Cashing in on the Carnage


Someone who built his reputation by tarring Tamils has now started talking and writing on wider issues.  The fact that he has no clothes is now starting to show more vividly.


Byproduct of terrorism: the celebrity analyst

July 20 2003

In the shadowy world of intelligence gathering, all is often not what it seems. Gary Hughes reports

In the shadowy world of intelligence gathering, all is often not what it seems.

And the same appears to go for the sometimes just as shadowy world of the intelligence analyst.

Take for example Rohan Gunaratna, lauded by the media as a global authority on international terrorism, and the author of the best-selling book Inside al-Qaeda.

Professor Gunaratna is one of the fastest-rising stars among the ranks of a new breed of celebrity analyst, roaming the world making headlines based on leaked information from their own anonymous intelligence sources, drawing on details held in massive databases, and criticising governments for not doing enough to fight terrorism. US, British and Australian television networks, radio, magazines and newspapers have turned to him for expert analysis and commentary on the war on terrorism since September 11, 2001, not least because of his impressive credentials.

Among other things, biographical details in his book and on numerous websites, including at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore, where he is assistant professor, state he was principal investigator of the United Nations's terrorism prevention branch, a part of the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

His former role as principal investigator has also been highlighted in appearances on the BBC, CNN, Australia's ABC radio, and at prestigious international conferences on terrorism.

But Alex Schmid, the senior crime prevention and criminal justice officer at the UN's terrorism prevention branch, in Vienna, told The Sunday Age that Professor Gunaratna had never worked as a principal investigator with the organisation. In fact, the position of principal investigator was "a title we do not have", Mr Schmid said.

"Mr Gunaratna was, for a while, a consultant of the terrorism prevention branch," he said. "He was not a principal investigator. He also did some work for the UN University in Tokyo."

The biographical details in the book also state that Professor Gunaratna "was called to address the United Nations, the US Congress and the Australian Parliament in the wake of 11 September, 2001".

Addressing the Australian Parliament is a rare privilege, normally reserved for visiting heads of state. Checks with the parliamentary library and a comprehensive search of Hansard could find no record of him having done so. He did, however, speak at a parliamentary library seminar held on September 26, 2001, at which some members of Parliament would have been present. He also spoke at a Menzies Research Centre function at Parliament House in May.

Likewise, claims to have addressed the US Congress and the UN appear to refer to testimony he gave to a congressional sub-committee on national security in October 2001, and a paper he presented the same month at a symposium on terrorism and disarmament organised by the UN's Department for Disarmament Affairs.

Professor Gunaratna told The Sunday Age it was right that there was no such staff designation as "principal investigator" at the UN's Terrorism Prevention Branch, and agreed he had worked with the organisation as a research consultant. He said he headed a project on terrorist escalation and de-escalation in 2001-02, which involved traveling to Colombia, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Algeria and Sri Lanka to "identify the factors" that caused the conflicts in those countries to escalate and de-escalate.

"The academic practice is for researchers who head externally funded projects to be designated principal investigators," he said.

Professor Gunaratna, who is due to visit Melbourne later this month, said the biographical details that indicated he had addressed the Australian Parliament, Congress and the United Nations had been prepared by his book editor in the United Kingdom, and was "used by others".

"To include the least number of words, the specific events that I addressed at the US Congress, the Australian Parliament and the UN have not been included," he said.

The Age, Melbourne, Australia



Cashing in on the carnage


October, 2001

The terrorist attack on September 11 has provoked varied responses. Understandably, the initial response was the most basic of all - anger. Anger that 4,000 lives had ended in such a brutal manner. The anger was again understandably directed at the man widely suspected of the carnage - Osama Bin Laden and the country that had provided him with succour -Afghanistan. Then came the attempt to understand the reasons which motivated the attack and some introspection. While this process continues, some  have  chosen to dismiss these explanations preferring to see the entire episode as good vs evil - also understandable. All of these responses are, in fact, to be expected given the cataclysmic nature of the event.


But the most deplorable response to this terrorist carnage is by those who seek to profit from it. Heading this list of profiteers is the Sri Lankan propagandist  Rohan Gunaratna.  Gunaratna's claims to expert status began with  his book 'International & Regional Security Implications of the Sri Lankan Tamil Insurgency' (privately published by the Alumni Association of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies and the International Foundation of Sri Lankans, United Kingdom).  It is  a book replete with factual errors and devoid of indexes, footnotes or any evidence to substantiate the claims made.  Nevertheless, having secured a place at Scotland's  St Andrews University since the publication of the book, and with the support of the Sri Lankan regime, Mr Gunaratna has emerged as an 'expert' on terrorism. His main role is, of course, to act as Sri Lanka's chief  propagandist working hand in hand with Sri Lanka's foreign missions.


Gunaratna, who arrived in Australia shortly after the terrorist bombing found ample opportunity, when he was given a freehand by Australia's Special Broadcasting Services (SBS), to malign the  Australian Tamil community.  Gunaratna carried out this task with considerable ease on  26 September, ably assisted by questions posed by Dateline's Jana Wendt.  Gunaratna's  objective was to  somehow implicate the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the terrorist attack in New York. He set about his task with admirable zeal ignoring all that had been said by the Americans themselves in regard to the Tamil Liberation movement. Neither Gunaratna , the 'terrorist expert, ' nor Dateline's Jana Wendt  referred to the categorical denial by the US of LTTE involvement and   the distinction drawn by Stephen Holgate, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Colombo between Tiger guerillas, and the United States' war against countries harbouring or encouraging terrorism.  Holgate also said that  "The US has not changed its stand in calling upon the Sri Lanka Government to initiate peace talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)."  The U.S. stance towards Sri Lanka was further underscored when the U.S. Embassy staff joined the "Sri Lanka First" campaign last Thursday where participants formed a human chain by holding hands to resume the peace process.


Gunaratna performed again when interviewed by ABC on 3 October implicating the Tamil Liberation movement with Osama Bin Laden without any evidence whatsoever. It was an obvious attempt at cashing in on the carnage in the US. However, unlike SBS, where Gunaratna was given a freehand, ABC brought in an independent authority to check Gunaratna's claims. The independent authority appropriately was a spokesperson from Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO).  Neil Fergus of ASIO responded  to a question posed by Maxine McKew in the 7.30 Report on 3 October 2001 concerning Dr.Gunaratna's attempts to implicate  the Tamil people  in the September 11 terrorism by stating that, "There is a 'quantum difference' between supporting Tamil independence and supporting people who kill 4,000 civilians in a busy metropolis".


Gunaratna, however, is likely to carry on regardless, damaging, and maligning the Tamil Diaspora while the Sri Lankan regime attempts to impose a military solution to a political problem.


Ana Pararajasingham


Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations



Could also be visited for further information on Gunaratne. See 4th article.