But chances have faded for his desire to get nomination for presidential election, as opposition grows at grassroots level Fragile relationship between President and UNF; Ranil’s silence or submission raises questions President pushes for early PC polls, but UNF unlikely to move fast; prefers Presidential election first   President Maithripala Sirisena, once again this week, [...]


President Sirisena intensifies moves for alliance with SLPP


  • But chances have faded for his desire to get nomination for presidential election, as opposition grows at grassroots level
  • Fragile relationship between President and UNF; Ranil’s silence or submission raises questions
  • President pushes for early PC polls, but UNF unlikely to move fast; prefers Presidential election first


President Maithripala Sirisena, once again this week, turned to his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, to resurrect talks for an alliance between the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

Such a move would have been inconceivale four years ago though the past several months have seen a dialogue that ended abruptly. At least for him, it is a precursor to his efforts to become the joint SLFP-SLPP candidate for this year’s presidential election – a reality which has now faded away.

The lastest peace overture to his onetime arch rival was initiated within hours of the Sunday Times (Political Commentary) disclosure last week. It revealed that partner parties of the ‘Joint Opposition’ had decided to form their own common alliance. It also revealed that for reasons already explained in these columns, they would not back Sirisena as a joint candidate.

Last Wednesday evening, President Sirisena convened a meeting of constituent parties of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) at his official residence at Mahagamsekera Mawatha. Associated with him were the Alliance’s General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera and two of Sirisena’s remaining close allies – S.B. Dissanayake and Thilanga Sumathipala. Among those taking part were de facto SLPP chief and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, nominal SLPP leader G.L. Peiris and Mahajana Eksath Peramuna leader Dinesh Gunawardena. The discussion centered on SLFP efforts to join the alliance. The subject of a joint candidate was not discussed. None of the SLFP MPs now backing the SLPP attended. At the meeting, the presence of a businessman, who had no political party to represent, was noteworthy.  Notable absentees were SLPP architect Basil Rajapaksa and National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa.

Ahead of this meeting, some partner group representatives of the ‘Joint Opposition’ met at the Borella residence of the same businessman. That included de facto SLPP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, Dinesh Gunawardena, Udaya Gammanpila, Wimal Weerawansa, Tissa Vitharana and Vasudeva Nanayakkara. Conspicuous by their absence were representatives of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party (CP). They had not been invited. It was Nanayakkara who raised issue of a presidential candidate for this year’s election. He opined that an early decision and announcement would be helpful for all parties. Rajapaksa promptly replied that it was not a matter for him to decide alone. He said the party organisations at grassroots level, local authority members and a broader section of the SLPP will have to be consulted for their views before a formal decision was made. Rajapaksa is on record saying that the choice would be a candidate who can win.

For three days at a stretch, from morning to evening, Basil Rajapaksa (who was absent at the event on Wednesday evening) had been meeting SLPP’s district representatives at the party’s Battaramulla office. This was a prelude to the formulation of an SLPP policy statement. They were also handed down a statement of SLPP accounts, evidently a precautionary measure to prevent opponents from raising issue over their funding. Rajapaksa made a pertinent point. There were times when the UNP could not pay the electricity and water bills of Siri Kotha, its headquarters in Kotte. So did the SLFP with its Darley Road headquarters which had to be kept closed for some time due to accumulating electricity and water bills. Both were when the parties were in the opposition.

Grassroots opinion

Some interesting aspects played out. Representatives of the Polonnaruwa District handed in a request that their presidential candidate should come only from the SLPP and should contest under their pohottuwa (or budding lotus flower) symbol. There was a more pointed request from Galle district representatives. They said they were opposed to the candidature of Sirisena and declared the SLPP should not field a candidate from “outside.” An interesting feature of these meetings was the video recording of those making representations. The meeting was also taking the shape of a survey and an archive.

It was Mahinda Rajapaksa, who left on Friday night for India (Bangalore), who had the answer to Sirisena’s somewhat fervent appeal for an alliance last Wednesday. He explained that a technical committee headed by Dullas Allahapperuma, was formulating a constitution for an alliance between partner parties of the ‘Joint Opposition’ led by the SLPP. This was revealed in these columns last week. He said that this alliance could be expanded to accommodate the SLFP. Of course, that would be on SLFP adherenece to a constitution the alliance is formulating. Since the SLFP is a larger party, power sharing with its new large counterpart, the SLPP, Rajapaksa later told his close aides, would have to be on the basis of a negotiated arrangement.

Some of them, including President Sirisena, are under the belief that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Defence Secretary, will not be successful in having his United States citizenship renounced. This, they believe, would enhance Sirisena’s chances as a presidential candidate. However, this appears to be based on rumours which even reached the ears of the United National Party (UNP) leadership early last year.  Gotabaya Rajapaksa remains the front-runner and sources close to him said giving up his US citizenship was not an issue. “He only wants to ensure he would be officially named the presidential candidate before getting down to that,” these sources added.

At Wednesday’s meeting, participants set a deadline of February 18 for their next session with President Sirisena. By this time, they hope that the SLPP technical committee and the ‘Joint Opposition’ party leaders would have approved their constitution as a precursor to the formation of the common alliance. Herein lie many issues of political significance, particularly for President Sirisena.

Firstly, despite a widening of the SLFP–SLPP relationship, due to Sirisena’s own actions disapproved by his potential partner, there is no impediment to the SLFP joining the common alliance. The SLPP feels that the SLFP’s support would enhance its vote base no matter what the quantum is and thus obviate a division of votes if there were two candidates.

Secondly, it strongly underscores Sirisena’s dilemma. His relationship with the UNP led United National Front (UNF) has reached an irreconcilable or even irreversible state. Just this week, he added more acrimony to it by demonstrating that he is out on a campaign to cause more damage to the UNF. Several investigations are under way against UNF leaders. Sirisena has been telling his confidants “Ma langa thava thurumpu thiyanawa” or I have more trump cards. His address to the nation on independence day, journalistically speaking, had “many take aways” including a tirade against the UNP. It also brought to the fore the absence of a harmonious blend of statecraft, national leadership and political maturity in what Sirisena said. It was more like a speech at an election rally than one for national independence day.

SLFPers in dialogue with UNP

Thirdly, this is why, though conscious that the prospects of becoming a joint presidential candidate have evaporated altogether, he still wants to save whatever is left of the SLFP by joining the alliance with his onetime political adversaries. That again is only with a handful of SLFP parliamentarians who are backing him.

Fourthly, there is also a contradiction that is leaving a serious dilemma for President Sirisena. His own SLFP has endorsed his candidature at this year’s presidential election. This is a formal confirmation that he would contest, and that too as an SLFP candidate. Yet, the question remains whether all SLFP MPs would staunchly support Sirisena’s election campaign. Some are in a dialogue with the UNP. They are unhappy over his actions. On top of that, despite his desire to be the joint candidate with the SLPP, the move will not materialise. The question then is why Sirisena still wants to join the common alliance of the SLPP and the ‘Joint Opposition’ parties? How many of his own SLFP will support his move even for a common alliance?  Is this Sirisena’s last fallback option if he fails to secure joint candidacy? That is if he should choose at anytime in the future not to contest the presidential election? After all, there is no way he could ever team up again with the UNP.

It was former Minister S.B. Dissanayake who has once again been shuttling between President Sirisena and his predecessor, de facto SLPP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, to set up Wednesday’s meeting. This is much to the chagrin of some SLFPers in the light of his disastrous record at brokering political issues. He guaranteed numbers for the successful passage of the No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in April last year. He failed. When Sirisena swore in Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister in October last year, Dissanayake promised to deliver UNF MPs for a 113 votes in the 225 seat Parliament. He failed again.  Yet, Dissanayake, Thilanga Sumathipala, Dilan Perera and Lakshman Wasantha Perera, have turned out to be close confidants of Sirisena – more now than ever before.

Apart from the four factors above, at least President Sirisena believes that elections to Provincial Councils, whose terms have ended, should be held first. This is why he presented a Cabinet Memorandum a week earlier, for which all ministers of the UNF voted in favour. At last Tuesday’s weekly ministerial meeting, he raised issue again asking when these elections would be held. Internal and Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Vajira Abeywardena,  replied, “We need more time.” As previously pointed out in these columns, the UNP does not consider it high priority to conduct PC polls and is gearing itself for this year’s presidential elections. The UNP has thus downplayed the need for even a parliamentary election. This is for fear of diminishing its chances at a presidential election.

President Sirisena was not pleased at Minister Abeywardena’s remarks. Pointing out that “I gave you one week already,” he declared sternly, “I will give you one more week.” His deadline would end when the ministers meet on Tuesday. There is no legal provision for President Sirisena to compel the conduct of PC elections.

Moral arguments apart, there is still some reasoning for the UNF to claim delays. The issue of these polls dates back to September 2017 when the government made an abortive attempt to introduce a 20th Amendment to the Constitution. Provisions were made in this draft to conduct all PC polls on one day instead of holding them on staggered dates. Using this as a reason, a provision also sought to delay polls for the PCs whose terms had not ended. This was by empowering the PCs to continue to function. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which was backing the government efforts, agreed in this task of putting off polls. It is the Tamil parties which were responsible for the creation of these PCs, with India’s backing, after the ethnic violence in July 1983.

Thereafter, the Government presented the Provincial Councils (Amendment) Bill in  2017.  It was to provide for a mandatory 30 percent female representation and a mixed electoral system. It became law but necessitated the conduct of delimitation of PC boundaries. The government, with TNA backing, easily achieved its objective of delaying the PC polls. A delimitation process was set in motion but was voted out in Parliament. Among those who cast their votes to ratify it was Faiszer Musthapha, the then Provincial Councils Minister, who introduced it in Parliament. In keeping with the law, a Review Committee chaired by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe  was named and asked to provide their findings known within two months. It has not done so upto yesterday. It is no secret that both President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe were then not enthusiastic about PC polls. It is only now that Sirisena is raising issue to pressure the UNP which leads the UNF. He believes the UNP would lose and this would trigger a crisis within. Thus, the PC polls issue is set to linger.

President Sirisena wants to conduct PC polls under the previous proportional representation system. The UNP could, perhaps with some justification though morally reprehensible, take up the position that accord should be reached both on delimitation and the electoral system before elections are held. Thereafter, it would have to come in the form of legislation in Parliament. The question is whether the next eight months, by which time the National Election Commission will set in motion the presidential election process, would be enough.

Just a day before the latest talks between Sirisena and his predecessor Rajapaksa, Sirisena’s address to the nation, telecast live countrywide, echoed resoundingly. One statement in particular reverberated louder than the World War II vintage 85mm guns from which a 21 gun salute was fired in President Sirisena’s honour. This 25 pounder with a range of 12 kilometres faced the Indian Ocean and blank shells were used.

President Sirisena declared, “I see the proposal about a national government in the media. It is necessary to ask how is it to claim the formation of a national government by joining with a political party which has only a single Member of Parliament. I only see that as an attempt to increase the number of ministers and increase in the facilities of the ministers and MPs. From what I have seen in the media, I strongly disagree to the idea of a proposed national government.

“If the number of ministers is reduced to 25, with a single party running a government, as I believe it, is the wish of the people. Before questioning the duties and the responsibilities that should be accomplished by the country for you, it is a necessity to think about the duties that should be accomplished by you on behalf of the country. ‘What will we get?’ or ‘What will we receive?’ are questions asked by most. But everybody knows that the most essential thing is to accomplish the duties and responsibilities of the nation…….”

National Government motion

The remarks sparked a debate whether President Sirisena should have made them during an address to the nation on the country’s 71st anniversary of independence.  It was a national occasion where foreign envoys were present besides other invitees. If one were to concur with those remarks, it was a case of him saying the right thing in the wrong place. That set off a chain reaction.

A day earlier (on Monday), Miniser Lakshman Kiriella, Leader of the House made a statement in Parliament that the proposal to form a “National Government” and increase the number of Ministers “with the objective of obtaining the participation of all political parties sincerely committed to the exrcise of re-building the country.” If his remarks were to be taken seriously, it was difficult to carry out development unless more ministers travel in their Prados and Pajeros enjoying all other perks at taxpayers’ expense. It came as a supreme insult to the intelligence of even an average Sri Lankan. Yet, 48 hours later Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has remained stoically silent on the issue like many others recently, was forced to ask that the debate be called off. Earlier, he had wanted Standing Orders suspended but Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, who chaired  a party leaders’ meeting earlier, insisted that procedures be followed instead of suspension.

Minister Kiriella had handed in a motion to Parliament to increase the number of ministers to 48 by forming a “National Government.” His motion sought to increase, ministers who are not in the Cabinet, and Deputy Ministers to 45. This is in addition to a number of non-Cabinet rank ministers who have already been appointed.

The so-called “national government” from a National Democratic Front (NDF), hilarious enough, was to be through a Memorandum of Understanding with Ali Zahir Mowlana, the only Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) member. Whilst he is the only one who contested the Digamadulla (Ampara) district on the SLMC ticket, all others in the SLMC contested under the United Nattional Party’s (UNP) Elephant symbol. That includes the SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem who is now Minister of City Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education. Mowlana himself is State Minister for Social Empowerment. Quite simply, the question of joining the SLMC in a “national government” does not arise since it is already in the UNF government.

On Wednesday afternoon, Chief Government Whip Gayantha Karunatilleke sent a note out to all UNF parliamentarians that they should be present in the House on Thursday and vote for the motion. However, when the UNF parliamentary group met, there was strong opposition. If Kiriella claimed it was for devolopment activity that they needed more ministers, other MPs voiced strong protests. The main thrust was that the entire exercise was unethical and they will not be able to face the voters at an election. The UNF leadership also realised the numbers were were short of 113 amidst reports that a group within wanted to “report sick” and keep away from Parliament last Thursday.

The Sunday Times learnt that there was another reason. A group of SLFP MPs had thought they could successfully obtain President Sirisena’s permission to join the UNF either as their party members or as independents. In fact, some 15 SLFP members had a long awaited meeting in the Parliament complex with President Sirisena on Tuesday. They had wanted to raise issue about joining a “national government,” but no one spoke out. The reason – Sirisena has, during his address to the nation, criticised the move.  ” If they defied him and joined the UNF, President Sirisena would not have sworn in any of them as ministers. All remained silent and that came as acute disappointment for the UNP leadership. Their hopes were dashed.

In all these developments, the silence of UNF leader, Premier Wickremesinghe, who publicly declared that there would be a National Development Front (NDF) within weeks, is deafening. He has studiously refrained from making critical comments on President Sirisena or over his actions angering a section of the UNP. This is not all. He has also remained silent over his own Finance Minister, Mangala Samaraweera removing Customs Director General P.S.M. Charles. He refused to meet the Customs unions. At Tuesday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Samaraweera was compelled to withdraw a cabinet memorandum appointing retired Rear Admiral Shermal Fernando, with little or no experience in the Customs, as Ms. Charles’ successor.

That was clearly a loss of face for Samaraweera who usually stands defiantly to justify his actions. However, in this instance, Samaraweera was forced to eat humble pie. President Sirisena, and the continuing ‘Go-slow’ by Customs unions ensured that Ms Charles was reinstated. Samaraweera, who had earlier recommended her appointment to the Cabinet, ended the embarrassing episode by describing Ms. Charles as an “iron lady” at a news conference. He could not bend the ‘iron lady’, and the Customs unions won the day.

There were many other “take aways” in President Sirisena’s address to the nation, most veiled attacks on Wickremesinghe and the UNF. In one, he declared, “Today, what we need is not fraudulent pretension of serving the people, but a clear and far-sighted clean governance…. The utmost priority should be given to the elimination of corruption and malpractices in the country. So we should defeat the drug trafficking and all the rackets and illegal activities that are causing a black ecnonomy in the country…….. The people of the country are no longer ready to continue in an economic recession while experimenting on economic development themes and rectifying errant ways. The political leaders who  lead the country should be aware of this….”

Ranil’s stance

In January, Sirisena rejected a request from Wickremesinghe to assign Minister Rishad Bathiuddin (now Minister of Commerce) the additional subject of Disaster Management. He noted that Commere and Disaster Management were too diverse subjects and had no links. Sirisena related to a friend how ministerial subjects have been grouped together on a non-scientific basis. He cited the Ministry of Higher Education and Highways in the previous government  as an example. “I think that was done to ensure that the roads are in a better condition for university students to march in protest,” he noted sarcastically. Minister Bathiuddin had threatened to resign when a new Cabinet was formed on the grounds that neither he nor his party members had been adequately looked after. That was how the additional subject was to be assigned to him. This is further proof that portfolios and positions are being dished out like a lunch or dinner buffet with scant respect for public sentiments.

All this brings to the fore a very disturbing reality — the ever increasing acrimony between President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe. Is the latter’s total silence, even saying something in his or his government’s defence, intended to avoid an escalation or is it submission? If it is silence, Wickremesinghe is paying a heavy price for himself and his own party. If it is submission, it raises questions over his leadership. Yet, to say this imbroglio affects every sector of governance is an understatement. Worse enough, it brings about instability, when stability is a sine qua non for foreign investors to come to Sri Lanka. Only a few, among them persons who want to make their illegal moneys overseas laundered, will invest through third parties trusted by them. A drugs menace is on the rise to deeply worrying proportions. There are concerns over the deteriorating law and order situation with murders on the rise. This is notwithstanding ministers taking delight in statements taking credit for streamlining the Police and officers there patting themselves in the back for the excellent job they are doing. Some ministers have forgotten that they stalled or stymied bribery and corruption investigations into those in the previous administration.

Even for the most dumbwitted, the move to increase the number of ministers under a so called ‘National Government’ is clearly an exercise to provide more perks for the UNF backers, ahead of the elections. That the UNP boldly moved in this direction and coldly backed out of it has made it a laughing stock in the eyes of the public, the voters. Other than those concerned, no one believed that the march to development required more and more ministers showered with perks at taxpayers’ expense. This is what they wanted the public to believe.

In fact, even before the call for a ‘National Government’, some UNF stalwarts have been accommodated in positions where they enjoy perks. One is Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka who has been named Monitoring MP for Wild Life Conservation. He is operating from the office of the former minister. So is Piyasena Gamage who has been named Monitoring MP for Fisheries. He is also operating from the former Minister’s office.  The two subjects mentioned here have been annexed to ministers who have been given additional responsibility. They have different offices now. That the UNF has mixed up its priorities and is attending to its own needs is a serious indictment on it. More so, when President Sirisena has declared that Sri Lanka is in economic recession.

The downward spiral that accelarated since October, last year continues. There is little doubt that evey day in the next eight months before presidential election will be one studded with confusion and suspense. The last priority seems to be public welfare and well being. Funny enough, even their votes are forgotten or given less priority when it comes to welfare measures for Ministers and MPs.

Spectacular display of arms: But concerns over handling of national security issues

A moving showcase of military hardware that helped defeat Tiger guerrillas nearly ten years ago was on display as 5,699 troops marched the paved roads of the Galle Face promenade to mark the nation’s 71st Independence anniversary.

Joining them were a further 1,405 police officers, civil defence force members and school cadets. The 7,104 of them outnumbered those around the secure venue but thousands saw it live on television in their bedrooms and living rooms. It was a national holiday.

Army’s elite and well trained Special Forces on parade with their Uzi sub machine guns. - Presidential Media

Special Forces, often unheard elite and well trained unit of the Army, clung to their Israeli-built Uzi sub machine guns as they marched. Another equally efficient similar unit, the Army’s red beret commandos weilded their MP 5 Sub Machine Guns, made both in Germany and in Pakistan. The Navy’s relatively new Special Boat Squadron and its Marines, trained recently by the United States counterparts, carried the American built M-16 assault rifle and a cloned version made in China.

Men and women of the Sri Lanka Air Force Special Airborne Force paraded with Chinese built Type  97 Bullpup rifle. Women Police Constables displayed their British made Sterling Sub Machine Gun, a model no longer built there but used extensively in neighbouring India. Infantry, Police Officers and others who formed a large number used the Chinese built T-56 assault rifles, the much cheaper Chinese copy of the AK-47 or Kalashnikov.

In addition, the Army put on display its Russian built BTR 80 troop carriers, the older British-built vintage Saladin armoured cars, Chinese-built artillery guns, Chinese-built radar systems and Slovak-built Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs). The Air Force displayed most of its assets – US-built helicopters, Russian-built AN 32 transport aircraft, Russian Mi-17 helicopters and Chinese-built K-8 trainers. The Navy showed its British-made 30mm guns — rear weapons on the gunboats — whilst the Special Task Force (Police) showed its armoured vehicles (Buffels) and the locally produced 122 mm rocket launcher.

The troops militarily defeated the Tiger guerrillas some ten years ago, thanks to their trained skills and weapons they received from the countries listed above and others. Some was for money and others gifts. There is now a different paradox. Some of the countries that helped Sri Lanka are now fighting a proxy war of sorts on our own soil. They not only want to gain dominance over one another but also to gain supremacy. This is all in the name of helping an economically impoverished Sri Lanka to earn more foreign exchange. Some politicians and bureaucrats concerned have concured in this. So do some of the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence which has seen four different Secretaries since President Maithripala Sirisena took over four years ago.

The role of foreign powers in military activity in Sri Lanka, some described by them in fruity language not related to defence or security, seems to pass scrutiny. It is only from recent times that the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS), the legally vested organisation for strategic studies, is paying attention to this aspect. It has a long way to go since the growing phenomenon is new and the issues are more complex. There is also a wide gulf between those at the highest levels of the defence establishment, including politicians, over what the LKIIRSS has found or will find. There are wide fears that political considerations and personal leanings overshadow them. It has happened in the past in disturbing proportions because of sheer ignorance and poor judgement.

Making matters worse is another issue that surfaced under the present Yahapalanaya or good governance government. An aspirant who sought re-appointment to a high position at LKIIRSS began his own outfit, ironic enough, with the full support and financial backing of the government. The tasks of the legally assigned LKIIRSS is not only being duplicated but also in some cases seriously undermined.

This is how it happened. The person concerned succeeded in urging a highly controversial cabinet minister, whose subjects did not in any way relate to foreign affairs, defence or security, to put up a memorandum. It was to oversee national security matters. The proposal, as expected, was approved even without any study or comment. The one who dealt with LKIIRSS was abroad. The person, who has not served in any armed force or the police, heads this outfit now.

It has a member of the board of directors, employed elsewhere in Singapore. He takes part in board meetings through skype. He is serving another government and has access to sensitive information. Some retired commanders have been taking part in meetings which deal with sensitive security issues. That the government set up this body without a careful study since it relates to the country’s national security is one thing. The other is the request the official has been making to military officials. Sometime ago, the Army hierarchy rejected his request for a detailed breakdown of its strength including the number of officers and other ranks.

Yet another important aspect surfaced this week in the budget estimates tabled in Parliament by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera. Allocations for defence expenditure in 2019 is placed at Rs 393 billion. In 2009, when the Tiger guerrillas were defeated, the amount was Rs 177 billion. The year before that, in 2008 it was Rs 164.4 billion. Perhaps inflation plays a part in this but not altogether.

There is absolutely no gainsaying in the fact that a military should always remain in a state of preparedness. It is, therefore, incumbent on any government to ensure that the military’s requirements are provided. Herein lies a key issue. It is equally incumbent on any government to formulate a defence policy taking into consideration the different threat perceptions. With the defeat of Tiger guerrillas, is a resurgence of similar activity possible? Would people in the north or east ever allow such activity to proliferate. The obvious answer is “No”. On the other hand, the perceived threats from other quarters, who may try to disturb ethnic unity, cannot and will not reach such high proportions. They will not receive the support of the very community they want to defend. Thus, they are only handful and could easily be nipped in the bud.

Unfortunately, these are areas that have not drawn the in-depth attention of the Ministry of Defence. Sadly, those who have taken charge in the past four years have not had the acumen to understand such issues or the different nuances involved in them. Hence, they have been neglected as the taxpayers’ money is spent both for good and for bad. Some even to pay for luxuries.

A professional study of threat perceptions would have brought home an important reality — the strength required to meet them. This is why, some countries that have faced an internal conflict, have down sized their military strength and diverted moneys for development. Of course, as said before, the emphasis has to be on a study of the threat perceptions and how much downsizing is required. The ill-informed notion that forces are required even for flood relief and disaster management alone is no answer.

It is time that political leaders devote more attention to these issues. Only then could the military become more and more professional and be modern than now.

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