Role of CSOs and NGOs in counter-terrorism

The political lobby and advocacy activities conducted by LTTE front, cover and sympathetic organizations attempt to harness CSOs, NGOs and politicians seeking disaffected voter bases, to further their aims. Terrorist affiliates befriend the unsuspecting CSOs, NGOs and politicians through funds and votes, and by encouraging their sympathizers to join such organizations and lobby from within, against legitimate states and to indoctrinate individuals within these target groups. The primary criticisms that are used to secure sympathy as a victim against the state are based on corruption and human rights to legitimize the fight for justice, and to dclcgitimizc the state response. Therefore, the state must take extra care to not provide reason, and also have a strong policy of engaging CSOs NGOs and other nations before during and after counter-terrorism efforts. CSOs and NGOs can be a valuable asset in engaging communities to reduce the terrorist voter base and support innocent civilians - the genuine victims of any conflict.

National security impact

Strategies adopted to manage and mitigate risk by successive governments

South Asia remains a fertile ground for insurgencies and terrorism. Sri Lanka has not been immune to this phenomenon. The state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an insurgent and terrorist group, were locked in battle for three decades with heavy loss of life. The LTTE, masters of suicide terrorism, conducted 1,118 terrorist attacks since 1975.29 The state was forced to adopt a military approach to terminate the operational capability of the LTTE to safeguard a vulnerable civilian population, brutalized by terrorism for three decades. The demise of the head of the LTTE marked the end of the military campaign in May 2009. This was followed by a robust security and intelligence platform to detect and disrupt any plans and preparations at reviving terrorism on the island.

To address and prevent politicians from exploiting underlying grievances that led to the separatist campaign, the military campaign was followed by three phases. A humanitarian phase, then a socioeconomic phase, and finally a political engagement phase. A primary post-war challenge to national security and reconciliation was managing approximately 12,000 surrendered and captured LTTE Tamil Tigers in custody. Away from the glare of the international media, the state in partnership with civil society organizations, the private sector and the academia adopted a unique rehabilitation and reconciliation approach to engage the Tamil Tigers and the community.30 The rehabilitation, reintegration and reconciliation programmes enabled Sri Lanka to reintroduce more than 12,000 former Tamil Tigers, known as beneficiaries, into the community.31 The continuous engagement of the beneficiaries significantly mitigated the threat and prevented recidivism.

A whole of nation approach was taken to ensure public safety. The state, in partnership with civil society’, the public and the private sector, took ownership and shared the burden of security and stability. A decade following the military defeat of the LTTE, several aspects were found to sustain public safety: community engagement programmes (CEPs) to build resilience in the community; a comprehensive security system to ensure that terrorism does not return; the rehabilitation and reintegration of former terrorists as peacefill citizens; and arresting the flow of funds that motivate extremism and terrorism.

Twin threats to national security

Since 2015, the greatest challenge for Sri Lanka has been political instability, caused by weak governance, ethnic politics, self-interest and geopolitics shifting the focus once again, away from serving the best interests of citizens and the nation. This four-year period witnessed a serious decay in national security in spite of several warnings that resulted in the Easter Sunday bombings on 21 April 2019. Prime Minister Wickremcsinghc apologised for the failure of government to prevent the deadly attacks that left 253 people dead.32

Hundreds of families, institutions and agencies have demanded explanation for government’s inaction in the face of rising Islamic extremism. ‘The puzzle of their passivity in light of the clear and present danger is, nonetheless, explicable by political psychology: The Wickremcsinghc coalition included Tamil and Muslim parties who played the role of essential “kingmakers.” Clamping up on the brewing Tamil re-radicalization or on rising Muslim extremism would have been anathema to these indispensable political partners’.33

Gross neglect and undermining the importance of national security since 2015 had a direct impact on the rise in two formidable threats: the LTTE, declared the most ruthless terrorist group in 2009, and the Islamic State, considered the most rapidly expanding terrorist group since 2014.

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