More than 90 foreign defence scholars joined their Sri Lankan counterparts this week in Colombo for a major defence seminar to expound views on violent extremism. Attended by some 800 participants, the Colombo Defence Seminar 2017 held on August 28 and 29 at the BMICH saw 15 foreign and 12 Sri Lankan scholars speak on [...]


Global experts share views on countering violent extremism


More than 90 foreign defence scholars joined their Sri Lankan counterparts this week in Colombo for a major defence seminar to expound views on violent extremism.

Attended by some 800 participants, the Colombo Defence Seminar 2017 held on August 28 and 29 at the BMICH saw 15 foreign and 12 Sri Lankan scholars speak on various topics under the theme ‘Countering Violent Extremism: Global Trends.’

President Maithripala Sirisena, who is Sri Lanka’s Defence Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, attended the first day of the conference as the Chief Guest. State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene and Defence Ministry Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne were also in attendance.

Delivering his welcome speech at the start of the two-day conference on Monday (28), Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake observed that the defence seminar, the brainchild of the Sri Lanka Army, was initiated in 2011 with the intention of sharing experience and knowledge earned from Sri Lanka’s three-decade-long terrorist problem that was ended in 2009. Later, the organising committee decided to upgrade the event as a going concern by introducing attractive and relevant themes that helped broaden the knowledge of participants, he added.

“As such, the Sri Lanka Army this time introduces a timely theme, that is ‘Countering Violent Extremism: Global trends’. Violence is perhaps one of the most challenging problems of our times. It doesn’t matter anymore of which part of the world you live in. The unfortunate reality is that violence spurred by terrorism has gone global and every human being is equally susceptible and vulnerable to its ferocity,” Lt. Gen. Senanayake said.

In his opening remarks, Defence Secretary Waidyaratne noted that countering violent extremism was a realm of policy, programmes and interventions devised to prevent individuals from engaging in violence associated with radical political, social, cultural and religious ideologies. “Significantly, it is an important element of a broader perspective on counter terrorism,” Mr Waidyaratne stated.

The keynote address at this year’s seminar was delivered by Admiral (Retd.) William J. Fallon of the United States Navy. In his address, Admiral Fallon said it was the responsibility of governments and state actors to pull together and contain violence for the best interests of today and tomorrow. “There is no better example in the world than what really happened in this country by way of violence. Violence always needs lots of collective action since expectations on the part of civilians are very high as far as their security is concerned,” he added.

Foreign and local participants at the defence seminar (above and below)

Admiral Fallon said it was necessary to sort out a definition for the violence, it would be social, religious or for some ideologies. “The recent instances show non-state actors increasingly furthering their extreme views as different institutes are also there to shape their scourges of violence. Those manifestations are needed to be identified since we acknowledge that it is ‘our problem’, not either yours or mine. Governments are, therefore, urged to realise its complex nature. We got to understand the phenomenon behind the moves as security professionals in order to find solutions.”

The Colombo Defence Seminar also saw several wide-ranging sessions where experts shared their views on countering violent extremism. Adding his thoughts to the panel discussion under the assigned sub topic ‘Challenges and Dilemmas; National Perspectives – East Asia’, China’s People’s Liberation Army Senior Colonel Guo Xinning, pointed out that ‘Violent Extremism’ was an affront to the purpose and principles of the United Nations while it undermined peace, security, human rights and sustainable development. “No country or region would be immune from its impacts,” said Col. Guo, who is also the Deputy Commandant, College of Defence Studies, National Defence University in Beijing.

He appealed to the international community to avoid double standards and selectivity if it was serious in tackling violence. To prevent violent extremism, both temporary and permanent solutions needed to be found and nations need to give full weight to the coordinating and leading roles of the UN and regional organisations.

Stressing the importance of regional stability, Col. Guo said dialogue and communication were key to build trust while nations needed to enhance confidence among them.

Muhammad Abbas Hassan of the National Defence University, Islamabad addressing the seminar on ‘Challenges and Dilemmas; National Perspectives – West Asia’ underlined the need for a clear strategy to contain violent extremism at global level.

Mr. Hassan who is also a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Regional Stability, Pakistan, delved into multiple conflicts that had plagued West Asian countries and pointed out the region, as a result, had become unstable, uncertain, divided and volatile.

This year’s Defence Seminar was segmented into seven different sessions.

Prof. Amal Jayawardane, Senior Professor, Kotelawala Defence University, Prabha Murti, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, Special Secretary, Government of India, Palitha Fernando, Sri Lanka’s former Attorney General, Dr. Sarala Fernando, Former Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN and Dr. Harinda Vidanage, Director, BCIS chaired the Sessions that covered spheres of Violent Extremism, Countering Violent Extremism, the Role of Armed Forces in Countering Violent Extremism, Mechanisms to Counter Violent Extremism.

In his closing address to the ‘Colombo Defence Seminar – 2017’, Prasad Kariyawasam, Secretary to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, urged the nations to remain always vigilant against violent extremism and terrorist organisations world-wide.

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