Sri Lanka’s security issues at Strategic Studies Network Meeting in Jordan The Strategic Studies Network is a venture engaging more than 50 government-sponsored and independent research centres across the globe, including Sri Lanka’s Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS). It has set up Working Groups on key issues affecting national and global security aspects. A [...]


The need for common economic and security connectivity


Sri Lanka’s security issues at Strategic Studies Network Meeting in Jordan

The Strategic Studies Network is a venture engaging more than 50 government-sponsored and independent research centres across the globe, including Sri Lanka’s Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS). It has set up Working Groups on key issues affecting national and global security aspects.

Nihal Rodrigo (extreme right) at the Strategic Studies Network Meeting in Jordan

A conference currently proceeds in Jordan (18-19 May) co-sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis, the National Defence University (Pakistan), the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (India), the Centre for Strategic Research (Turkey), the Near East South Asia Centre for Strategic Studies, the National Defence University (USA) and the Royal Jordanian National Defence College.

A preparatory meeting for the conference was held in November last year in Bangkok in which Sri Lanka’s RCSS focused on the role of people in governance, rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremists, and water disputes.

Systems of governance adopted by individual states vary considerably given their historical evolution, having developed their own forms of governance over time.

Each state needs to provide adequate means for its own subjects to engage directly in governance of the nation or through their members of Parliament, the judiciary, the state bureaucracy, the corporate sector, think tanks, media and national civil society members who are not subservient to external pressures. Aspects of foreign relations, which help or hinder national interests, need to be factored in.

Mass action through public protests and street demonstrations occur throughout the world. They included, for example, the US Wall Street protests of September 2011 against corporate greed and corruption and state apathy; India’s Anna Hazare rallies, effects of which have petered out, demonstrations against lack of action against frequent incidents of rape in India; and miscellaneous demonstrations in Sri Lanka. Street processions by the Communist Party of the United States also took place in the United States this month, inter alia against US immigration measures. The Arab Spring has led to regime change as well, but has also factored instability and splintered unity in the countries concerned.

At another level, violent street action against innocent Sri Lankan nationals, including pilgrims and visiting youth, festered in India initiated by groups in Tamil Nadu. This has been encouraged, if not inspired, by what was described as “coalition compulsions” on the central government to take action against Sri Lanka, even at international level, to appease diverse Tamil Nadu interests to secure their support at forthcoming national elections.

To mitigate the impact on Sri Lanka, the Indian government also introduced key amendments to a US resolution it supported at the UN Human Rights Human Rights Council last year. The Indian amendment ensured that any action taken under the resolution would be with “the concurrence” of Sri Lanka.

In Sri Lanka, a democratically elected government is seeking to restore the peace that the LTTE had destroyed. Security in areas dominated by the LTTE has been restored although some issues of concern remain. Rebuilding effective people-centric governance over the areas that had been controlled by the LTTE is proceeding despite differences among some ethnic groups.

A decade ago, to contend with the impact of the LTTE, some aspects of governance were negotiated with a group of foreign states to engage the LTTE in a peace process. This was based on a proposal by former Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, spelt out in his election manifesto: “We will end the war and build national unity. We will bring about a political solution acceptable to all within the framework of an undivided Sri Lanka… A dialogue will be initiated with all political parties, the clergy and civil society in order to arrive at a broad based political solution… We will involve the LTTE in the process.”

Eventually, after negotiations, brokered by Norway, an extensive international “society of states” emerged with the involvement also of Japan, the United States and the EU to pursue the goals of a Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE, power devolution, as well as the establishment of an international fund for the reconstruction and development, in particular, of the war-ravaged areas. Several negotiating rounds were held with the LTTE by the government of the day, under sponsorship of Norway. Each step in the process faltered whenever the LTTE sensed setbacks to its mono-ethnic goal. A major fund-raising conference convened in Tokyo in June 2003 involved, apart from its sponsors Norway, Japan, the US and the EU, around 50 other states and international agencies. The LTTE, at the eleventh hour, boycotted the conference, soon resuming its terrorism.

In 2008, the LTTE, ruthlessly blocked essential water supplies to thousands of civilians from an irrigation scheme. The government of the day, led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, took firm military action to have the supplies restored. Subsequent resolute military action ensured the defeat of the LTTE by mid-May in 2009.

Sri Lanka is currently engaged in a process of post-conflict recovery, healing the deep wounds of the war inflicted on civilians; the restoration of peace and security; reconciliation among all communities; rehabilitating, in situ, of the displaced; and the revitalisation of the economy. This involves tracing and accounting for those missing in action, human resettlement, re-uniting separated families, conversion and pacification of combatant LTTE cadres as well as providing them livelihood skills. An ex-combatant LTTE leader, now converted, is a vice-president of the ruling party. Kumaran Padmanathan (KP), the major LTTE arms-procurer/financier now operates at the North-East Rehabilitation and Development Organisation. Assistance has been received from the UN and a wide collective or “coalition” of countries for de-mining, medical facilities, housing, infrastructure connectivity, power generation, education, and provision of in-situ livelihood facilities diminished by the LTTE.

Beyond Sri Lanka, support for ostensibly sanitised, re-branded pro-LTTE groups such as the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTF) and the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) has been generated in some countries, like Canada, now home to members of Sri Lanka’s diaspora. Some LTTE residual rump groups continue with their profitable corporate cooperation with global criminal cartels involved in activities including people-smuggling, gun-running, drug trafficking and financial frauds including at cyber levels across the Indian Ocean Region and beyond. LTTE links with Somali pirates had provided the latter even with intelligence on the content and value of cargo ships crossing the Indian Ocean.

Strengthening regional security architecture against such activities is an aspect on which the Sri Lanka Defence Ministry now works in association with neighbouring states as well as with the United States, China and Australia. Regional strategic governance in association with affected countries is essential for Sri Lanka, given its location at the centre of the Indian Ocean a few miles north of the most highly traversed sea routes in the world linking East Asia (China, Japan, Korea and ASEAN countries), South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and Europe, across the Suez. Coordination among this “society of states”, linked in common economic and security connectivity is essential. The last Galle Dialogue, now an annual feature in Sri Lanka, attracted wide participation, including Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Iran, Israel, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US, all of whom have a stake cooperating for a peaceful Indian Ocean Rregion.

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