The activities of the LTTE are no longer confined to Sri Lanka as the IISS publication `Military Balance 2007` has pointed out. There are now emerging commercial links between the LTTE and the al-Qaeda movement, stated Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said in his keynote address on the topic `Sri Lanka`s Foreign & Security Policy, the challenge of terrorism` at the international Institute for strategic Studies (IISS) in London on Thursday (8), a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
Minister Bogollagama referred to the emerging links between the LTTE and the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan and visits by the LTTE delegations to Kabul shortly before 9/11. The Minister went on to point out that the LTTE`s fleet of merchant vessels has established a presence in the arms black market and been providing mercenary services to several other terrorist groups around the world. Its presence is now well established in the narcotics trade internationally as well. The LTTE is also engaged in money laundering and credit card fraud on a large scale. There is a clear relationship between collection of funds in foreign countries and the promotion by the LTTE of the outflow of asylum seekers into western countries. He indicated that the LTTE has graduated from the stage when it relied mainly of fund-raising from the diaspora even through extortion. Many of its front organizations were registered as companies and charities mainly in western countries, he said. He appealed to the developed countries not to view the LTTE as freedom fighters. They are contributing to instability in other countries and are interlinked to terrorism at the international level.
Minister Bogollagama pointed out to the distinguished gathering of diplomats, terrorism experts, academics and international media personnel that since the problem of terrorism was global, any measures to effectively counter the LTTE required inter-state bilateral cooperation. He referred to the various UN Conventions which impose obligations on States to eliminate the activities of terrorist groups who operate in one country but whose activities are directed towards the carrying out of terrorist activity in other states.
The LTTE`s intransigence and unwillingness to enter into negotiations on core political issues was mainly due to the continued flow of funds to its war chest from overseas. The Minister emphasized that the Government of Sri Lanka is firmly committed to a negotiated political settlement of the conflict and is in the process of drafting extensive proposals on devolution which will ultimately involve constitutional amendments. He said that the LTTE should renounce violence, create a pluralistic environment in the north and east and enter the democratic mainstream in order to legitimately represent the interests of the Tamil people. The Foreign Minister concluded that the international community for its part could assist by using its leverage with the LTTE which has an extensive network in those countries.
The lecture by the Minister was presided over by Dr. Patrick Cronin, Director of IISS.
Last morning Bogollagama also met with Shadow Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP and discussed the Government`s peace initiatives including the work of the All Party Representative Committee, LTTE fund-raising activities and a range of other bilateral issues. They agreed to continue the dialogue, which was observed as useful.