By Uditha Jayasinghe
In the wake of Central Bank’s upbeat forecast of north and east provinces growing by 13% in the next five years international terrorism expert Prof. Rohan Gunaratne yesterday urged the private sector to actively promote reconciliation through investment in the formerly war torn region.
Head of International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore Prof. Rohan Gunaratne is a renowned international terrorism expert.
Addressing a forum organised by Shippers Academy-Colombo, Prof. Gunaratne called on the private sector to actively take part in reconciliation by recruiting former LTTE cadres and investing in the north and east without waiting on the government. The forum was organised by the Shippers’ Association and dealt with the global impact of terrorism on business.
Explaining in detail of the challenges facing Sri Lanka Prof. Gunaratne noted that certain branches of the LTTE such as the Sea Tigers could be retrained for working in the private sector. Recalling his visits to the rehabilitation centres the academic recounted how around 6000 cadres are still being rehabilitated out of the original 11,800. Of these he remarked that around 2000 are Sea Tigers that played a crucial role in arming the LTTE.
“The LTTE was the only terrorist organisation in the world that had such a large fleet of ships encompassing merchant vessels and trawlers. Since most of the audience are from the shipping community it would urge them to consider employing these people who have been rehabilitated. They can be retrained to be constructively employed in the private sector,” he said adding that there are many other sectors that could involve themselves.
The police together with the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) have started a programme to connect private sector companies with rehabilitated cadres, he observed, maintaining that this would be a good channel for private sector involvement. “If we don’t give economic opportunity to these people then we are leaving room for future extremism. We cannot expect rehabilitated cadres to become only fishermen or farmers. They can branch out into industry and value addition sectors. One must not forget that these are intelligent people who were employed by the LTTE,” he insisted.
The Vanni region was highlighted by him as a major area that needs investment. “We cannot sit back and expect the government to do everything. The business community has a huge role to play in building reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We must understand the root causes of this conflict and make sure that these same circumstances are not repeated. Deterioration of ethnic relationships was the main reason for the birth of the LTTE. Therefore we must work to build a Sri Lankan nationality encompassing Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim people.”
Terming the Tamil Diaspora as the “biggest untapped resource” for Sri Lanka he stressed the importance of engaging with them to build economic ties so that there would be an economic resurgence in the north and east.