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Transcript- Rohan Gunaratne

1 October 2010

 Dr. Rohan Gunaratne

                                                                  

C.R. de Silva: At the very outset Dr. Gunaratne, I wish to thank you for agreeing to come and make your representations before us because I am sure that the representations you are making today will be very helpful in formulating our recommendations to His Excellency the President. But before we proceed further I wish to tell you the general practice as far as this Commission is concerned. You are entitled to make your representations either in camera or in public and at the end of your representations the Commissioners are entitled to ask you any questions arising from your representations or any matter that is relevant to the Warrant. And you could respond to these questions either in camera or in public, the choice is yours. So this is the procedure that we follow before this Commission. Now you are entitled to make your representations.

 Gunaratne: Chairman, thank you very much.  What is the time frame that we have? 

 C.R. de Silva: We are a little flexible Dr. Gunaratne but say about 45 minutes.  But certainly if you can’t … because there is another person coming before this Commission on the slot.

Gunaratne: I understand. Let me firstly thank the Chair and the Members of this Commission.  I am going to present on 3 areas. Firstly I want to share with you my own views about how the LTTE has been restructured after its military defeat in Sri Lanka in May of 2009. 

As a student of the LTTE structure and the organization and its ideology since the 1970s I have very closely followed the organization. I interviewed many leaders and members of the LTTE and among those leaders and members of the LTTE that I interviewed included the leader of the LTTE Velupillai Prabakaran in 1987. I also interviewed the successor to the LTTE leader Prabakaran that is Tharmalingam Shanmugam Kumaran alias Kumaran Pathmanathan or KP. And I also interviewed several hundred leaders and members of the LTTE after they were detained in May of last year. So I am basically going to make my submission based on my own experience of speaking to a very large number of LTTE members some of who are dead; some of who are alive; some of who are incarcerated; and some of who are undergoing rehabilitation.  The second area I want to discuss is about Sri Lanka’s post war strategy, because today we are living in a totally different time frame, totally different political and security environment after the LTTE was defeated, and I want to share with this Commission my own thoughts about whether the Government of Sri Lankan and the Sri Lankan people have adapted to that new reality in order to prevent a re-emergence of support and sympathy for a similar movement like the LTTE or even for a revival of the LTTE that we all witnessed in the past 3 decades. Finally I want to share my own views about some of the successes and the failures of how Sri Lanka managed its conflict both in defeating the LTTE but also in working with the international community or failing to work with the international community in the lead up to the war and subsequently.  

So let me begin my presentation by focusing on the structure of the LTTE. The LTTE as an organization – as a military organization – was very much based in Sri Lanka. But the LTTE was very largely supported by a network that the LTTE built outside Sri Lanka. At its height LTTE had 42 offices. They were located in North America, in Canada, in the US, in Western Europe, in South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Although the LTTE as a military organization has been dismantled in Sri Lanka, the LTTE global network is almost untouched. It is very much intact. So the same structures and the ideologies and the support networks that facilitated, enabled, provided sustained support for the LTTE to do what it did in Sri Lanka is very much intact. And one of the principle weaknesses of the Sri Lankan Government that I identified over many years was that the focus very much was to try to dismantle the LTTE in Sri Lanka but in terms of international strategy or global strategy to understand the international network to inter-lock that network and to dismantle that network there wasn’t much effort.  

And if we look at the activities of the international network of the LTTE, basically they can be divided into 4 areas. One is propaganda or publicity – some of the publicity was true; some of the publicity was disinformation. Second is fund raising; finance to support the LTTE. LTTE ran 3 types of organizations to do propaganda and fund raising and we call those organizations front, cover and sympathetic organizations and those organizations took the face of human rights, humanitarian, social, cultural, political, educational, charity, non-profit and community organizations. So in many ways the LTTE was able to operate overseas especially in the western world through these innocuous or innocent sounding organizations. So the first component was propaganda, the second was fund raising and the third was procurement – terrorist procurement – because to sustain the terrorist and the insurgent campaign in Sri Lanka, the LTTE had to build their capability with weaponry that was either recovered in military raids against Sri Lankan military facilities, law enforcement facilities or the Tamil Tigers had an extensive network unrivalled by any other terrorist groups of procuring from different countries, and let me share some light in the area of procurement and shipping because the two areas of procurement and shipping has been largely classified and not spoken publicly.  The fund raising and propaganda has been largely public; and I think that today after a year after the war I think that we can all afford to share publicly of how LTTE procured their weapons and how they  transported those weapons to Sri Lanka. 

I personally interviewed not only the Head of the LTTE international network Kumaran Pathmanathan, but I also interviewed a large number of Sri Lankan Tamils who served as captains of LTTE ships and crew members including I interviewed a number of their procurement officers some of them in custody and some of them free, and based on that I like to share with you that LTTE initially procured most of its weapons from India because they had extensive network in India. In fact the Indian Government facilitated the procurement of those weapons because from July of 1983 until June of 1987 India’s foreign intelligence service the Research and Analysis Wing supported not only the LTTE but also other militant groups. There was a total of about 20,000 Tamil militants based in India. The LTTE itself trained 9 batches in India. The first and the second batch was trained in August 1983 in Uttar Pradesh and in Himachal Pradesh. The first batch was trained in Uttar Pradesh in a facility called Establishment 22 north of Dehra Dun where India’s principal military academy is located.  And I want to share with you Prabakaran himself visited the first and the second batch of Tamil Tigers who were trained in Himachal Pradesh and in Uttar Pradesh and his journey was facilitated by India’s foreign intelligence service RAW. The subsequent batches were trained in Tamil Nadu including the batch where a girl called Tenmuli Rajaratnam was trained. Tenmuli Rajaratnam is known as Danu the woman who assassinated Rajiv Gandhi. So I want to share with you that the principal reason why India facilitated and enabled support for those groups was because Sri Lanka stepped out of the Non Aligned orbit. At that time there was a cold war between Sri Lanka and India. India was very much within the sphere of Soviet influence and Sri Lanka was a darling of the west because in 1977 under President Jayawardena Sri Lanka had a policy of market economy and built ties with Europe and with North America and India perceived what was happening in Sri Lanka as a threat to Sri Lanka because India had even moved many of their nuclear facilities to the south and India didn’t want an anti-India build up in Sri Lanka and India started support. 

So one of the key points that I want to make is that in the future if we want to have peace and stability in Sri Lanka, it is important not only to reach out to the Tamils in Sri Lanka and overseas, but we must manage our relationship with India. Had India not supported the LTTE and those groups I believe an insurgency would have never occurred in this country. And one of the reasons we suffered was because the Sri Lankan foreign policy and decision makers failed in their responsibility of advising the then Government and the Sri Lankan political leadership did not understand the importance of maintaining that close friendship with India. I worked very closely with President Jayawardena at that time and I had many discussions with the President. And in fact at that time the President asked me to write a book on Chinese/Sri Lankan relations which was subsequently published by the Ministry of State by the Department of Information because President Jayawardena thought that we can go into a confrontation with India in the sense that he said we have very good friendship with the Europeans and with the Americans and he was building a very close relationship with the Chinese and with the Pakistanis. But I think that we can be friends with the Chinese, we can be friends with anyone but we cannot afford to antagonize India. Our relationship with India is paramount and I think that we should send our most capable Ambassador not to Washington DC, not to New York, not to London but to New Delhi and our second best diplomat should be in Madras because the future security of Sri Lanka very much depends on that relationship with India.  

So if I go back to how LTTE built its procurement capabilities, training capability to fight and sustain the fight it was because India facilitated and enabled that assistance. And after that the LTTE also exploited various avenues in the Middle East and also in Eastern Europe for procurement. So I will give you just one example. The weapon that killed Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali it was a 9mm Browning weapon and the man who assassinated Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali was called Appaiah Balakrishnan. That weapon was procured in Lebanon and in fact New Scotland Yard investigated Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali’s murder and in their report they clearly identified from where that weapon was procured. And I want to share with you that Appaiah Balakrishnan subsequently he died on Mugalan Road. He was shot by Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali’s bodyguard. So you can see that LTTE procured weapons in the Middle East and they brought it to Madras and from Madras in boats they brought it to Sri Lanka. Once again you can see importance of India.  The third group of procurement – so first India then Middle East – was from Eastern Europe and I will give you just one example.  In 1994 on board a Tamil Tiger ship called “Eliana” that was subsequently renamed “Baris” – “Baris” in Greek means peace – the Tamil Tigers purchased 50 tons of TNT and 10 tons of RDX and this quantity of explosives that was procured was shipped out of Nicolev the black sea port and the Tamil Tiger ship brought these explosives around the  Cape of Africa. I spoke to the Captain of the Tamil Tiger ship and he told me that they couldn’t bring the ship through the short route of Suez because of the security in Suez. The ship unloaded the cargo. So with 50 tons of TNT and 10 tons of RDX they sustained the campaign against the Sri Lankan forces and of course terrorist attacks in Colombo. So LTTE in many ways built a state of the art procurement network and since late 1997 North Korea became the principal country to provide arms, ammunition and explosives to the LTTE. The North Korean deal was cemented in Bangkok by a man called Ponniah Anandaraja. Ponniah Anandaraja first worked for the World Tamil Coordinating Committing in the United States and subsequently he joined the LTTE core organization as the auditor and the accountant of the LTTE and he was largely operating out of Thailand and Ponniah Anandaraja worked with the North Korean embassy in Bangkok and since late 1997 almost all the major weapons and also infantry weapons were procured from North Korea. This has not been made public before but I thought that so much of time has passed that we can talk about it.

So the LTTE had a main operating base in Indonesia that was led by a man called Bahidaran and they purchased the ships from Japan. Ponniah Anandaraja alias Aiyah or Aiyannah would fly to North Korea and the ships that were purchased in Japan – second hand ships – would bring these weapons in ships to the equator – equator is known as zero, it is a point south of Sri Lanka – and these arms ships would be based there. And on board merchant tankers – smaller vessels – these weapons would be transferred to the sea of Alampil just outside our territorial waters in the EEZ and the LTTE used to have small teams that would move very fast into the international waters. Because the LTTE had radars they knew the areas where the Navy was not covering and they would transport these weapons. So I want to share with you that it is this constant and sustained supply of arms, ammunition, explosives that enabled the LTTE to fight the Sri Lankan military. If there was no such supply they would have failed. And I personally believe that it is paramount for Sri Lanka to go back and investigate those countries where LTTE had bases, LTTE was able to procure ships from Japan, was able to procure arms, ammunition, explosives from North Korea. We need to go back and discuss with those countries and I believe that this is one of the weaknesses of the Government that they have not gone back and consulted those countries and identified who was behind those activities. Not for punishing those people but certainly for understanding what happened during that period.   

So let me share with you that the first is propaganda, second is fund raising, third is procurement and fourth is shipping. So LTTE had registered a number of shipping companies and these ships – 95% of the time these ships would transport general cargo: that is paddy, sugar, timber, glass, fertilizer; but less than 5% of the time they would use the same ships to transport arms, ammunition and explosives and I want to share with you that Sri Lankan Government has done a remarkable job after the defeat of the LTTE to recover some of those ships but I want to say that we still need to investigate more into how they ran this state of the art shipping network and to ensure that those who supported the LTTE we have them on record because it is important for those data bases to be very current.  

Let me now move to what happened in Sri Lanka in the month of May 2009. After Prabakaran’s death there were two people who were appointed to head the LTTE. So Selvarasa Pathmanathan – and that is the real name of KP. KP was appointed as the General Secretary or the Secretary General of the LTTE and just below him another person was appointed as No.2.  And the person who was appointed as No.2 or the deputy to KP is now the current leader of the LTTE. So I want to place on record that the founder leader of the LTTE was Prabakaran (Velupillai Prabakaran) and the second leader was Selvarasa Pathmanathan (known in Sri Lanka as KP) and the third leader of the LTTE who is the current leader is known as Nethiavan. Nethiavan is currently operating in Norway. Nethiavan is the person who is running the LTTE structure, LTTE organization.  On the political side we have V.Rudrakumaran who is immigration lawyer out of New York.  He has built something called the transnational government but the clandestine LTTE international organization is still controlled by Nethiavan. In Sri Lanka Nethiavan was a deputy of Castro.  Castro was the Head of International Relations.  So Nethiavan studied in Moscow and since he finished his studies he re-located to Norway. And Nethiavan’s ideology is identical to that of Prabakaran. So Nethiavan as the successor to Prabakaran, as a successor to KP, still advocates Prabakaran’s image, still advocates the Tiger flag, and still calls for arms struggle – arms struggle means terrorism and insurgency.   So there hasn’t been a decisive shift in the case of the new leadership of the LTTE. And that is why I believe that because he advocates openly the arms struggle that is why I say that while we focus on building peace in Sri Lanka, building reconciliation, we must also enhance our security and intelligence capabilities to ensure that there is no resurgence of violence in this country. 

 Side by side with Nethiavan we have seen a very important member of the LTTE that has fled Sri Lanka and that is a man called Kapil Amman. He was the deputy leader of the LTTE and the No.3 of the LTTE intelligence department. Vinayagam, he is also based overseas. Kapil Amman is operating out of India, Vinayagam is operating out of France.,So if there is a terrorist attack in Sri Lanka in the coming months, coming years, I believe that this attack will be conducted by the Nethiavan group particularly the intelligence faction that is aligned to Nethiavan and the mind set of the LTTE intelligence cadres overseas have not changed it is one of seeking to revive the violence and go back to a period of violence. 

So how do we grapple with this situation? What is the solution to this situation? As far as my own thoughts are concerned I believe that we should address this situation at 3 levels. One is today the world is living in a period where we have to learn to live with terrorism. Sri Lanka is a very unique case that since May of last year we haven’t had a terrorist attack. But if you look at most countries in the world they have at least suffered from a number of attacks. Sri Lanka certainly has disrupted a number of plots to mount attacks on our soil in the last one year.   

There were plans to collect intelligence on the President, on other important dignitaries, and also mount surveillance on a number of targets. So in many ways our answer to that should be a total transformation in our national security structure and I haven’t seen that transformation and through this Commission I hope I will be able to make representations to the President and to others the importance of that transformation. How do we transform our national security structure? Our national security structure is largely geared to this date to fight an insurgency to fight a terrorist organization a robust terrorist organization but that phase is over, that phase is over because today we have to down size the strength of our Army, of our Navy and our Air Force. We have to increase the numerical strength of our Police and our other law enforcement agencies. We have to exponentially increase the numerical strength of our intelligence services both our national services meaning the civilian agencies the SIS and the military intelligence services and give them the mandate for those services that have no mandate to operate overseas because today gentlemen the centre of gravity of the LTTE has moved away from Sri Lanka to overseas and the LTTE is today largely operating in the international arena and in the diplomatic  arena. Our Foreign Ministry, our Ministry of External Affairs have a very poor understanding of what they must do to meet this challenge. And I want to reiterate this – a very poor understanding of this. Our Ambassadors, our High Commissioners our Diplomats are not prepared to fight this new threat.They are living in a different period where they are investing in bi-lateral relations and I think that we need to focus we need to better integrate our Foreign Ministry our Ministry of External Affairs staff with our intelligence community and working together with our Police, our criminal investigations, our Terrorism Investigations those departments because the threat that was amidst us has now moved overseas and those structures are very much intact. 

 So we need to transform our national security structure give a lesser priority to our Army, Navy, Air Force – the combat units – but invest more in creating intelligence capabilities in the Army, Navy, Air Force as well as our national organizations like SIS. So I believe that this transformation has not yet taken place even after one year after the defeat of the LTTE.

 Sri Lankans are very intelligent but unfortunately we have not done our best to adapt to that post war, post conflict environment. And let me share with you my own thoughts about it. How to do it, because there is a systematic process that must to be followed?  One is we must do what you call a national intelligence estimate and we must continue to do a national intelligence estimate   every year of the threats that are facing our country. Whether they are man made threats or whether they are natural threats; whether they are threats from non state actors like the LTTE or whether they are threats from foreign governments. Then we will have a good idea of what is happening. So if you take the national intelligence estimate we must look at the number of LTTE cadres who have been killed; number of LTTE cadres who are in custody; number of LTTE cadres who are in rehabilitation; number of LTTE cadres who are still overseas active. So we need through a national intelligence estimate we will be able to establish their activities and  their strengths, their future plans. After that we must develop a national security strategy and within that we need a very clear counter terrorism strategy because there are still people in the LTTE organization overseas that want to see a return of this country back to violence. And based on that strategy we must build what you call the national security structures. 

 What are those national security structures? Whenever we see a threat we need to build those structures. So for instance we don’t need a Defence LK as the way it existed during the war. But we need a different type of Defence LK to appeal to work with the Tamil community; we need a different type of websites from our tourism authority from our (businesses?) that are appealing to Sri Lankan Tamils come back come home and invest. We need the President to stand up and to make a bold offer I am giving an amnesty even to LTTE members who have killed; even to LTTE members who have given money to buy arms, ammunition that have killed. The President has not done that. So I believe that Government must have a proper procedure for giving an amnesty. Because there are a lot of members of the LTTE lot of leaders of the LTTE many of whom I have debriefed spoken who are living overseas. They believe that they went on a wrong path; they want to come back to Sri Lanka; they want to make peace and I think we need to open those doors and that door must be opened by the President by the Head of State of our country. So I believe that we need to build those national security structures. National security is not only to kill people and disrupt operations; national security is to make peace with our adversaries of the past; to engage them so that we will have future peace in this country. So the meaning of security is a very broad one. Security is not just Army, Navy Air Force, Police and our other armed combat organizations. We need to stabilize this country. We also need to counter the bad image of Sri Lanka that exists in some countries. We have a very poor image. Sri Lanka’s name is mud in some European countries.  It is not because Sri Lanka did something very bad.  I think that as a country Sri Lanka failed to project the ground reality of what happened in the lead up to the defeat of the LTTE and its aftermath.  In terms of propaganda, in terms of countering the disinformation.  So Sri Lanka’s image needs to be improved.  So how do we do that?  We need to create a team of cyber warriors or digital warriors appearing on BBC, CNN – Al Jazeera is another story – but today the world has moved into what you call new media technologies using the web using the internet using blog sites websites twitter; we have to go into that area but we have not transformed.  The LTTE is far ahead in their propaganda capabilities.  And let me share with you the United Nations and other groups are telling 7000 civilians were killed in the no fire zone.  But I want to share with you based on my own interviews of coroners of doctors including LTTE doctors the LTTE members who were in the no fire zone Tamil civilians who were there the maximum number of Sri Lankan Tamil civilians that died in the no fire zone I will put that number as 1400 but the United Nations is still quoting the figure of 7000; why? Because the TamilNet and the LTTE first said 7000 people died.  But no one has given a breakdown.  But the Sri Lankan Government failed to counter that because we did not have a robust counter propaganda machinery.  Our Foreign Ministry again failed.  Foreign Ministry should have worked with our Information Department.  Foreign Ministry should have worked even more closely with our Ministry of Defence to correct that wrong impression. 

 So the Military did what it had to do.  It defeated the first insurgency of the 21st century in Sri Lanka.  But I want to share with you that the ground reality of what happened in the no fire zone could not be projected outside.  And many western nations were lobbied.  We cannot blame the Americans, we cannot blame the Europeans, we cannot blame the United Nations or those international organizations.  We have to blame ourselves because we must understand that those western nations are very susceptible very vulnerable to lobbying.  So our embassies our diplomatic missions should have prepared for this.  Our Information Department our media organizations should have prepared for this and they should have started cultivating and working with journalists and with media organizations.  So we failed that.  The Military did an admirable job.  The Ministry of Defence very successful but the Foreign Ministry failed.  Few ambassadors were very creative.  Few diplomatic staff were very creative.  They did a good job. So I want to share with you that these are new structures new capabilities we have to build at least belatedly.   

So let me now come to the final part of my presentation.  What else can be done to prevent an insurrection in this country?  Support for violence support for extremism.  We have to take a very hard look at what went wrong in Sri Lanka and if we fail to tell very openly what went wrong and identify those problems we will again suffer from another phase of violence and again the Sri Lankan state will have to kill another significant number of members of a terrorist group. 

I believe that there was a huge mistake that the Sri Lankan political leaders made in 1956 with the Sinhala Only Act.  I am a Sinhalese; I went to Ananda but I believe that was the turning point.  It is because the Sinhala Only Act Mr.Bandaranaike came with that because he wanted to return to politics.  He wanted to come to power.  I met with Mrs. Bandaranaike at her Rosmead Place residence with Professor Bruce Hoffman – Bruce Hoffman is the leading U.S. specialist on terrorism – a few months before her death.  I asked Mrs. Bandaranaike what caused this problem and she said the Sinhala Only Act.  Then I said “But Madam it was your husband”.  She said “yes it is true”.  She is a very honest lady.  

So I believe Sri Lanka was a model of ethnic unity of religious unity.  Singapore modeled itself on Sri Lanka of the 1950s.  Lee Kuan Yew said that. But in Singapore what did Lee Kuan Yew do?  Lee Kuan Yew gave one apartment one block one flat in a block of flats to an Indian, another to a Chinese, another to a Muslim and Lee Kuan Yew said that in this generation the children of those Indian families Chinese families and Malay families will play together and next generation we will have Singaporeans.  But in Sri Lanka our own politicians who were well educated what did they do to stay in political power for political and personal gain, they destroyed this country – they destroyed this country.  So I believe that the leaders we had immediately after independence they spoke of a united Ceylon but the leaders that came subsequently they did not emphasize on a Sri Lankan identity.  So today in Parliament our Parliament is a disgrace.  If you look at our Parliament our Tamil politicians are speaking of the problems of the Tamils; Muslims politicians are speaking of the problems of the Muslims; and the Sinhala politicians are speaking of the problems of the Sinhalese.  Ideally a Tamil politician should never speak of the problems of the Tamils.  It should be the Sinhala Politicians who should be doing that; the Muslim politicians.  And the problems of the Sinhalese, the Tamil politician should speak of.  So we should all feel that we are Sri Lankans and if we can build that Sri Lankan identity I believe in 10 years time we can have a Tamil President because when we look at someone we won’t say he is a Tamil we will first think he is a Sri Lankan.   

So I believe that we must learn a lesson from a very important Sri Lankan who came from Jaffna.  A man called Rajaratnam.  Mr. Rajaratnam went as a child he left Jaffna and he went to Singapore.  And he became the Foreign Minister of Singapore and later the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore.  He wrote the pledge of Singapore.  The pledge of Singapore is that we are Muslims, we are Indians, we are Chinese and we are Malays but we all know our differences but we overcome those differences to create a Singaporean identity.  So I believe that there can be differences because he speaks Tamil, he speaks English, he speaks a different language, he looks a little bit dark, he looks a little bit different, maybe he puts some oil on his hair but still we are Sri Lankans.  So all our leaders must work towards building a Sri Lankan identity. And I believe that Your Commission can play that important role of stabilizing this country if you work towards that.  I think that we should not create separate ethnic conclaves or ethnic religious conclaves.  We should look at long term stability.  I am for one.  I am advocating devolution of power at the core at the centre but not at the periphery.  And I will tell you why.  I am a student of Professor Ted Robert Kerr.  Ted Robert Kerr wrote the definitive study on ethnic conflict and another scholar called Donald Horowitz did another remarkable study on ethnic conflict.  They both came to a very interesting conclusion.  They said that if you devolve power later in a conflict not in the early stage later in a conflict what has been devolved can be used as a launching pad to carve out a separate state. 

 I believe that in Sri Lanka what we should do is we should have a Police Chief who is a Tamil, we should have an Army Chief who is a Tamil and we should have a Navy Chief who is a Tamil; the same way we had a Police Chief who was a Tamil; we had an Army Chief who was a Tamil.  In fact if we look at the 1950s most of them until that period they were Tamils and we should have very robust percentage of Tamils in our civil service.  So even as a percentage Sri Lankan Tamils 14% now may be much less because of out migration but we can afford for Tamils to enjoy 20% or even 25% of those top positions because the way we treat our minorities is the way the people will look at us; not only the people in this country but outside.  And we can afford to be generous to our minorities and if we don’t do this there will be resentment; there will be anger.   

Let me finally say that many of the grievances that the LTTE used to build support for its fight have been resolved whether they are in education whether they are in employment whether they are in language, whether they are in religion. But today many Tamils have aspirations.  We have to resolve those aspirations.  So we must go from the grievances model to those aspirations otherwise we will be lost if we look at those grievances. And then we must build bridges of friendship between the north and the south.  We should invite the children from those schools in the north to come and spend time in the south and we should invite children from those schools in the south to go and spend time in the north.  Play football with them, play cricket with them, have art competitions have pen friends come and show them our museum take a model museum to the north translate the history books to different languages.  We can do a lot.  Other than that we need to engage the Diaspora.  A million Sri Lankan Tamils live overseas.  For every 3 Sri Lankan Tamils 1 lives overseas.  We have to engage them.  And I believe that this is not the time for revenge.  Even those who have killed in the past even they have come and committed serious crimes we have to embrace them work with them.  We should have no difficulty of shaking hands with someone who has blood on their hands.

 I was very close to Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar.  In fact my last meeting with him was in India and I told the officer who was responsible for his security that he has to be protected otherwise he will be killed.  Because there was intelligence.  And I believe that even if you look at Mr. Kadirgamar I don’t think he will have a problem of forgiving the man who assassinated him.    So I think that we should not follow the judicial model of prosecuting even those who have committed the most serious crime because the environment we lived was a totally different one.  And I believe that we should create amnesties and we should set them free.  This is a very bold step that Sri Lanka must take.  I myself lost several of my friends, family, very close colleagues and I probably spent most of my adult years fighting terrorism not only here but I worked in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in many other conflict zones, and I believe that at every time we get a very rare chance a golden moment to make peace and I believe that today we are living in such a moment.

 I thank you very much.

 Q & A:

 Rohan Perera: Thank you Dr. Gunaratne for that comprehensive and interesting presentation.  I have two questions.  You did speak at length on the failure of diplomacy in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  My question to you is would you also think that when one interacts with the international community it is important that the Government speaks with one voice.  If they establish intermediary between a State and the international community the Ministry of Foreign Affairs then it should be that Ministry and that Ministry alone which communicates the official position of the Government vis-a-vis the outside world rather than a cacophony of voices which could send mixed signals.  Wouldn’t you think that that is also an important factor?  That is my first question, I have another one.

Gunaratne: Thank you very much for that question.  President Jayawardena I asked him this question.  I said why are you dealing with India (this is in the lead up to the accord).  I said shouldn’t it be Mr. A.C.S.Hameed.  But he told me that the subject of the LTTE at that time was handled by the Prime Minister’s office of India and by Research and Analysis Wing (India’s foreign intelligence service) and not by the M.E.A. (the Ministry of External Affairs of India).  Mr. Dixit himself had difficulties because so many different agencies were dealing with Sri Lanka from the Indian side. So the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a very limited role in Sri Lanka with regard to the Accord.  In fact I reviewed each and every document – most of those documents were secret documents, communication between President Jayawardena and Mr. Rajiv Gandhi – and those documents were transferred between RAW and the National Intelligence Bureau.  No one in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ever saw those documents. 

So even if you look at the contemporary period, the more recent period, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary to the President, Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, they directly dealt with India in the lead up to the final phase and throughout the final phase of the conflict and aftermath.  I think that this is a structural problem but this is a problem that needs to be addressed.  Perhaps there should be someone senior enough in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs based in the Ministry of Defense and in the President’s Office to prevent this kind of thing happening.   

Ideally the model that you advocated should be the way we should work.  Basically Sri Lanka is run by power centres: say Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, the President, then Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa you see, but we need to build a proper structure where different Ministries they will do what they have to do.  But those Ministries have also been somewhat slow and that is why those leaders have taken the authority to their hands and they are basically running the country that way.  So we can’t also blame those leaders.  So it will require some creative way of creating proper structures and proper organizations and proper procedures where we will function as a proper country.  We don’t see that happening.  I don’t see that happening.  If I want to get something done in the United States or in Britain in any other developed country I will go to a certain Ministry and get it done but here if I want to get something done in some Ministry I may go to a different Ministry and ask someone in that Ministry to give a call to that Ministry and tell them I need this done otherwise it may take about one year to get it done.  So Sri Lanka is run by power centres not by a proper structure but we have to do that, we have to get there.  I have spoken to you very openly and I think that we have to address these issues.  

Rohan Perera: Thank you for that response.  The second question on the question of devolution of power.  You indeed mentioned the importance of devolution at the centre or the representation of minorities at the centre.  Also you said that you do not believe in the devolution to the periphery, and you also referred to the need to make key appointments from minority communities and you did mention appointment of the IGP and Service Commanders and so on in the past.  Not only that I believe at a particular period say between 1977 or early 80s until the 90s even the diplomatic service I believe there was a conscious decision to appoint members of the minority community as Heads of Missions in key capitals of the world.  Would you think that type of symbolic gesture would really address the basic needs of the people of the north and the east and of the other minority communities in other parts of the country because there was a sense that these appointments were totally counter productive and they were seen as purely cosmetic exercises rather than addressing the needs of the people of the affected areas.  I would like to hear your views on that.  

Gunaratne: You raise a very valid point.  Let me firstly go back to a concept called … there are two types of integration; one is called emotional integration and the other is called the real or the actual integration.  So Tamils themselves feel that they have lost the privileges that they had immediately after this country became independent say in the 1940s, 50s even in the 60s what they had they have lost.  So we need to address this at two levels: one is at a very emotional level at a level where everyone can see that we have a Tamil Police Chief.  Perhaps we can make the next Air Force Chief a Tamil because the Chief of Staff is a Tamil in the Air Force.  In the Navy we have very senior officers who are Tamils who fought in the war very bravely.  So I believe that it is important to do that also.  In the civil service of course there are many Tamils but I think it is important to give them a very special status and give them those important appointments. On the political side I think we need more Ministers who are Tamils; more Permanent Secretaries also who are Tamils, we can do that.  With regard to those real issues that you are talking of I believe that if you are going to devolve power in the north east we should devolve power in the south and the west as well so there is some symmetry but to make a special case for devolving power in the north east is a failure is a mistake. I believe we are a small country. We should not copy India and we should explain to the Indians very clearly we cannot have the Indian model here. This is a very small country.  We need to have a model that will work in this country. And I believe that certainly Sri Lankan Tamils in the north they feel somewhat unhappy with the presence, maybe the prolonged presence of the Military. We don’t have to maintain a very long term presence of the Military.  We can have Policemen and I spoke to the Police Chief (IGP) recently and he told me that he is currently recruited considerable number of Tamil Policemen and Tamils are willingly joining the Police Department. So I believe those security issues can be addressed; those educational issues can be addressed. We need those issues addressed.   

We also need a very strong anti-discrimination law. If anyone insults a Tamil, even if a Minister insults a Tamil, we should put that Minister in jail. We need a very tough law to prevent people from abusing other communities, other races, and I think as a deterrence it is important to bring 2 or 3 very prominent people in the country if they are doing this and try them. I think there is a lot we can do to make sure that a Tamil, a Muslim and a Sinhalese will feel we are Sri Lankans and there is no difference by being born a Tamil, or by being born a Sinhalese or a Muslim.   

Rohan Perera: Concerning asymmetrical devolution confined to the north and the east if it is across the board …?

 Gunaratne: There is no problem for me. 

 Rohan Perera: Thank you.

 Gunaratne: Because we should not differentiate between a Tamil a Muslim and a Sinhalese, and a Burgher or a Veddah. We should operate on the principle we are the same. If Tamils don’t have anything and they are having some problem we must immediately address it. We should give them more than what they deserve because they are a minority. The principle of a country that is stable is you must look after your minorities and you should be prepared to give them more than what the majority community has so that they will not have any resentment or unhappiness where they will be exploited by ethnic entrepreneurs like Prabakaran.

C.R. de Silva: Dr. Gunaratne, we had occasion to interview some of the people in Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, etc. Some of them expressed the concern that there are certain priorities that they were interested in and constitutional amendments were not a priority. They were interested in being treated as equal citizens; their right to use their language; then the question of the land policy where outsiders should not be brought in to predominantly Tamil areas and also private lands should not be acquired by the Military establishment. Those were the concerns that they had and some of them said that we are not interested in a second chamber or an Executive Prime Minister or an Executive President. Those are not matters that concern us – those are not our priorities. That was one concern that they expressed. And another concern some of them were very happy with the Army; the way the Army conducted themselves after the war. And some of them said that the Army had done yeoman service for them in so far as resettlement is concerned. Now we also observed in Puliyankulam where the Army had rehabilitated one tank and constructed another tank bringing nearly 400 or 500 acres under the plough for the next Maha season. So there were a lot of people who were very happy with the performance of the Army especially after the war because they felt that they were …the Army was very pro active; they helped them in the construction of their houses; rehabilitating their wells. They were very happy. So do you feel that the presence of the Army is a sore point as far as the people of the area is concerned?  

Gunaratne: Mr. Chairman firstly the Military is maintaining a presence in the north east because the war has just ended. They cannot withdraw from the north-east. If they withdraw the conditions may re-emerge for those who still have the Tamil Eelam ideology and that will crystallize into action. So it is imperative for the Military to remain in the north-east until such situation the Police is able to take over the day to day law enforcement and intelligence functions. Once that happens certainly the Army can return and I believe that the Army will come back. There is no reason for the Military to stay there. But until those areas stabilize it is imperative for the military to remain. I believe that we should not put pressure on the Military to withdraw from the north east. The Military should remain there as long as it takes because if there is a terrorist attack again we have to redeploy the Military in the north east to stabilize that region but certainly we must build our Police so that the Police and the Intelligence Services will maintain the security coverage and provide assistance if and when necessary to stabilize those areas. The Army has played as you mentioned a very admirable role in the north east and I will give you one example. When the rehabilitation of the LTTE members first started this responsibility was given to the civilian authority but the civilian authority failed because they didn’t have vehicles, they didn’t have security, they didn’t have access. It was given to the Military. The Military moved very rapidly and got everything organized, got the food supplies organized, got the security organized. So the Military can operate very efficiently in the north east because they have been in that area for such a long period of time. I believe that if you take the Army down, if you withdraw the Army it will not only be a security problem it will be an issue of maintaining those services in the north east. And also the Army is playing a remarkable role in building roads, in developing the north east and these Army people they are Sri Lankans there should be no problem at all of the Military being there. And I will give you one example. I was asked by the Sri Lankan Government what is your view in those rehabilitation camps: should the Military people be in civils or should they be in uniform. I said after consulting a very eminent Sri Lankan criminal psychologist who is presently in this audience I said that it is imperative for us to have those soldiers in uniform in those rehabilitation centres because they must see that those soldiers who are in uniform they are also Sri Lankans and I want to share with you that after December last year the relationship between those detainees and the Military is excellent, because something very important happened in December. In December the World Food Program stopped giving food to those detainees and General Kamal Gunaratne who was the Wanni Security Forces Commander at that time authorized the ration packs, the ration that is given to the soldiers the same food be given to the detainees. World Food Program food was very bland – it is noodles and things like that – but now those detainees they eat the same food that you and I eat (curries, fish). So I want to share with you that … and those soldiers and those LTTE detainees they are coming from the same social level no, so they make friendship, they have the problems at home, the same challenges they face. They have made very good friendships. So I don’t see any problem of having the Military. Certainly if there are excesses if there are any abuses we should punish them and those are very few. I don’t think as a policy I have seen that the Army has been very good to the civilian population. Certainly in war people die because you cannot fight an insurgency without civilian deaths. No insurgency in the world has been fought without civilian deaths. If you look at the civilian fatalities and casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan it is much more as a proportion compared to what happened in Sri Lanka. It is simply that we have not been able to counter the negative publicity. So I think that we have a great Army.

 Let me address the second part of your question. Different people have different desires and aspirations. The Tamils in the north-east if you go and talk to them most of them they don’t care about these constitutional amendments and all that and they don’t understand it also. Some of them even I don’t understand it. But what is important is to look after the day to day needs of those people. Make sure that they have a house; make sure that they have a job; make sure that their children go to school; make sure that they have security. These are the 4 most essential things. Those people who are jumping up and who spoke about separatism and spoke about different things, these are the elite who are in Colombo who are in a cocktail circuit who may have never even visited the north east. The set of problems are different, very different. It is like Rudrakumaran jumping up in New York and shouting and telling this is happening in Sri Lanka but he hasn’t been to Sri Lanka. So I believe the President of Sri Lanka should invite this Rudrakumaran give him all the security send him to the north-east and make him a Minister and give him a responsibility in the north east. We have to do such moves.

 Palihakkara: Dr. Gunaratne knowing as I do your considerable knowledge and experience in this area thank you very much for bringing it to bear here. It is very useful for us. I have a question to you on your very valid point. You said that you have a figure of 1400 casualties in the terminal part of the operation I believe you were referring to.

Gunaratne: Yes, fatalities.

Palihakkara: Right, fatalities. As you know during that critical period despite lot of campaigning there was no decision by the Security Council asking Sri Lanka to stop that operation. So the difficult part was lets say manage relatively, I would say easily managed relatively well. But now in the post conflict period there seems to be a number of difficulties which you have pointed out in handling the international community, handling the image, etc. etc. Do you think these accountability issues, the way we handled the accountability issue is the reason for that? Because you said the U.N was quoting 7000 and then you said 1400. What are your thoughts on the way this was handled? I think this issue of casualty figure you are the first one who brought it up here like this. What are your thoughts on that because I think that is the crux of the problem that how do we deal with that? Because in all other post conflict issues I think the Government has handled it very well – resettlement then the infrastructure building in the north and east and also the very laudable efforts by the Armed Forces to manage the transition period. If all those things are being handled this is the area in which there seems to be some kind of ambiguity lacuna. What are your thoughts; how should we handle that?

Gunaratne: Firstly I will make a plea to the Commission to invite the LTTE doctors because I interviewed the LTTE doctors. You know, LTTE has their own doctors. They have their own education to train these people. So I interviewed the LTTE doctors. I also interviewed professional medical practitioners who were in the no fire zone and asked them. So they also told me that the LTTE told them you go before BBC and you give these, these, these figures. They were coached. So important for you to call them because they were detained here for a period of time and now they have been released. They are free; you can interview them also and ask for these numbers. 

You can also ask the U.N representative here, how did the U.N come up with the figure of 7000?  I am very interested to know that. Whenever I met someone from the U.N I asked them and they couldn’t tell me except that that figure was manufactured by the LTTE and it was put in the LTTE website. So I want to share with you that the Sri Lankan Government made a huge mistake with regard to the non issue of a white paper. Sri Lankan Government should have issued a White Paper on the 5th no fire zone – the Puthumathalan Mullivaikkal that no fire zone is called the 5th no fire zone. We had 4 no fire zones before that. The Government should have said okay, the Military entered this during this period there were so many fatalities and injuries before that and after we entered these were the deaths. 

So this was a miserable failure on the part of the Sri Lankan leaders. They didn’t understand this and they still haven’t understood it. So I believe that someone should tell the President look it’s not too late to issue a white paper of what happened. What is the Government view of the number of people who were killed and number of people who were injured in that no fire zone.  And let me share with you the LTTE created what is called a human shield. It is not unusual for terrorist groups to do that. Even in Afghanistan and Iraq the terrorists and the insurgent groups have done that because these are weak organizations compared to militaries. So they rely on the civilian wall to protect themselves so they created a no fire zone. They created a human shield in the no fire zone. So certainly there were civilian deaths. 

And I can tell you based on – I am privileged to have access to classified intelligence – and I am going to share with you that there was certain intelligence at that time that a group of LTTE members were coming to surrender. But the actual plan was to break out. And the military told them look you cannot surrender at this time you can surrender in the morning when there is light. And when that happened the LTTE formation opened fire and the Army had to fire back. Certainly there were civilian deaths there but the Military had to protect itself also. If I was a soldier I would have fired myself. So I want to share with you that it is important for this Commission to understand what happened in the no fire zone because this issue of war crimes will come up again and again and Sri Lanka needs to counter this. I think the Government made a mistake by not responding, not rebutting those reports produced by the Europeans and by the Americans.   

In fact I asked a Sri Lankan High Commissioner recently because there was a newspaper article telling that there are mass murders in Sri Lanka. So I asked the High Commissioner – a certain High Commissioner who was overseas – I said ‘why is it that you are not responding to those reports?’ I said within 6 hours our Missions should respond to any negative publicity. So the High Commissioner said I haven’t got guidance from Colombo to do that. So we have to counter this negative publicity.   And there is a lot of disinformation. Some truths, because no insurgency can be fought without civilian deaths it is natural. That is the nature of war. Insurgency is people who are hiding among population centres and attacking. But we must do our own assessment our own calculations our own mathematics and produce a white paper. This white paper was due one year ago. At least now Government should produce a white paper telling that this is our estimate of what happened.

 Hangawatte: Dr. Gunaratne thank you first of all. On that same the 1400 – civilian issue 7000 versus 1400. I wonder if you have documented the interviews with the doctors and coroners as a scientist. If you have without revealing names just the when, where, whom that type of information whether you would like to share?

Gunaratne: Will be very happy to do that. 

Hangawatte: Thank you.  That will be very good for the Commission.

Gunaratne: But I would also request that the Commission itself interview the coroners who were in the Puthmathalan Mullivaikkal that area, you interview the doctors who were there, the LTTE doctors who were there and anyone else from that area and establish your own figures.

Hangawatte: Certainly. Also going back to another point you mentioned how the LTTE global network is hardly touched and you mentioned that they may re-group and as you obviously also know from Ted Kerr’s work even that any violent group needs charismatic leadership otherwise they can’t function they usually vanish. So does this global network do they have a charismatic leadership who can replace Prabakaran. For example you mentioned Nethiavan but Nethievan I wonder whether he is that type of charismatic leadership?

Gunaratne: Nethiavan’s real name is Sivaparan Perimpanayagam. He is not a charismatic leader at all. I think if the press reports this he will be very disappointed to hear. But I want to tell you that I don’t think he will ever be a leader. Prabakaran was a very charismatic leader. Prabakaran set a personal example and he was a very self thought man, Prabakaran, but Nethiavan is not like that. He can never be that kind of leader but he will be a clandestine leader who will organize, plan prepare attacks when the time is right. Rudrakumaran is also not. He is an immigration lawyer.There are basically 3 factions: one is the LTTE criminal faction which is led by Nethiavan; second is the Global Tamil Forum which is aligned to Nethiavan led by Father Emmanuel; and third is the Transnational Tamil Eelam Government that Rudrakumaran is creating. None of these people are charismatic. But I believe that their intention is to disrupt peace in this country.   I don’t think there will be another Prabakaran. I don’t think that we will ever have the type of insurgency and terrorist movement we all suffered from again. But certainly if we don’t take the threat seriously which is insipient – I will say the threat right now is insipient – but it can grow into a significant threat if we don’t address these issues and to cut down sympathy and support for separatism in Sri Lanka in the next 10 to 20 years. None of those leaders I see as a significant figure but in the future there can be other leaders may emerge.

 Hangawatte: So in order to prevent a recurrence of such events based on your analysis that we should have a good international intelligence network – at least to develop – one of the objectives should be to prevent the rise of a charismatic leader as such.  Is that (right)?   

Gunaratne: Yes the purpose of a security and intelligence service which should have the mandate for global operations and presence in countries where LTTE has significant political and other presence is largely to monitor the activities and then to work very closely with their security and intelligence counterparts in those countries to take action against them as well as to advise the Government of the political and law enforcement measures they must take to neutralize that threat. Certainly they should report both on security related activities and political activities and I believe that Sri Lanka has a rudimentary capability to operate overseas. But it needs a robust capability because today the centre of gravity of the threat has shifted from Sri Lanka to overseas. And this is one of the transformations in the National Security architecture of this country that I am envisaging after the end of the war but we have not transformed.   

Hangawatte: And talking about the shipping network, procurements. You said there is a need to go there and investigate etc. Something that bothers me is that those are countries where the arms originated and also the sea routes have been taken are usually the places and the routes that are used by illegal international arms traders and sometimes they change depending on the political situation. So I wonder whether knowing that for illegal international arms traders it didn’t matter whether they were selling to the LTTE or to the devil. In that sense would it serve a useful purpose? Would we be able to find any connections or sources there or would it be a futile exercise?

Gunaratne: Most of the weapons LTTE purchased from 1997 until March 2009 came from North Korea and it was the Government of North Korea that sold those weapons to the LTTE.

Hangawatte: But it is a very secretive Government.

Gunaratne: It was very clandestine, it was very secretive. And I want to share with you that it is important for North Korea to know what Sri Lanka knows today because it will be a deterrence. And I believe Sri Lanka should make a public announcement of its findings that the LTTE was provided weaponry from North Korea, that LTTE was aligned to this organization because there are few sympathizers and supporters of the LTTE living in the west. They themselves need to know that the source of supplies for the LTTE came from a regime called North Korea. 

Hangawatte: But if we believe the international community it seems that North Korea gets its weapons from China so … 

Gunaratne: You are absolutely correct. In fact I want to share with you that almost all the weapons North Korea provided the LTTE were Chinese manufacture. So as you know there is a railroad linking China to North Korea. The weapons came from China. 

Hangawatte: One final question about what Dr. Perera also asked about – this power devolution. You mentioned that there should be a devolution of power at the centre but not at the periphery. Later you explained probably what you meant was federal structures specific mention to India. Instead of having federal structures which seems to now be a by gone idea even elsewhere – I am not talking just in Sri Lanka – but there have been newer models that have been developed and that are being put to use where there is devolution of power to the periphery mostly to the individuals at the individual level even self determination at the individual level not at the group level which has become acceptable to many countries who faced insurgencies and terrorist problems etc. including even China. So could we use such a model rather than…for example giving devolution of power at the village level for example and in that manner. The problem I have what you mentioned just if you put a IGP a Tamil whatever the Army Commander a Tamil what happens there is we are simply changing faces because that face that is put in there then also becomes a part of the same establishment. Same thing goes on. So I wonder if the people will really believe or feel that in any way. That doesn’t address the problem in my view. I am just…I would like to have your views.   

Gunaratne: I fully understand the point you made but let me clarify a little bit. When I mentioned devolution of power in the centre I meant that there should be a certain percentage of Tamils serving in the civil service as well as in the armed forces and other important sectors of our society. Even at a political level. For example we can have a Prime Minister who is a Tamil.  Prime Minister in my opinion should always be from a minority community. If we have a Tamil President in the future then the Prime Minister can be a Sinhalese.   

Hangawatte: But the problem is without devolution of power to the people at the individual level would that be useful. 

Gunaratne: No, you should devolve power but I don’t think you should single out and say that you are devolving power to the north east simply because these people are Tamils. Then there will be a question for the Muslims. So I think that we can devolve power in general to those peripheral areas. It need not be specific to the north-east. So we should create such a structure. And I think that there are so many models as you yourself explained that have been generated in the more recent past and we can follow one of those.  My own thinking is this. We should certainly educate our people and explain to them the importance of addressing whatever grievances that are there and aspirations of the Tamils. But it is also important whatever we do we should be able to sustain it that another Government that comes into power they are not going to scrap those structures. So it will require a process of consultation. For example consultation with the Opposition.   

One of the main reasons I believe reconciliation today in Sri Lanka is slow is because there is such a wide gap between the political opposition and the Government. So there should be a bi-partisan approach between the political opposition and the Government otherwise whatever the Government does the political opposition will oppose it even if it is a good idea. So one of the impediments to rapid reconciliation in Sri Lanka is the divide between the Government and the Opposition. We should have a bi-partisanship with regard to these core issues such as reconciliation such as national security such as foreign policy. We don’t have it. So Government itself should reach out to the political Opposition and should work with them, you know. 

The same principle applies of working together with the international community. The war is over today. I don’t think Sri Lanka needs to have such an antagonistic posture to certain countries. Sri Lanka should reach out and say look that phase is over now we can work together. 

Chanmugam: Thank you very much Dr. Gunaratne. I would like to ask you whether you have any thoughts to share on the maritime operations during this period. Particularly the naval encounters. We must have had some form of intelligence to have been able to encounter even ships that were carrying arms for the LTTE?   

Gunaratne: What aspect do you want to know? Because I focused on…I looked at this aspect very closely. So I will be able to elaborate to you on any aspect of the maritime component. If you want I can speak to you on the LTTE shipping networks, if you want I can speak to you on the Sea Tigers, the territorial … 

Chanmugam: The Sea Tiger territorial command during that period, particularly say in the last 2 weeks or 3 weeks in May.   

Gunaratne: Okay. So let me share with you the last shipment of weapons for the LTTE left North Korea in the month of February/March. The name of the LTTE ship was “Princess Iswari” – Merchant vessel “Princess Iswari”. The captain of the LTTE ship was Captain Kamal – Captain Kamalraj Kandasamy. This particular ship after it left North Korea – the ship originally went there from Indonesia, loaded the weapons and it came – and there was a conversation between the man who was controlling the shipping network at that time called Ravishankar Kanagarajah alias Sangili who is now in Canada, and the captain of the ship. And the captain of the ship was instructed to dump all the weapons in the sea because they knew that the weapons coming on board that ship can never reach the no fire zone area.  So LTTE did not have sufficient supplies because the Sri Lankan Navy had cordoned off. They had built what is called a sea screen and one of the principal reasons for the defeat of the LTTE in the no fire zone is they had no capacity to replenish their material losses meaning weapons. So that particular ship called “Princess Iswari” that carried the last consignment of weapons once they dumped the weapons the ship was berthed in a South East Asian country and in the month of August last year that particular ship left for Canada with 76 migrants and the captain of that ship was captain Kamalraj Kandasamy and that ship reached Vancouver with 76 migrants and the Canadian Government freed those people who were on board “Princess Iswari”.  So I want to share with you that when that ship was tested for explosives residue by the Canadian Military they found traces of RDX, traces of C4 and traces of PETN that proved that that particular ship was used for arms smuggling. So I believe that the Sri Lankan Navy was very effective in creating that sea cordon that prevented that vessel from coming out. 

With regard to the sea I want to share with you that policing the sea is a huge challenge but it is an important challenge. And there were few people that fled from the sea but Prabakaran himself could not flee because he knew the risks of moving out from sea. Soosai the Sea Tiger Commander his family went by sea and she carried money and gold and she was intercepted by the Sri Lankan Navy. When the story of Soosai’s wife fleeing with gold and LTTE money was broadcast into the no fire zone the civilians were very angry because civilians said the LTTE is sending their family members with money and gold why can’t we go, and that was the point where there was a break out by the civilians. And of course as you know LTTE members fired into those civilian pockets when they tried to break out.  But controlling the sea is paramount. And if not for the destruction of the LTTE shipping fleets starting in 2005 initially with intelligence provided by foreign governments including the Australians, the Indians and also the intelligence that was generated by the Sri Lankan Navy itself as well as Sri Lanka’s intelligence services provided intelligence if not for the destruction of the LTTE shipping fleet the war would have continued because LTTE would have had the constant replenishment of arms, ammunitions, explosives by sea. So the success of any terrorist group any insurgency group depends only on 2 things: one is constant supply of arms, ammunitions and explosives either by sea or by land or by air. Second is replenishment of human resources, meaning fighters. But many people didn’t want to join the LTTE in the last stage because they knew that they will be killed. Even those who joined the LTTE about 60-70% were forcibly recruited and they really didn’t want to fight. That is why nearly 11,500 LTTE members surrendered. And today most of them are in rehabilitation camps.  So LTTE project for Tamil Eelam failed because it was not backed and supported by the vast majority of the Tamil community. It was a small percentage of the Tamils that supported the LTTE. LTTE was not a very popular or a vast large movement like the way the LTTE publicized itself.   

Paranagama: Doctor, may I draw your attention to the Ceasefire Agreement. We have heard so much about the failures of the ceasefire agreement. Can you say something about the failures and if we have received some advantages can you mention about that too?

 Gunaratne: Firstly thank you very much for your question. I think that the Norwegians were very sincere as mediators unlike the Indians. The Indians were not sincere because they intervened in Sri Lanka for geo political reasons. They wanted to safeguard their own security. But with regard to the Norwegians they really had no interest in Sri Lanka they were sincere in their intentions but they were very naive. They didn’t understand that Prabakaran wanted to use these bouts of peace to arm and strengthen itself and build international recognition at their cost.  But there were many benefits of the ceasefire. One is that the people of the north-east they tasted what is peace. So they all wanted they all desired and longed for peace. Not only the ordinary Sri Lankan Tamils but also LTTE members and leaders longed for peace. So I believe that the peace talks itself created that opportunity for Karuna, the Eastern Commander, to break away from the LTTE. Because he realized what is the point of going back to the jungle. So I think that the cycles of war and peace had its own dynamics. And Prabakaran of course used those opportunities of peace to arm himself, to recruit more, to collect more intelligence and to get more international recognition. But those periods of peace also made LTTE fighters realize what am I doing here carrying this weapon killing people. We should all work towards peace. So it was like a double edged sword.  I also want to say that Karuna may have never broken away and that is one of the key factors for defeating the LTTE. About 3-4000 LTTE members left the LTTE with Karuna and also the quality of intelligence in Sri Lanka had vastly improved when Karuna broke away and I think that that period of talks with Karuna was very much instrumental in his decision to break away.

 Paranagama: When the A-9 route was opened the stronger younger generation of north was able to come to Colombo city and they were able to escape abroad thereby Prabakaran lost some strong young youth where he was left to take the school children into fighting the battle. So that way did we get any advantage?

 Gunaratne: You are absolutely correct. After the ceasefire it became nearly impossible for the LTTE to recruit people as volunteers. It was only after that that Prabakaran went down the road of forced recruitment. And that is why those LTTE cadres did not fight from their heart and from their soul and that is why they surrendered – a very large number of LTTE fighters surrendered because they were forcibly recruited.  That is why I made an appeal to the Commission here that we must give amnesty to those LTTE leaders and those members who are both here and overseas because LTTE was a conscript organization and the percentage of those who voluntarily joined LTTE is very small compared to those who were forcibly recruited. And we must give everyone a chance of peace of returning back to normalcy of going back to the mainstream. This is our duty as Sri Lankans. They are Sri Lankans and we have to give them this opportunity to go back to the mainstream.

C.R. de Silva: Thank you Dr. Gunaratne for the very interesting and very exhaustive presentation that you made. You certainly gave us food for thought. You started off by identifying the Military operations and finally you also mentioned that now we should develop not military men but cyber warriors. And also you suggested various strategies to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil community and to develop a Sri Lankan identity. We are very thankful to you Dr. Gunaratne for the contribution that you made and the views that you expressed would certainly be made use of by us in formulating our recommendations. Thank you.

Gunaratne: Mr. Chairman I thank you very much. I thank the Commissioners and I believe that your Commission will create the foundation for future peace in our country and I believe that if your Commission is able to do so that Sri Lanka will emerge as one of the most developed nations in the coming decade. I thank you very much.         

Posted in Transcripts.


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