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Multilateral Counter Violent Extremism Working Group – Guam Conference

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The Executive Director of RCSS, Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed attended the Guam Conference of Multilateral Counter Violent Extremism Working Group, in Guam, USA.

In his presentation on the topic “Sri Lanka: de-radicalisation through reconciliation?,” he discussed various aspects of de-radicalization. The discussion was primarily was based on the relationship between radicalization and rationality or reason in the contemporary times. The examples were drawn from the cases of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and also from Sri Lanka, of non-state actors like the Liberation of Tamil Tigers of Elam, who used one of the most violent forms of extremism, suicide which he pointed out had a clear reason behind it. Further the idea of “reason” was elaborated based on the ideologies of Descartes (1637),Spinoza (1670) and Immanuel Kant (1784). He pointed out how for the first time we have radicalism beyond reason: 9/11 and the birth of post-rational terrorism which Edward Said had termed as “a leap beyond reason.”

The question “why should radicalism or violent extremism haunt us?” was raised by him in his discussion pointing out the society is plagued with the disease of suicide (more in terms of self-harm rather than “suicide” as a tool of violent extremism), as about 800,000 committed suicide as it recorded in 2012 and diabetes killed more people than terrorism.

In Contemporary terrorism he said, that suicide plus technology have transformed humans into hauntological beings.

In this context can reconciliation be of use in de-radicalisation becomes the main question. He pointed out instances where reconciliation has helped recover societies from extreme forms of existence. The examples were drawn from South Africa, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

South Africa where disempowered majority displacing the hegemonic minority, Nelson Mandela and the benevolence of the ‘aggrieved’ majority played a major role changing extremism and redirecting anger at the other by the aggrieved majority. In Bangladesh the role of culture and the post-1971 reconciliation of the so-called ‘Biharis’ is an example of how reconciliation impact de-radicalization.

He pointed out, Sri Lanka has implemented reconciliation on a post-war scenario. Reconciliation in Sri Lanka has incorporated following aspects in it’s implementation.

a. Reconciliation through rehabilitation: The rehabilitation concept adopted by the Sri Lankan program engaged the beneficiaries in six modes of rehabilitation and community engagement:

  1. Educational
  2. Vocational
  3. Psychosocial and creative therapies
  4. Social, cultural, and family
  5. Spiritual and religious
  6. Recreational

Plus 1: Community rehabilitation

b. Reconciliation is premised on the (aggrieved) Tamil – (majoritarian) Sinhala or minority-majority conflict, with a sub-set of Tamil-Sinhala-Muslim ethno-religious relationship;

c. Hegemonic majority defeating the ‘aggrieved’ minority: why would the hegemonic majority be interested in reconciliation? The play of electoral politics and the complex relationship between victims and perpetrators: Tamil-Sinhala; Tamil-Muslim; Muslim-Sinhala.

He brought forth that the Sri Lankan state should work on four I’s:

  1. Incarceration
  2. Intelligence reforms
  3. Intellectual intervention
  4. Institutional investment

Making a remark that those four I’s alone will not suffice. Since there is a play of the ‘reason’ in this situation Sri Lanka needs a holistic approach making an effort to empowering at all levels the persons of all ethnicities – Tamil-Sinhala-Muslim. As to see a true change in a person, the human needs to be transformed at political, economic, cultural, technological and psychological levels.

“Only by empowering the person, each and everyone, can reconciliation take place and radicalization contained!”

Workshop on Radicalization in the Levant, North Africa and South Asia
Seminar on Changing Security Landscape: Role of Sri Lankan Forces