SL facing int. challenges since govt’s focus was within after eliminating terrorism
August 23, 2013 03:07 am
After effectively dismantling the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Sri Lankan government’s focus was within the country and not overseas. This focus should have been essentially with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, it did not have the same capabilities and capacity as the military and security establishments, said international terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratne.
To a question from the audience on how best Sri Lanka could counter the disinformation campaign carried out specially Tamil Nadu and the western world, Dr. Rohan Gunaratna who is the head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR)] at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore responded thus during question time at the Plenary Session on Defence of the International Research Symposium - 2013 held at the Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) in Ratmalan.
The first session of this two day symposium was on Thursday (22 August) and streamed live on the KDU website and continued on Friday.
During his response Dr. Gunaratne said, “Sri Lanka did brilliantly in effectively dismantling the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as you can see there is no resurgence. Because of the planning the operation was very effective.
“But internationally Sri Lankan government itself faced many challenges since its focus was within Sri Lanka. The government wanted to stabilize the environment within Sri Lanka, so there wasn’t so much focus overseas. The focus should have ideally been with the Ministry of External Affairs. But we did not have the same capabilities and capacity in our foreign service as we had in our military and security establishments.
“So I believe this is an enduring challenge for Sri Lanka. This means perhaps we have to train our diplomats better. Every diplomat should be able to face tensions, should be able to write a press (media) release.
“I have shared with some Sri Lankan ambassadors where even if there is one paragraph against Sri Lanka where the information is not true, you should write a response immediately. But I think we haven’t had the practice which requires a lot of thinking. As we look at the horizon, I see that the LTTE infrastructure that is listed overseas that supported terrorism in Sri Lanka, that is the Nediyavan faction that is based in Oslo, Norway, The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam which is based in New York and the father Emmanuel network that is based out of the UK, these three networks are the three main networks that are currently putting pressure on various governments overseas to mount pressure on Sri Lanka.
“But I believe that even those governments today have realized that a lot of these networks are publicizing misinformation and disinformation.
“But I believe that the (Sri Lankan) government itself should invest more on planning and preparing a very robust, strategic communications network. This is a capability that Sri Lanka needs to build up in the coming years.
“So it means the Ministry of External Affairs works very closely with the Ministry of Information and so many other agencies and I think we need to also train some of our diplomats to work in India, in South India in particular, to work more effectively.
“These are very difficult challenges. These are capabilities that cannot be built within a short term. But I hope that the same way that terrorism could be defeated in Sri Lanka the Ministry of External Affairs will take on this challenge at least at this late stage and create the essential capabilities within the ministry such as the Diaspora Engagement Unit in the ministry. Such as dealing with the non-governmental organizations (NGOs), because NGOs are today being widely used by various extremist groups, such as another unit that could project the correct picture of what happened in the country.
“So this requires innovative capabilities to reach out and to counter that misinformation and disinformation. That is why I think this distorted picture has been given on some of the development in Sri Lanka and these pictures still have to be corrected. But with Sri Lanka inviting people to come here, I think a lot of this disinformation has been countered. Many Sri Lankan Tamils are now travelling back to Sri Lanka and when they see Jaffna they see what is happening in the northern areas. They have been bombarded by misinformation and disinformation and they had that dark perception of Sri Lanka because they were the victims of the LTTE.”