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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.