Sri Lanka must not get too close to China, India or the West and should always pursue its national and co-interests, says Singapore-based International counter terrorism expert, Prof. Rohan Gunaratna.
The head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR)] at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore was addressing the final sessions of the Army-organized ‘Defence Seminar -2013’ at Colombo on Thursday (5).
He stated that Sri Lank is a land where there is perfect social harmony between the Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslims.
However, this social harmony has been disrupted by political leaders – both in the South and in the North – because they ethnicize the Sri Lankan population to think as Sinhalese, think as Muslims and to think as Tamils, he said.
“If you look at the most recent election manifesto of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) – an avatar of the LTTE, the latest reincarnation of the LTTE – is again moving towards a separatist ideology,” Prof. Gunaratna said.
It is so important today to protect and immunize our population to make them resilient to political ideals of those divisions, he stressed.
On the allegation against Sri Lanka regarding civilian deaths during the final stages of the war, the intelligence specialist-turned-author stated that anyone who suggests that there were “large scale civilian killings” should come up with a list of names and that no one has come up with such a list so far.
He stated that the censuses that have been conducted very clearly indicate the number of fatalities in the last phase.
Prof. Gunaratna said that this “narrative” of Sri Lanka is largely being developed by the LTTE front, cover and sympathetic organizations overseas and also Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that are funded or have links with those LTTE fronts or NGOs that have been misguided, that have not conducted their field work in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
He stated that the Sri Lankan Government “failed miserably” in one component during the fight against the Tamil Tigers and that it never emphasized on strategic communication.
The internationally renowned terrorism expert stated that if the Sri Lankan military or the Ministry of External Affairs had a strategic communications division, the allegations against the country would have been countered. “This is Sri Lanka’s weakness.”
Gunaratna said he believed the Sri Lankan conflicted protracted for 30 years because of interference. “We had so much of interference from overseas and we had succumbed to that interference,” he said.
The Sri Lankan conflict always had a geopolitical and geostrategic dimension, he said, adding, that this is something Sri Lanka must be very conscious as it moves forward.
“We must not get too close to China, we must not get too close to India, we must not get too close to the West. We must pursue our national and our co-interest,” he said.