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Who is Rohan Gunaratna?

October 28, 2009

Rohan Gunaratna has been interviewed and quoted by many Australian sources as a “terrorism expert”. To judge for yourself  his credibility as an “expert source” please refer to the following:

The Age: Analyse This

Gary Hughes, 20 July 2003

Whenever a comment has been needed about al-Qaeda or terrorism, Rohan Gunaratna has been there to supply it. Who is he? Gary Hughes reports.

Whenever a comment has been needed about al-Qaeda or terrorism, Rohan Gunaratna has been there to supply it. Who is he? Gary Hughes reports. Rohan Gunaratna describes as a spiritually defining moment the day in March 2001 when he learned that the Taliban regime in Kabul had ordered the demolition of the ancient, giant statues of Buddha at Bamiyan in Afghanistan.

But it was the destruction six months later of an icon of the modern world – New York’s World Trade Towers – that changed his life in a more practical way, launching a stellar new career as a global authority on international terrorism.Gunaratna was the right person in the right place at the right time.  More

Pacific Journalism Review: The legitimising of terror fears: Research or Psy Ops?

Peter Cronau, 2003

ABC: The Media Report, 11 September 2003,

Armed conflict and military intelligence are staples of the evening news, so “experts” haunt our media. But does the media rely too much on “experts”, and has their presence changed the way ideas are discussed.

Program Transcript

Mick O’Regan: Hello, and welcome to the program.

As we open the newspapers this morning and listen to the radio and TV, it’s all too obvious that the scourge of terrorist violence continues to wreck lives around the world. Writing in The Australian newspaper, the Prime Minister, John Howard, acknowledges the millions of words that have been written about September 11th, and comments that the volumes of analysis cannot disguise the fact that the attacks were ideological statements by fanatics.

To understand these attacks and the people behind them, the media has increasingly relied on expert commentators to unravel the complex, historical, religious and political elements that underpin them.

So today, conscious that September 11th is much more than just a date on the calendar, it’s an international shorthand for remembrance, for war, and for a world view, we’re going to consider how experts are used in the media, by talking to some. More

Scoop: Terrorism Expertise of Rohan Gunaratna Questioned

David Small, 24 August 2004

Rohan Gunaratna will take part in a week-long seminar on terrorism and counter-terrorism organised by the Religious Studies Department at Wellington’s Victoria University.

Gunaratna is a self-styled expert on Islamic groups and terrorism. He is still being described as “the former principle (sic) investigator for the United Nations Terrorism Prevention branch” [Sunday Star-Times. 15 August 2004] although Australian journalists have established that no such post has ever existed.

Martin Bright, the home affairs editor of the Observer and long-time writer on Islamic terrorist groups has described Gunaratna as “the least reliable of the experts on bin Laden”.

Gunaratna’s current project to establish a data base of Asian terrorist groups has been said to blur the line between freedom of academic research and intelligence-gathering for governments. More

Crikey: Richard Farmer’s chunky bits

Richard Farmer, 28 October 2009

Repetition I know but still valuable advice. I am reminded again this morning by the big run given to Rohan Gunaratna in The Australian of how helpful it is to give yourself a grand title if you want to be quoted as an expert on something. In Mr Gunaratna’s case he is “of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research” which sounds much better than being a “former student in Finland, claiming to be a recipient of an untraceable Australian-Europe award to study American-Australia diplomatic and security co-operation” as he was described in Crikey earlier this week by the maverick former Aussie diplomat Bruce Haigh.

The good doctor feeds the insatiable appetite of journalists for so-called experts whenever there is a terrorist or security crisis. He keeps bobbing up on all kinds of media — he is clearly an ABC favourite — because the first thing a reporter does when covering a new story is look up the press cuttings or Google references to see who has given a view on a subject before. Thus in The Oz today Rohan Gunaratna, talking as “a leading terrorism expert”, was allowed to authoritatively reveal that a “small number” of Tamil Tigers are in immigration detention in Indonesia having been intercepted on their way to Australia.

What was not disclosed was that the Professor, himself a Sinhalese Sri Lankan, previously was employed by his government. That knowledge might have helped readers understand what was meant by his comment that “I am unable to disclose (how many) because it is now a matter of investigation. But certainly you can ask the Australian authorities because they’re also aware of those investigations.” The comment certainly made him sound like a real insider unable to disclose everything he knows about the murky world of Tamil Tigers.

For an assessment other than Bruce Haigh’s on Prof Gunaratna’s academic abilities you might care to start with a look at some views expressed on the blog site of Michael K Connors of the City University in Hong Kong.

Please click here to subscribe to Crikey and support independant media

Sourcewatch: Rohan Gunaratna

Rohan Gunaratna is a Singapore-based “terrorism expert” at The Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) where is currently an Associate Professor. Previously he was a research assistant at St. Andrews’ University (Scotland)’s Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) where he was listed as an “acknowledged expert on terrorism in South Asia”. He is the “former principal investigator of the UN’s Terrorism Prevention Branch, Gunaratna has been called the world’s top expert on Al Qaeda”. As a Sri Lankan, his area of expertise is in the Tamil Tigers, a militant Tamil separatist group. Of the publications listed at the CSTPV, Gunaratna has authored four – all of which relate specifically to Sri Lanka’s Tamil insurrection. However, since September 11, he has been a prolific commentator on global terrorism and often appearing as a terrorologist pundit. He recently visited Australia, where he made a number of widely reported, ill-substantiated, and unchallenged, claims that there were several “child-killing terrorist groups” operating in Australia, hiding behind community and humanitarian fronts, whilst manipulating the Australian government through powerful lobbying of politicians. More

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