I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone,
'it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor
less'. 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make
words mean so many different things'. 'The question is,'
said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all'."
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carrol -
Through the Looking Glass, c.vi
What is Terrorism
of the ban continues to unfold.
'On Liberation Movements And The Rights Of Peoples' in 1992
bear repetition here -
"In order for... states to quickly and effectively wipe
out "revolt", which could get out of hand despite technical
superiority (read: better weapons) due to the
political and moral convictions of the mass movement, it
is necessary to make comprehensive analyses early on and to
take effective action in the psychological arena....The
central aim of this defence approach is to destroy the
morale of the insurgent movement at the early stages, to
discredit it and destroy it using repressive means ...
thereby preventing a mass movement from starting which could
be hard to control with conventional means.
Defaming the insurgents as "terrorists" and punishing
them accordingly - thereby ignoring
international law concerning the rights of people in war
- is a particularly useful means."
It is no accident, for instance, that Sri Lanka and states
who are concerned to secure the status quo of territorial
boundaries imposed by the old colonial rulers, have chosen to
designate the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a "terrorist"
organisation and to deny to the Tamil resistance movement the
legitimacy that international law may accord.
"....An armed resistance movement takes shape in the
Its seeds are to be found in the eternal quest for
freedom. But, though born of natural parents it is at
birth illegitimate - because it breaches the existing legal
frame, and seeks to supplant it. And that simple fact has
much to do with its subsequent development and growth. An
armed resistance movement acquires legitimacy and becomes
'lawful' through its growth and success - not simply because
the ends it seeks to achieve are just... The metamorphosis
from 'unlawful' to 'lawful' is gradual (and many layered)
and is related not only to
the justice of the ends it seeks to achieve and the
justice of the means it employs but also to the extent
to which a guerrilla movement is
able to secure and maintain permanent control of territory.
It is not a case of one or the other, but a case of all
three..." - Nadesan Satyendra in
Tamil Armed Resistance and the Law
"The most problematic issue relating to
terrorism and armed conflict is distinguishing terrorists
from lawful combatants, both in terms of combatants in
legitimate struggles for self-determination and those
involved in civil wars or non-international armed conflicts.
In the former category, States that do not recognize a claim
to self-determination will claim that those using force
against the State’s military forces are necessarily
terrorists. In the latter, States will also claim that those
fighting against the State are terrorists, and that rather
than a civil war, there is a situation of “terrorism and
counter-terrorism activity"....The controversy over the
exact meaning, content, extent and beneficiaries of, as well
as the means and methods utilized to enforce
the right to self-determination
has been the major obstacle to the development of both a
comprehensive definition of terrorism and a comprehensive
treaty on terrorism. The ideological splits and differing
approaches preventing any broad consensus during the period
of decolonization still persist in today’s international
Terrorism and Human
Rights Final Report of United Nations Special
Rapporteur, Kalliopi K. Koufa, 25 June 2004
If truth be
told, the designation of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation
has little to do with the means adopted by the LTTE and
everything to do with its end goal of freedom for the
people of Tamil Eelam -
freedom from alien Sinhala rule within the confines a single
uneasy balance of power in the Indian Ocean region, it is
this end goal of an independent Tamil Eelam which, at the
present time, albeit for different reasons, both
India and US find inimical to their strategic interests. But
of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, USA in 18 June 1981,
suggests this was not always the case - and therefore may not
always be the case in the future.
the Massachusetts House of Representatives hereby urges the
President and the Congress of the United States to support
Struggle for Freedom by the Tamil Nation for the
Restoration and Reconstitution of the
separate sovereign state
of Tamil Eelam and to recognise publicly the
right of self determination by the Tamil people of Tamil
House of Representatives Resolution, the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts, USA, 18 June 1981
States, after all, have permanent
interests but they do not have permanent friends.
Be that as it may, the politics of the ban
usually takes a predictable course. First you threaten to
ban unless the organisation falls in line with your perceived
strategic interests. Then you ban, to show that you are serious
about that which you said. But you do not implement the ban so
that you may continue to engage with the banned organisation and
its supporters. Then you start implementing the ban but in a
calibrated fashion and negotiate to secure 'appropriate'
responses from the banned organisation on a piece meal basis.
You may then go on to suggest that the ban may be removed if the
banned organisation plays 'ball' and drops its political goal.
policies on Sri Lanka should consciously include attempts to
open up political space within their Tamil communities for
non-Tiger political voices. Those governments with
significant Tamil populations should engage representative
civil society groups directly, expressing sympathy
legitimate grievances of minorities in Sri Lanka...
Peace supporters should consider setting a deadline for
renunciation of a separate state, after which they would
actively pursue prosecutions of current LTTE leaders for war
crimes and crimes against humanity.... Countries should
develop step-by-step benchmarks for progress towards
revoking the terrorist designation – in part to encourage
Report of 20 February 2008 by The International Crisis Group
co-chaired by Lord Patten of Barnes, Former UK
Cabinet Minister and by Ambassador Thomas R Pickering,
Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN; and with Gareth
Evans, Former Foreign Minister of Australia as
To advance your own strategic interests, you
may even encourage a banned organisation to appeal for a review
of the ban so that sufficient political space is created within
which you may continue to engage with the banned organisation
and/or its supporters. And, ofcourse, ambiguity is not without
its constructive uses. This is all the more so if your own
strategic interests are not the same as those of
either of the parties to the conflict in which you
seek to intervene - and if you want to exert pressure on both
parties to fall in line and accept your hegemony. 'Come
into my parlour said the spider to the fly'.
However, one would imagine that after several decades of painful
experience, the fly may have also worked out ways of negotiating
Spider and the Fly
Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there."
Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down
"I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?" said the Spider to the
"There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!"
Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "for I've often heard it
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!"
Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, " Dear friend what can I
To prove the warm affection I 've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome -- will you please to take a
"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "kind Sir, that cannot be,
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!"
"Sweet creature!" said the Spider, "you're witty and you're
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your
I've a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you'll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold
"I thank you, gentle sir," she said, "for what you 're
pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I'll call another day."
The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
"Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver
Your robes are green and purple -- there's a crest upon your
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple
Thinking only of her crested head -- poor foolish thing! At
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour -- but she ne'er came out again!
And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.