Switzerland and Canada. Some of the LTTE assets are believed to be in Eritreia.
Q: According to your assessment which group is the most dangerous among these four?
A: I would consider the Nediyavan faction which is based in Oslo, Norway as the most dangerous group, which is nominally led by Perinpanayagam Sivaparan (a.k.a. Nediyavan), a former LTTE combatant who married the daughter of Rajan Lala a founder-member of the LTTE.
As a result of his marriage into the family of a confidant of Prabakaran, Nadiyavan was appointed as the overseas coordinator of all TCC branches worldwide. The LTTE conducted its international operations through twelve TCC branches in diaspora active countries.
With the defeat of the LTTE, Nadiyavan inherited control of the TCC branch network. However, given his junior rank many rejected his leadership and defected to other factions.
As I said, Nadiyavan is only the nominal head of this faction. The powerbase of this faction lies not with Nadiyavan but with the Tamilnet clique led by Jeyachandran in Oslo and Sreetharan in Bethesda, USA. This faction in my view has gained considerable ground since May 2009 to consolidate and reconstruct the LTTE ideology of Tamil separatism.
Q: What is the strength of the Joe Emmanuel faction ?
A: The Joe Emmanuel and the former TRO activist Ediriweerasingham form the powerbase of this faction.
During the initial split of the LTTE international network, this faction was able to attract defectors amongst the Tamil diaspora. In fact many Tamil groups broke away from the TCC’s hegemonic control and joined the global alliance associated with this faction.
Groups such as the ATC (Australia), BTF (UK), DFTA (Denmark), NCET (Norway), NZTC and WTS (New Zealand), STF (Sweden), TRF (Malaysia), USTPAC (US), ETU (Europe), TEMP (France), CTC (Canada), TKCV (Netherlands), MT (Mauritius), STF (Switzerland), and GT (Italy) associate themselves with this faction.
This faction has a strong presence in the UK and has a constituency based lobbying program that influence British politicians. During the time of the Labour government in the UK, they had significant political influence with several labour politicians to the extent that British foreign policy was guided by electoral concerns over Tamil votes.
Q: Do you see a future for the Rudrakumaran faction?
A: In my view the Rudrakumaran faction is falling apart. Visvanathan Rudrakumaran was closely associated with the LTTE as its Legal Advisor. However his role as legal advisor and meetings with Prabakaran seems to have given him a level of immunity from US prosecution for association with a banned terrorist group. In fact it is ironic that he who served as the legal advisor to the LTTE is now accusing others of war crimes.
This faction is supported by several academics who graduated from the universities of Colombo, Peradeniya or Jaffna and now serving the Tamil separatist cause. In Australia, affiliates of this faction were able to mount significant pressure on the Labour government recently.
Much of the political lobbying in the US is carried out by Jeyarajah using K Street lobbying firms. The money poured into this has got them meetings with senior State Department officials, as well as Senate resolutions against Sri Lanka.
Q: Is the Vinayagam group, which is known to be the criminal element of all these LTTE remenants, still active in arms procurement?
A: Yes, this is the criminal network of the LTTE. The LTTE had an elaborate covert network for weapons procurement and shipping operations. These teams have merged with the TOSIS overseas intelligence group under the leadership of Vinayagam, a former overseas intelligence operative has acquired part of the LTTE assets that facilitate illicit trafficking and shipping activity.
There were reports that Vinayagam was operating from Brussels and was looking to relocate to Canada, however this is unconfirmed.
Q: Do you think that these groups pose a threat to Sri Lanka’s peace?
A: In the last eight months there has been a convergence between the Nadiyavan faction and the Joe Emmanuel faction. This has been primarily to secure a majority in the transnational government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE).
A combined Nadiyavan - Emmanuel alliance is attempting to oust Rudrakumaran as the head of the TGTE and install former TNA Batticaloa MP Jeyanandamurthy as the head of TGTE.
The most recent indication of this alliance is the visit to Australia and the US by Joe Emmanuel. It is alleged that Joe Emmanuel had discussions with Tamilnet founder Sreetharan in the US on this matter.
In my view the TGTE in the hands of Nadiyavan faction can pose a significant political and security threat to Sri Lanka. It is likely that in such a scenario the TGTE can act as a catalyst for a LTTE revivalist movement with a militant agenda.
Q: Will the TGTE have an international recognition?
A: The TGTE is just a room on top of a shopping mall on 6th Avenue in New York. It is an imaginary government. I don’t think any recognised member of the international community will take the TGTE seriously, but we have to be careful about the anomalies in the international system such as defacto states and newly created states.
I am most concerned about the relationship being built between the TGTE and the Government of South Sudan. As you know the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) led a separatist struggle in Sudan and established a separate state after a referendum.
The LTTE had built relationships with several separatist groups in Africa such as the Eritrea People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) that have now achieved statehood.
The US based representative of SPLM, Domach Wal Ruach addressed the inaugural meeting of the TGTE in Philadelphia in May 2010 as a guest speaker. Immediately following the referendum in South Sudan, the SPLM which is in fact the government -in-waiting sent a letter to the TGTE on 18 January 2011 inviting an official delegation from the TGTE to visit South Sudan.
There is a strong possibility that the TGTE is setting the stage to receive an invitation to attend the July 9 independence celebration.
The Sri Lankan government needs to urgently develop a dialogue with the allies South Sudan, in particular Kenya which the most influential in terms of South Sudan. The Sri Lankan embassy in Nairobi needs to urgently take a proactive role preventing any form of legitimacy being afforded to the TGTE.
Q: The government says the majority of the Tamil diaspora is in support of peace and they want to rebuild the N & E. How will this affect the pro-LTTE elements?
A: I think that is a good assessment, most in the Tamil diaspora want to see a peaceful Sri Lanka in which all citizens are treated equally.
What is more interesting is they also feel a sense of freedom from the dictatorial monopoly that the LTTE/TCC had on Tamil diaspora activity.
Now the Tamil diaspora can engage in social and cultural activities without being worried that the LTTE/TCC goons will be watching them.
Q: In this scenario do you think Rudrakumar should abandon his mission?
A: The idea of a separate state of Tamil Eelam has always been, and will be, a pipe dream, so anyone espousing to such an idea should find better ways of using their talents. All communities, be they Tamil, Sikh or Basque, will have extremist elements that can only relate to a zero sum objective. There is nothing new with Tamil extremists.
Q: Recently it was said India is still a LTTE hideout. Do you agree?
A: Sri Lanka and India have an excellent relationship which has worked well with - Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga - regularly meeting with their Indian counterparts.
Any concerns must be channeled through this bilateral process of quiet and constructive diplomacy. India is a friend and has contributed significantly towards the defeat of the LTTE.
Q: What more should be done to defeat LTTE operations internationally?
A: We need to understand the new threat. The old LTTE is defeated.
What we have now facing is political lobbying to discredit or defame Sri Lanka, and former LTTE criminal networks. We have to understand that the centralized LTTE structure no longer exists, now we have multiple groups espousing a common ideology.
We cannot have a one size fits all approach to our counter strategy. They have different strengths and weaknesses, we need to identify these and have group specific responses. Unfortunately, we are still in the mindset of the old LTTE and constructing our counter-strategies without understanding the new threat. ~ courtesy: The Sunday Observer~