Two standards on terrorism
Yesterday September 11, was the third anniversary of the horrendous terror attacks that not only shook the world's sole superpower and changed the shape of modern-day world politics, but also made the West see terrorism as a global phenomenon which needs to be dealt with through a concerted and comprehensive approach.

The attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York was on the eve of that year's UN General Assembly sessions in the same city. 'Terrorism' was not even on the agenda for the sessions. The Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon was in Colombo at the time discussing the agenda for CHOGM, the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit that was to be held shortly, and when the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar raised the issue of combating global terrorism given our own experiences with the LTTE, McKinnon scoffed at the suggestion. This was barely ten hours before the attack in New York. International terrorism was limited to the Lyon Declaration at the time, and was generally low priority in the influential Western hemisphere.

But three years after, whither the war on terror which began with a massive bombardment of a militarily and economically weak country whose Taliban rulers sheltered the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks - Osama bin Laden and his corps?

With the United States taking the lead in the war on terror, there was a global awakening and the resolve of the world community was such that the adage that one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter lost its validity and relevance. Seventeen days after the twin-tower attacks, where a Sri Lankan lady was also killed -- the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution No. 1373, calling on states to adopt tough measures to curb funding for terrorism.

We also witnessed the international community looking for a comprehensive Convention Against Terrorism, the aim of which was to tighten the noose on terrorists while incorporating a dozen existing UN conventions against terrorism. The UN Ad Hoc Committee headed by Sri Lanka's Rohan Perera, prepared the draft treaty. But bickering that cropped up at the initial stages over definitional clauses still continues with no signs of letting up by states which hold different views on terrorism and state terrorism.

The draft convention attempted to define terrorism as an offence committed by a person or a group if that person or group, by any means, unlawfully and intentionally, causes death or serious bodily injury to any person, serious damage to a state or public property,... or to compel a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.

The reason why such a comprehensive draft convention on terrorism has still not become law is largely due to the politics of realism and self-interest. The global war on terror appears to be on track only as far as it falls in line with US national interest. Bin Laden has been dropped out of the US lexicon. There was not even a mention about the Saudi-born businessman-turned Jihadist or terrorist in the Republican convention two weeks ago.

The West, which goes all out against al-Qaeda operatives, adopts a different approach when it comes to terrorism that affects other countries. The classic example is the West's advice to Russia, asking it to solve the Chechen crisis through dialogue. The advice which was repeated again in the aftermath of the Beslan school massacre drew a sharp retort from Russia, and rightly so, when it asked whether the West would sit with Osama bin Laden and sort out matters.

Rubbing more salt on a wounded Russia, US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday repeated his remark that ultimately there must be political dialogue to resolve the war for independence in Chechnya, though adding "…..we stand united with the Russians that they have to deal with this in the most powerful, direct, forceful way that they can in order to protect their citizens - the same as we are doing to protect our citizens."

Powell's statement, however, does not mitigate allegations that the war on terror is a flexible tool to achieve different agendas at different places. That the UN draft treaty is a non-starter is an indication that the war on terror has lost its global focus. It is no longer a global war on terror with a universal approach. It is unfortunately seen as America's war on terror.

Sri Lanka, fighting its own war on terrorism is well aware of double-standards; Western diplomats meeting the LTTE leadership, despite a formal ban on the ' terrorist organisation' in their own countries; Nudging the Government to talk to them. Only last Friday, UNICEF called for those under 16 to be exempted from the Prevention of Terrorism Act while pussy-footing on the issue of Tiger cubs and forced conscriptions of child-soldiers by the LTTE.

The US Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead writes about the unequivocal US resolve to combat terrorism. He might also report to Washington that while many support their resolve, they are concerned about the double-standards that are adopted.

No. 8, Hunupitiya Cross Road, Colombo 2. P.O. Box: 1136, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.
Tel: 2326247, 2328889, 2433272-3. Fax: 2423922, 2423258
Editor - editor@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
News - stnews@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Features - features@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Financial Times- ft@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Subs Desk - subdesk@sundaytimes.wnl.lk,
Funday Times - funtimes@wijeya.lk

No. 48, Parkway Building, Park Street, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka
Tel: 0115330330, 0115330808, 0115330808. Fax: 2314864
Email: adve@lankabellnet.com


No. 47, W.A.D. Ramanayake Mawatha, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.
Tel: 2435454, 2448322, 0114714252. Fax: 2459725

Back to Top  Back to Index  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to