Thursday, May 22, 2008

An end to terrorism

President George W Bush's recent speech to the Israeli Knesset is very illuminating as it provided a deeper insight to America's attitude towards terrorism. The US President made it clear that no nation should be forced to negotiate with terrorists. He staunchly defended the right of nations to defend themselves against terrorism and extremism.

Terrorism is terrorism, everywhere. There are no good terrorists or bad terrorists. Some attempt to create a distinction between so-called freedom fighters and terrorists, but as Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US Bernard Goonetilleke pointed out in a recent speech in Alaska, even 'freedom fighters' should not resort to terrorism to achieve their aims. Only a very few countries have not experienced acts of terrorism perpetrated either by home-grown or foreign terrorists. It is truly a worldwide phenomenon.

The US has vowed to destroy al-Qaeda. Here in Sri Lanka, the Security Forces are battling the LTTE, described the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) as the deadliest terrorist group in the world, even ahead of al-Qaeda. But herein lies a contradiction.

Many powerful nations often request the Sri Lankan Government to "negotiate with the LTTE for a permanent settlement". In the same breath, they vow to destroy terror groups such as the al-Qaeda.

There certainly cannot be such double standards in dealing with terrorism as terror groups operate all over the world and maintain links with each other. The LTTE itself is a prime example. Several LTTE operatives have been arrested in the US, where it has remained on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTOs) since 1997.

Other LTTE cadres have been arrested in India, France and the UK. The LTTE is thus perceived as a global terror outfit.

All Sri Lankan Governments have tried talking to the LTTE, including the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. No Sri Lankan Government delegation has ever walked away from talks - it is the LTTE which had always done so on a flimsy excuse.

Negotiations clearly are anathema to the Tigers. It was not the Government which started the fighting and violated ceasefires. Even now the Government is willing to enter into a dialogue with the LTTE provided it is genuinely seeking peace.

But if the LTTE's response is more violence, the Government has no option but to strike against it and liberate innocent civilians. This does not mean an end to the quest for a political solution, but destroying terrorism is a priority. OPPOSITION'S RESPONSIBILITY

The Opposition in a democracy has a serious role to play. One of its main functions is to offer constructive, not destructive, criticism of Government policies and programmes. The Opposition should not oppose Government policies and programmes merely for the sake of opposing them to gain a narrow political advantage.

But when it comes to national interests, both the Government and the Opposition should think and act along the same lines. There are certain matters over which there should be consensus. National security, foreign policy and the upholding of the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty are among these.

The Opposition should not act in a manner that will jeopardise the interests of Sri Lanka and affect its people. This is very clear if one looks at established democracies in the West and the East.

The record of our current Opposition leaves a lot to be desired in this regard. Tarnishing the Government's image in Parliament and before local audiences for petty political gain is somewhat understandable from a purely political point of view, but extending this to foreign audiences is inimical to the country's well-being.

The Opposition's current campaign against the Government's human rights record is one such example. The Sri Lankan people will be the ultimate losers if facilities such as the GSP Plus are not extended by the countries concerned. Such a step will adversely affect the garment industry, one of the main sources of foreign exchange earnings. It is also a main source of employment and hundreds of thousands of families will be affected if the garment industry collapses.

It is this context that fears have been expressed over Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe's proposed visit to Germany. According to media reports, anti-Sri Lanka and pro-LTTE forces in Germany are planning to use this trip to denigrate Sri Lanka in the eyes of German leaders. They are reported to be banking on the Opposition Leader's meeting with the German Parliament's Human Rights Committee for this purpose.

This is indeed a very alarming trend at a decisive moment in the country's history when the Security Forces are poised to wipe out terrorism. Any international action against Sri Lanka at this moment can only help the terrorists to revive their sagging morale after a series of humiliating defeats.

The Opposition should not let that happen if they truly care for the people of this country and wish to see an undivided, peaceful and prosperous nation.

Courtesy: Daily News


No nation should be ever forced to negotiate with terrorists - US President

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