11 December, 2023


An Open Letter To The President; Best Person To The “Top Seat”

By Ayesh Indranath Ranawaka

Ayesh Ranawaka

This letter is merely a request; a heartfelt one at that, coming from an individual and group of likeminded advocates that follow the idea of appointing the right man for the right job. Specifically, we are addressing the matter of defence and national security in this island nation which we believe has and will be threatened by outside forces. Threats are a natural cause and it is ill-advised to ignore them. They should be analysed in order to build up a potential plan of action that would address the matter, regardless of it happening or not.

Excellency, we believe that this country’s defence sector and the concept of national security has become highly politicized in the last few decades. The concept of national security, due to the events of the past has become yet another political trigger word- a badly used ‘good word’ in the vocabulary of any and all politicians. Even the appointment of all high ranking officials of the defence sector has become politically drivenposts, motivated and promoted by despots in our political field. Where the top officials of the defence sector has to have a holistic perspective of the procedure of events that take place, that could take place in the local and international arenas in order to generate plausible strategies of addressing, here we find political numbnuts who are made to dance as if they were finger puppets created by a child.

Like Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Who you are speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying”. Similarly, what Sri Lanka needs is to appoint the appropriate people to the appropriate positioninorder to secure the future of our country’s defence sector. Not yet another soldier who can promote political propaganda.

Excellency, you have the responsible of two main posts, the Executive President/ Commander in Chief and the Defence Minister. While these posts are uniquely different, the system in Sri Lanka is such that the President himself holds all both of these posts. By being the Commander in Chief, one has to be reactive at a minutes’ notice; yet another good quality of a good soldier. He is the one who reacts to any crisis that would involve the integrity of the nation’s security and express his intent that is his role as a commander in chief to act in such a manner that would ensure the security. In other words, the Commander in Chief is the one who orders the movement of forces under direct orders. The role of Commander in Chief of the armed forces is hardly a day to day post, I believe.

Similarly, the role of the Minister of Defence is to set straight policies that which is developed by individuals who understand what world affairs, also in the scope of national security. He is the coordinating personality between the Commander in Chief and the Executive of the country. He is the one who proactively legislates the laws, policies under the information provided by experts in the field- addressing regional matters and the internal. However, the Defence Minister is a post that requires day to day presence. For instance if there is potential crisis, acting accordingly should be this individual’s aim – without confusing his roles. It is essential that someone with that capability is positioned for this role in order to prepare those policies.

In the past, when considering the tri forces – the Army, the Navy and the Air forces – the people had some regard towards it. A rather elevated respect. However, from what I see, that regard dissipated in eighties . The main reason for this regard of dissipation was the fact that everything, including the tri- forces becoming severely politicized.

There are several systems operating within this service. These systems were handed over to us by the British Empire. What we’re doing today is running these foreign systems within our country. There are rules and regulation, there are ethics and the norm is that often people are trained for this.

Now if we take a different institution for example, people are rarely trained for it. However, the military is a certain service that specifically trains individuals to perform given orders.

For instance, if you take an 18 year old who was recruited, that individual is specifically trained in following orders and handling arms. He is trained in accordance with the service and that is how a soldier is born. They are trained to follow orders. They shouldn’t think individually but perform as a single unit, following orders in accordance to their superiors. Of course you cannot create a soldier who thinks individually. Following this creation, they become a complete and absolute unit. They will be set apart from civilians by their discipline, by their ability to simply follow orders and are typically model citizens. It is the duty of the President, Commander in Chief and the Defence Minister to give these people the proper recognition and the respective place.

On the other hand, these two posts; the Executive President/Commander in Chief and the Defence Minister should be three different roles. In other words, while all three posts can be held by the same individual, when acting in different scenarios, the roles should not be interchangeable. Now in a country, especially in an upcoming economy country there are two types of concerns – looming concerns and security concerns. Taking decisions during looming concerns should be different from taking decisions during security concerns, and they should be handled by the appropriate role.

The intent and orders should concern the Commander in Chief. Thus, there should be strategic policies and concepts when handling matters as the commander in chief. However, it isn’t that easy, which is where the Defence Secretary enters. Now the Defence Secretary should be in the proper position to brief the Commander in Chief with the Defence Minister.However, what happens is often, the most often; the wrong individual is appointed as the Defence Secretary. This happened often in the past. The Defence Secretary should be very neutral. No matter what political issues or alliances they have, they should be prepared to be completely unbiased in all situations.

What I want to ask you, Excellency, is to create a system where the respective commanders will be appointed devoid of political intent. The selection process should not merely include the team captain, but the Vice captain and so on at least five posts down. Today, the only person who deals with all roles; the President/Commander in Chief and the Defence Minister, and the commander’s appointment is highly politicized.

There should be a proper procedure to deal with this. What I suggest, is to be familiar with all the potential candidates, have a selection process with proper interviews and be familiar with the individual’s intent. Make sure it is not a political intent, because no matter what party you belong to, in the end, what matters is the National Interest and what is best for the country. It is of utmost importance that this is achieved correctly. In Sri Lanka what happens is someone is appointed under political aspirations and then the commander will be under obligation to do what the politician wants, rather than what is good for the country.

Furthermore, most of these individuals are skilled as the best .They’re vigorously trained and honed into this position. However, the situation has become so politicized that, the moment one of them are badmouthed, they’re sent to retirement at the age before 55. This is a massive waste of our skill and resources. In the upper house of the American Senate, there are four seats reserved for the three Commanders and the Joint Operations Commander. These four individuals come and sit there and unlike in Sri Lanka they have a very elevated status. They will not take part in the politics of the system.

Furthermore, whoever who holds the potential of coming into this position, he has to have the ability to inquire what he can change in the country for better. He who is in this position has to hold the power to create relationships with the immediate neighbours of our country, maintain them through and through. We cannot have someone who would kill a relationship when he feels like it or when his initial personal interests fall through. Whatever the policy, the relationships with our allies and friends should not change. The policy can change, but the relationship cannot. For that to happen, an individual who holds himself second and the country first, should be in position.

Thus, we need a proper system to separate politics from matters of national security. The people have had enough. For nearly 74 years, the two main parties have not done much for the country. The country will end up being the force of two extremes -the super-rich class and a very poor class – where the middle class will be removed, because the middle class has the thinking capacity. By doing so, the rich – who will always be money conscious – will buy off the poor and go on with their lucrative life. Someone should address this.

There is no such a thing as a time of peace. But the peace we have is very unstable. It can be destroyed very easily. An insurgent group might rise up tomorrow or another country might declare war the next instant. We must understand this and have alternative plans for this. To be always be on alert is better than reacting when the worst is already done. Unfortunately, what our country does is just that; reacting.

While it is true that there is no immediate threat to the country, we must upgrade our military, so that when there are threats, we are prepared. We mustn’t stagnate ourselves.

Democracy doesn’t simply mean appointing an individual to go make an idiot of himself, others and the entire country, in parliament. It means the people have the assurance that their needs will be fulfilled and that they are secure. There should be a parliamentary committee where everyone is represented. Specially the common man. For that, the right positions should be filled by the right people.

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Latest comments

  • 18

    Currently, the Defence personnel is being used to protect the corrupt rulers and not the suffering Citizens of the country. They had been an undisciplined mostly uneducated people. In the North and East of the country they had raped tortured and murdered innocent civilians because they belonged to the minorities.
    Need to know/learn on being CIVIL.

    • 3

      Naman: Short and Sweet.

  • 6

    Did Gota asked you to write this ?

  • 0

    my solution is not the army ,but to improve the quality of the politicians and the eletoral system.

    If we throw out democracy we will be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    Improving democracy to the standards of singapore and switzerland depending which model is like by us,western or eastern is the answer.As for me i will say singapore in the short to medium term and western in the long term.I do not like the armed forces model of myanmar and thailand.

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