By Kasuni Ranasinghe
“National Security” was one of the main discussion point in the propaganda campaigns of all major contenders of the Presidential election. Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary war time elected as the 7 th president of the country, stressing the security gap. The Easter Sunday attack brought attention to the security of the country that appeared as religious fundamentalism and extremism again after a decade of the end of the 30 years brutal war. Many have pointed this as a failure of the government and accused of dismantling the military intelligence service. Even the report of the select committee of parliament on the Easter Sunday attack (21 st April 2019) has accused President, former Secretary Defence as the Director of SIS and IGP as failed in fulfilling duties. “……. the PSC observes that the President failed on numerous occasions to give leadership and also actively undermined government and system including having ad-hoc NSC meetings and leaving key individuals from meetings…….” And regarding Secretary Defence and others, PSC noted as “that whilst the greatest responsibility remains with the Director SIS, others too failed in their duties. Within the security and intelligence apparatus, the Secretary MOD, IGP, CNI and DMI failed in their responsibilities. All were informed of the intelligence information prior to the Easter Sunday attacks but failed to take necessary steps to mitigate or prevent it…” However, now former Defence Secretary Mr Hemasiri Fernando and IGP Mr Pujith Jayasundara were arrested for further investigations. The victims are not pleased with the solutions tabled by the government which created a trust deficit between the government and citizens.
Meanwhile, the country is alarming a debt trap with China and a drastic economic downturn. India’s interest over strategic infrastructures such as Mattala Airport, newly open Jaffna International airport and Trincomalee harbour is becoming a challenge to the sovereignty and peace of the country. Also, other threats (apart from interest over infrastructure) coming from India is crucial and that has been historically proven. South India seems to be the key customer of Jaffna International airport and at the same time, Southern province of India is one of the major breeding grounds for ISIS as well as for LTTE. Thus the potential of the airport to be a flood gate for Islamic extremists and LTTE is high if the immigration is not carefully monitored. Meanwhile, proposals coming from USA such as Status of Forces Agreement-SOFA, Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement – ACSA and now with the Millennium Challenge Cooperation MCC. None of these agreements is completely evil and the theory of conspiracy is not directly applicable for any of them.
All pros and cons are visible if terms and conditions are prudently appraised. Practically, implementations of SOFA and ACSA are challenging to Sri Lanka as the power of negotiation with the USA is limited. The MCC is an important initiative addressing two of the crucial issues of the country; transport development and digitalizing land titles. Both are identified as key parameters of poverty reduction and human development initiatives of the government. However, the security concern is with the proposing GIS and CCTV monitoring systems which has potential of accessing personal information of individuals. The closure or termination is also problematic to the country. Sri Lanka has no potentials to terminate the agreement, if a case, the grant will be converted to a loan and has to repay the grant, interest, earnings as well as assets. In case of breach, the country will be financially trapped with USA and consequences will be similar or worse than the cancellation of the Colombo Port City project of China. Sri Lanka will be another significant case study similar to Djibouti of how massive investments go terribly wrong for the hosting country and becoming a regional facilitator for Military bases. The results would be terrible if SOFA has signed with no reviews.
Cyber is another source of threat which has capabilities of disabling vital websites and networks for the stability of the nation. Further, it has the potential to paralyze the economy by stealing and destroying classified information via hacking relevant data-banks. Illicit drugs and small arms are other two challenges which identified by Hon Maithreepala Sirisena His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka as critical threats to peace and security. Climate change, modern slavery, corruptions, poverty, piracy, lack of identity, IUU fishing issue, racism, separatism, ethnic unrest, misinformation and unregulated social media networks are some of the other key challenges to the present national security.
In this context, national security should be the prime duty of the President and also the government. Overall, it is proven that the lapses of the prevailing policies are the foundation of the discussed coercions. Unclearness of national purpose, values and interests are also foremost roots. The National Security Policy which defines the national purpose, values, interests, threats and challenges would be a pathway.
What is the National Security Policy?
The “National Security Policy” is considered as the “Grand Policy” where skills of soldiers,
civilians and politicians merge to ensure the stability of the territory. In other terms, NSP can be characterized as the integration of military, foreign and domestic policies with the aim of coordinating its economic, political, social and military capabilities in preventing actual and potential external and internal adversaries. Thus, the NSP should be aligned with all ministerial portfolios to achieve the ultimate national purpose, values and interests of the island. The ministries related to defence, foreign affairs, economic and finance, socio-cultural, environmental and technologies and information should respectively convey their policies and strategies to reach the ultimate goal of NSP.
However, what type of Security Policy does Sri Lanka need is questionable? Defence and security theorists are coming up with the number of them and amongst them “National Securitism” oriented policy would be appropriate for Sri Lanka.
“National Securitism” oriented Security Policy for Sri Lanka?
“National Securitisum” is for the states which practice democracy and continually using the law of emergency to resort conflicts. The characteristics of a democratic regime appear to exist and practically the civilian leader (political) of the country, the president controls over the tri forces and police. Rule of law is supreme and the political leader directs military and civilians with the instructions of the constitution.
As the national purpose and interest of the island appreciate democratic “National Security State”, the National Security Policy should in line with the same. Thus, the NSP of Sri Lanka should not just a state of emergency to meet threats to the democratic process. It’s a permanent policy with timely amendments, which combine civil and military establishments to safeguard the national security of the county in general. Further, the policy consists of the tools to stricter the control Political, Economic, Social, Technologies, Ecology and Military arms (PESTEM) during the exceptional state of emergency. Roles of civilian, military and police forces should blend to bring democratic approaches (human rights) to the mandatory military exercises in political conflicts. The NSP mandate to fill the gap between investment requirement for national developments and threats arising (internally and externally) due to the same.
The military involvement in economic and social development projects also all other social welfare activities necessary to appreciate. Aligning with other policies in a democratic and political process such as defence, foreign, economic and finance, technology and information is necessary to ensure the democratic values of the nation. Line policies and strategies as mentioned above should be interconnected and NSP should derive all of them. More importantly, defence, foreign and economic policies should interconnect as well as the strategies to ensure the success of the NSP. For example, National Defence Policy which is already compiled by the Ministry of Defence should connect to the foreign policy of the country. If two policies interconnected, Sri Lanka capable to exercise foreign policy for the use of military, in the form of technical assistance, training, arms supply, sharing intelligence and also the military industry activities. Intelligence sharing through proper channels would be a greater solution to mitigate threats coming from other territories which fires the home. Such as Islamic fundamentalism which exported from Saudi Arabia and fuelled by the fundamentalists living in South India and Sri Lankan.
Further, national securitism would bring up the approach of human rights to the national security of the country which may ensure the practice of normal jurisdiction. In the context, NSP would be a great initiative for Sri Lanka to answer the Geneva Human Rights Council. However, NSP of Sri Lanka if it’s under the ideology of securitism, will function the military and civilian establishments as moral censors to the government warring potential activities destabilizing the peaceful political arena of the country.
Kasuni Ranasinghe is a Research Analyst of the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL), Ministry of Defence, Sri Lanka. Views expressed are the author’s own.