Come and Have a Go If You Think You’re Hard Enough.

You’ve won a brutal, pitiless 30-year war against probably the most effective and ruthless semi-conventional insurgent/terrorist group anywhere.

You’ve defied massive international pressure to stop the war as you were about to declare absolute and crushing victory.

You’ve pressed ahead with the war despite heavy civilian casualties.

You’ve faced two years incessant of criticism of your victory with unceasing demands for international investigations of abuses and war crimes trials of your victorious forces from human rights groups, Western media and diaspora supporters of the defeated force.

Your victory and the manner of its achievement have been condemned in report issued by the UN Secretary General. Gruesome execution videos damning your military and attempting to compare your country to Rwanda and Cambodia are about to be released.

Even celebrating your victory has been criticized by countries that still obsessively celebrate their military victories 60 years after the event.

A ‘normal’ poor, developing country would’ve decided that keeping a low profile would get it off the hook with its critics. A ‘normal’ poor, developing country would’ve agreed to letting its future policy be dictated by its critics, acting as benevolent, all-knowing, wise overseers. Sri Lanka is an abnormal poor, developing country.

In a move which has driven it’s critics into paroxysms of incoherent rage, Sri Lanka recently ended it’s first ever, post-war conference devoted to it’s victory over the LTTE called ‘Defeating Terrorism – The Sri Lanka Experience’. Brad Adams, director of Human Rights Watch was apoplectic at the idea of anyone visiting Colombo with anything other than with an arrest warrant for President Rajapakse and his allies and lead calls for a boycott of the conference.

Delegates at the Sri Lanka Defence Conference, June 2011

Military delegates from over 42 countries attended the three-day conference to learn about Sri Lanka’s experience. They listened to a few self-congratulatory speeches from the usual suspects; Gotabya Rajapakse, Defence Secretary (Bad Cop) and Prof. Rajiva Wijesinhe, MP and Reconciliation expert (Good Cop).

Old School Military Conferences - Major General Dias in a tactical conference with his officers during Eelam War 4.

More interesting were the open question and answer sessions. For a military more used to issuing stern-faced denials, there were admissions of mistakes and some accounting for failures. Key Western powers declined to attend, perhaps for fear of offending their own human rights lobbies and to strengthen their geo-political position in Sri Lanka.

Dr Hashim Professor of Strategic Studies, Centre for Naval Warfare Studies, Naval War College discussing comparative insurgency studies.

The British were conspicuous by their absence. After having lost their anti-insurgency war in Iraq (their forces were ejected from Basra by a motley bunch of Shiite groups) and now trying to find convincing reasons for exiting Afghanistan, they understandably couldn’t bear to sit through the Sri Lankan military discussing the finer points of a notable counter-insurgency victory.

In another move that totally wrong-footed it’s critics, the organisers provided live webcasts of the entire conference and uploaded the overwhelming majority of sessions on YouTube. Two Western academic presenters used the opportunity to give their insights into the war and post-war situation, including forthright criticism of various aspects of the post-war policies.

Dr David Kilcullen, a Pentagon counter insurgency adviser lectures on the necessity for post-war reconciliation to avoid a return to conflict within a decade.

Questions were even posed about the fortuitous deaths (the White Flag affair) of almost the entire surrendering top LTTE leadership element. The US defence attaché in Colombo noted that the fog of war often obscured the precise nature of who in the LTTE was attempting to surrender and whether their offers could be taken seriously. Oops.

“…the offers to surrender that I am aware of seemed to come from the mouthpieces of the LTTE – Nadesan, KP – people who weren’t and never had really demonstrated any control over the leadership or the combat power of the LTTE. So their offers were a bit suspect anyway, and they tended to vary in content hour by hour, day by day. I think we need to examine the credibility of those offers before we leap to conclusions that such offers were in fact real.”

This was another missed opportunity by the professional mourners in the international human rights community to directly question their hate-figures in the civilian and military hierarchy of Sri Lanka. They previously boycotted the very imperfect, civilian-led ‘Lessons Learnt & Re-conciliation Committee’ on the pathetic grounds that the LLRC was insufficiently independent. The mere mention of trigger words like ‘Sri Lanka’, ‘victory’ and ‘lessons learnt’ seem to act like catnip for human rights activists.

Rehabilitation efforts by civilian staff working with the Military.

Watching the presentations, the most astonishing thing to emerge (to those who know Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans) was there was a there was a Grand Strategic Plan (PDF), which involved more than having a few Lion lagers and calling in artillery strikes into the jungles. The tip of the iceberg seen by all, was the front-line fighting; but details of massive logistical, intelligence, political, diplomatic and joint operations mounted out of the glare of immediate publicity was very impressive.

The ghost at the feast was ex-Army commander, Gen Sarath Fonseka. He’s currently cooling his heels in prison on trial for (depending on whose version of events you believe) either attempting a post-war coup or paying the price for having entered the dangerous world of Sri Lankan politics to try to defeat his erstwhile Commander-in-Chief, the President of Sri Lanka. There was no mention of his indispensable role in securing victory over the LTTE – a churlish and paranoid re-writing of history.

President Rajapakse (in white) with Gen. Fonseka (on his left) in happier times.

What lessons have Sri Lanka’s opponents learnt from this conference?

War crime and international investigations? Gotabya Rajapakse says ‘After you, please’.

4 Responses to Come and Have a Go If You Think You’re Hard Enough.

  1. padraigcolman says:

    The UK is very selective in its promotion of human rights. I thought it was ironic that the west should have been so sniffy about Sri Lanka trying to educate them in how to defeat terrorists.
    There is a UK government agency (a Home Office quango) with the title National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA). The NPIA website says part of its mission is: “Providing professional expertise to police forces and authorities.” Notice that does not say British police forces.

    NPIA prides itself on its cost-effectiveness. “We are collaborating with the police service to deliver cost savings of £1 billion through a national strategy to transform the use of information technology and a co-ordinated programme for procurement”.

    Earnings from abroad help cost-effectiveness. The NPIA has sent police trainers to current trouble spots Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Libya. British bobbies are also providing training to the Oman police, who are not quite as brutal as some.

    Saudi Arabia has been consistently the most repressive regime in the Arab world. The NPIA has given high-ranking Saudi officers training in strategic leadership, investigation and “public order issues”. Belonging to a political party or even having a boy-friend are considered subversive in Saudi so the British boys in blue must be undermining human rights by their very presence as trainers.

    Senior representatives from Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain visited Warwickshire in June 2010 to study “the British way of policing” and, as part of the 10-week National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) programme, observed the policing environment of Warwickshire. They were given the opportunity to experience different aspects of policing, visiting police stations, departments and specialist areas of particular interest. Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah from Saudi Arabia Police said: “The force deals with serious and organised crime very well. They are also good at proactively gathering information.”

    Only last October the NPIA International Academy Bramshill ran a course: “Leadership and Change Programme in Bahrain”. According to the NPIA website: “Simon Stevenson and Superintendent Terry Scaife, Course Manager and Police Tutor, found the whole process of writing and delivering the pilot of the new programme very stimulating. ‘This was a great opportunity to review the latest in leadership thinking and construct a leadership programme which incorporates the most up-to-date concepts and materials,’ commented Simon. The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) of the Kingdom of Bahrain kindly agreed to host the pilot programme and attendees provided invaluable feedback to assist Simon and Terry to fine tune the timetable and content for future courses. The MOI has had a long and productive relationship with Bramshill and Simon Stevenson was delighted to meet several past ICP students and congratulate them on their promotions! The new programme signals that this relationship remains strong and we look forward to welcoming future Chief Officers of the Bahrain Police Service in years to come.”

    In 2008 senior Libyan officers attended NPIA courses on “critical incident command and crime scene management” and visited the UK to observe forensic laboratory techniques.
    A representative from Libya also attended the International Commanders Programme in October 2008. Fanny Yuan of Singapore said of the course: “True to the culture of wholesome learning in the UK, the class was also given an introduction of the sports facilities and organised trips were planned over the weekends as well. For the first week, we headed for Reading and the Blackbushe Sunday Market. Nine weeks more of learning journey”.
    “We are now offering a new exercise, written specifically for an international audience and delivered in the simulated operations suite located at Bramshill . The course also includes inputs on Counter Terrorism, international organised crime, information technology, financial intelligence, proceeds of crime and team building.”

    In October 2008, Kurt Eyre, Head of the International Academy Bramshill, hosted a visit by law Enforcement Officials from Turkmenistan. In a report dated May 2 2011, the Open Society Foundation stated : “Conditions in Turkmenistan for civil society and human rights deteriorated dramatically last year. The Turkmen government continues to implement repressive measures to control education, freedom of movement, public health, and access to information. “

    “In February 2010, a request was made by the Department for International Development (DFID) to put together a policing programme and team of officers to assist in the training of Ethiopian Police Officers in preparation for their forthcoming national election. Ethiopia’s position in the Horn of Africa is increasingly important to the UK as a source of national and international crime in areas such as terrorism, people trafficking and drug smuggling and organised crime in general. The UK have a world renowned reputation for training in this area.”

    According to Human Rights Watch, the Ethiopian elections in May 2010 were deeply flawed. “The Ethiopian government is waging a coordinated and sustained attack on political opponents, journalists, and rights activists”. All with the help of the British government.
    An NPIA spokesman said: “All decisions to deploy UK police officers abroad have to be approved by the Home Secretary on the advice of the International Policing Assistance Board”. Such advice will be based on “fundamental principles of promoting human rights, advancing democratic policing principles and enhancing professional and accountable standards and delivering citizen security”.

    That’s OK then! Thank God for “the culture of wholesome learning in the UK”.

    • Mango says:

      Hi Padraig,
      Thanks for that. The UK’s insufferable and unwarranted sense of entitlement and superiority doesn’t stop there. In their 2009 National Security Strategy (NSS), there were some classic statements which simply defy belief, when compared to the situation in SL then, and now.
      “It is essential that we recognise international terrorism as an international issue, and deal with it accordingly, in partnership with those countries most directly affected.”

      “The female suicide bomber. The innocent boy tricked into killing himself and British soldiers by pushing a wheelbarrow packed full of explosives.”

      My favourite, given the UK”s indulgence of LTTE activities in the UK is this: “Our second contribution to countering terrorism overseas is the support we give to countries to help them prevent the growth of terrorism and to deal effectively with it when it emerges.”

      The original document’s been changed, but the speech quoting many of its aims can be found here:

      • padraigcolman says:

        I wonder how the International Academy Bramshill will market itself in the future. From what I hear the English police are proving inept in dealing with the current riots. Fire brigades are refusing to put out fires without police protection and the police are staying well back.

        • Mango says:

          Hi Padraig,

          You’ve heard right. Our special correspondent’s report from the front lines of South London will be posted shortly proving once and for all that the Met as it is currently constituted is a Potemkin Police Force. It’s more than a poor joke, although individual officers aren’t to blame, just the senior management. A Lankan poster noted elsewhere said:

          “If it happened here, it would have lasted only for a few hours with some hooligans going home with bandages or in coffins – ideal solution ya ?”

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