12 November, 2019

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National Security Or Political Expediency?

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

Presidential contender Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR) has made national security the focal point of his campaign. He and his supporters have enough ammunition in their arsenal in the Easter Sunday bombings. Security lapses of the kind during the Yahapalana term of office would not and did not happen during ten years of Rajapaksa rule.

Unable to ignore the issue, the other leading contender, Sajith Premadasa (SP), has waded in by promising citizens to revamp the entire security apparatus in the country. He has announced a ‘smart national security strategy,’ whatever that means with a National Security Advisor to boot.

The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) has finally completed its task and handed in their report. Other than what transpired in camera not released to the public domain, it revealed little to add to what was already in the public domain. However, one could think of many a grey area not dealt with by this committee.

About a month before the Easter Sunday bombings, the Department of Muslim Cultural and Religious Affairs Director MRM Malik announced over 500 unregistered mosques in the country. It is in addition to the nearly 2,400 registered mosques. He further stated, “We are now in the process of sending them reminders.” The law of the land requires the registration of all religious places of worship with the relevant department within six months of being set up. What is not known is how many of these 500 structures have obtained the necessary building and other permits.    

Broadly speaking, acts of terrorism were perpetrated mainly by two types until around 1980.  

The first group was the likes of Ho Chi Ming and the Taliban in countries occupied by foreign powers. 

The second group consisted of those who wished to change the political direction of a country. It was mostly ideology-based. The likes of Lenin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il Tsung, and Castro all carried out terror attacks and were branded terrorists by the rulers of the day. They became national leaders and heroes after their successful revolutions. 

Yasser Arafat and his PLO movement terrorized the world to win back their land taken forcibly from the Palestinians.  

However, with the end of the cold war and with communism all but dead, religious extremism and resulting terrorism replaced politics-based terrorism.    

Religious extremism and radicalism are not the monopolies of the followers of Islam. There are radicals and extremists among followers of all religions (Buddhism is a philosophy but will be referred to as a religion for convenience). Unfortunately, terrorists among followers of Islam have carried out terror acts in more trouble spots around the world than any other religious group for a gamut of reasons. It has regrettably led to Islamophobia.  

Only a handful of such types are required to ferment radical ideas within a group, village, town, etc. The most convenient for such activity are places of worship where worshipers gather. The weak and disgruntled make easy prey for recruitment by hardcore extremists, whether Muslim, Buddhist or any other.  

Having all places of worship registered should be a mandatory requirement. It applies across the board to mosques as well as Buddhist temples, including those constructed by armed forces in the North, Hindu Kovils, Christian churches, and those of other faiths. Equally important is the close monitoring of their finances, both local and foreign. Accurate record-keeping is essential.

The arrest of over a 150-visa overstaying foreign Islamic preachers in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings is a known fact. The Singapore Straits Times quoting Minister Vajira Abeywardena reported 600 visa overstaying deportees, including around 200 Islamic preachers. The same figures were reported by Sunday Times quoting an unnamed Immigration Department official. The BBC reported 161 Islamic preachers. According to Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, 800 foreign Islamic clerics have entered the country with tourist visas.

According to informed sources, these preachers had entered the country using the tourist visa facility. However, preaching Islam and not tourism had been their reason for coming to Sri Lanka. They were also found to have overstayed their visas, which then leads to two questions.

Firstly, why did they enter as tourists when they were Islamic preachers? Secondly, why break the law without regularizing their stay? The mosques hosting them should be held accountable and hefty fines imposed for violating immigration laws.

It is unknown if some of the Preachers were preaching a radical brand of Islam in line with Easter Sunday bomber Zahran’s ideology. Did security officials interrogate these Preachers and their disciples? Have they been deported, are they still in retention or have they been released? 

According to Police Spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera, the CID had identified Rs 140 million cash and other assets worth over Rs 7 billion belonging to Zahran’s National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ). He stated, “Half of the cash has been taken under CID custody, and the remainder was found deposited in several bank accounts. The CID has taken measures to suspend those accounts.” Where and how did this group of young men manage to obtain that kind of money, and who helped them? Has any effort been made to follow the money trail? 

Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim, the father of two suicide bomber brothers,  owned a scrap iron and copper factory in Wellampitiy. It is the suspected assembly point for the suicide vests. The Wellampitiya Police arrested nine factory workers and produced before the Colombo Magistrate on April 22. They had been remanded till May 6 but mysteriously released on bail shortly after that, supposedly due to political interference. Who had the remand order revoked? Police Spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera promised an investigation. What happened?    

Batticaloa Campus Pvt. Ltd. promoted by former Governor of Eastern Province MLAM Hizbullah and his Heera Foundation had received Rs 3.6 billion (approx. USD 24 million) in seven fund transfers into its Bank of Ceylon account from a Charity Foundation in Saudi Arabia within 15 months between 2016 and 2017. Though claimed to be a grant, no documentary proof was available. A document was eventually produced from the Al Juffali Foundation in Saudi Arabia, stating it was a soft loan on a differed payment basis. The letter was dated January 1, 2019. If that be the case, what was the basis of the seven inward remittances in 2016 and 2017? We ordinary citizens must provide personal details and sources of funds when banking over Rs 1 million. Yet the seven inward remittances of Rs 3.6 billion did not get flagged by Central Bank and Bank of Ceylon systems. Or were they surreptitiously de-flagged?  Who is investigating?

The farcical PSC failed miserably to raise some of these and many other issues. There is no record of cross-examining those responsible for importing foreign Islamic Preachers nor trustees of Mosques who hosted immigration lawbreakers. On the subject of Arabizing Kattankudy, they readily accepted the former Governor’s reasoning. He spoke of the need to construct buildings based on Arabic architecture, grow date palms, and name roads in the Arabic language to attract Arab tourists!

Committee members MA Sumanthiran and Rauf Hakeem pounced on Secretary to Ministry of Public Administration JJ Rathnasiri over the face veil issue related to the dress code for state employees. Their enthusiasm was noticeably absent when cross-examining the likes of Rishard Bathiudeen and Hizbullah. 

A few days back, a video went viral of Minister Rauf Hakeem and terrorist leader Zahran in the same room during a group meeting. Hakeem has gone to great lengths to justify his presence and refute allegations of any links with the terrorist. What is relevant is not the public meeting but the fact, he failed to disclose the presence of Zahran during a meeting attended by him, at the time of his appointment as a PSC member. The Speaker, notoriously shy of dealing with Members of Parliament on matters of conduct, has failed to question Hakeem to date on his lack of transparency.    

GR and SP are grandstanding on the issue of national security. They are full of it. 

GR has, on occasion mentioned, he intends setting up an independent investigation to investigate the Easter Sunday bombings. 

SP, while ignoring the Easter Sunday bombings, has promised to ‘unleash’ Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. He is to be appointed to the post of Minister for Defense and Law & Order tasked with revamping the country’s security apparatus. He is sufficiently naïve and green behind his ears not to understand, only in Banana Republics is defense overlooking the armed forces and law & order or Interior overlooking the police entrusted to the same person.    

AKD and MS, to the best of this writer’s knowledge, have remained silent on the subject.  

MS, the newcomer to politics, could perhaps commence by being forthright. He could provide the real question which prompted him to tell Minister Bathiudeen, “give me a call in one and a half years” over a detainee. 

Parliamentary Elections will follow the Presidential election within six months or less. With a one million-plus Muslim vote bank to be harvested, methinks all of them, the winner and losers will do nothing. 

Presidential contenders, political leaders, the Speaker, and every Tom, Dick, and Harry, with an agenda, pay lip service to national security.

Yet actions speak louder than words. Whereas words echo national security, their actions reek of political expediency. 

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Latest comments

  • 6
    1

    Unfortunately, National Security has become a political football in Sr Lanka. If not, wonder why MS left out the PM and Deputy Defence Minister from attending the NSC meetings?

    MS, as the Minister of Defence, has a lot to answer for in relation to the Easter Bombings. It is apparent, the role of the President, is beyond the capabilities of MS. The sooner he is replaced, the better. Didn’t he promise, in late 2018, to resign under certain circumstances, during the 52 day saga?

    • 10
      2

      Rajeewa why are you toiling so much to produce a worthless piece. Easter bombings were the work of Mahinda and Gotabaya with the assent of Sirisena. From the time Mahinda was ousted, China was working overtime to topple the new government. The main culprit is Sirisena. He became greedy and wanted to go for a second term. When Ranil said that he wants to contest, he started to undermine UNP. China saw an opportunity and pounced on it and gave hopes to Sirisena if he collaborates to topple UNP government and install Mahinda. What happened in October 2018 is the result of this plan organised by China. When that failed the next step was this Easter carnage to create chaos and topple the government. It is well known that Mahinda government funded and nurtured Zaharan and other Muslim extremists to harass Tamils. Unfortunately present government turned a blind eye to it. Pakistani intelligence agents are active among Muslims to foment hatred on Tamils. They were used by Mahinda and Gotabaya to convince Zaharan and his people to carry out the attack without harming Sinhala Buddhists. (CONTD)

      • 6
        1

        (CONTD) Before staging the failed coup, he falsely accused RAW of trying to kill him., which makes one to suspect that he was acting on the instruction of some power which wanted to marginalize India. Sirisena in addition to being minister of defence, took over the ministry of law and order, deliberately to prevent anyone else coming to know of the plan. He did not invite PM and deputy minister of defence so that he could have his way. He had instructed the police not to investigate about the activity of Zaharan’s group because if it was done all this would have come to light. He ignored the warning given by India deliberately. He organised everything and left the country on a false pretext that he is going on a pilgrimage to India. When he left India to Singapore, he told his family to remain in India till after the Easter, which shows that he did not want his family to get caught in the mayhem which may follow the bombings. Even after being informed of the carnage, he did not return to the country immediately. It is only after he learnt that there was calm, he decided to return. All these proves his complicity. When he was put on the dock he found scapegoats in his secretary and IGP, who though are culpable are not the main culprits. (CONTD)

        • 4
          1

          (CONTD) It is now firmly believed that top Sinhala politicians on both sides of the house as well as top security establishment knew about this and wanted it to happen. If a CID officer could tell Harin Fernando’s father lying in hospital about it, do you think there are no security officials who are in sympathy with UNPers who would have not told them about it. Mahinda and Co wanted to topple the government and Ranil and Co wanted to use this security situation to take the pressure off from UNHCR demand about accountability and reconciliation. The order given to Muslim terrorists is to blast hotels and churches in east where dead would have been foreigners and Tamils, Unfortunately for the instigators, hotels and churches were targeted in west causing deaths of Sinhala Christians and four policemen and hurting the economy. There is no logic behind Muslim terrorists targeting Tamils and Sinhala Catholics when those causing harm to Muslims are Sinhala Buddhists. Government tried to cover up by Ruwan Wijewardena claiming that the attack was a revenge to New Zealand event, which was quickly rubbished by NZ prime minister.This shows that though the perpetrators are Muslims the organizers are Sinhalese. Though front line terrorists have been arrested, Muslim politicians, businessmen and professionals who backed them are roaming freely, because of their money and votes. Unfortunately not only Mahinda, Gotabaya and Sirisena, but also Ranil and Co have been caught with their pants down. For them lives of Tamils and Sinhala Christians could be sacrificed for their own agendas of power politics.

      • 5
        0

        Religious terrorism in Sri Lanka started in 1956 well before 1980. It repeated in 1958, 1977.
        Role Buddhist monks was very prominent.
        Even.it was the reason for assassination o SWRD
        You racist Rajeewa do not hide the facts

      • 1
        5

        You see Dr.Gnana, there are devout Muslims who are prepared to lay down their lives , in whole families, for the sake is Rajapaksas. Crafty Rajapaksas must have promised Zaharan double the number of virgins in paradise. Gotabhaya is also is believed to be behind recent killing of ISIS chief in Syria by providing intelligence related to whereabouts of Al Baghdadi to the Americans.

        Soma

  • 1
    0

    So what?
    All politicians wish to survive this “election storm” and come out ‘clean’ to survive under the new ‘president’ and his catchers.
    Whoever will be elected will have not enough funds to fulfill his promises – the cupboard is empty.
    All promised grandiose schemes will have to be postponed and/or watered down.
    The ‘common man’ will have to ‘tighten his belt’..

  • 0
    0

    That should be every Dhammika, Soli, and Harry

  • 1
    1

    justice
    you are perfectly correct
    the govt is broke so how can the candidates fulfil any of their promises
    so lets forget their manifestos and vote according to our conscience

  • 3
    0

    Hello, Rajeewa I see you back at it. Guys like you never give up on licking the crumbs from the floor. You were one of the few, who were behind instigating hatred , violence and riots against the Muslim community,by blaming the whole community, soon after Easter. All minorities should beware of this scum pretending to be a journalist. Let me ask you a question. Was national security anymore a priority over corruption, political murders, disappearance, violence against minority, unemployment, environment, health care , education, breakdown in civil service, economy, decline in tourism, national debt and impending bankruptcy. We as readers know the answer is a big NO. Easter was all about making it a priority again, for Gothas sake, to win election. Otherwise the Murderer has nothing to talk about. He dosent even have the capability to face a open debate to prove otherwise. You are are a fake journalist, SB racist and a payed proxy of Rajapaksa, who tend to confuse the readers by intermittently writing some shit, mildly critical of Rajapaksas, so that you can return back to your usual Racial bashing

  • 3
    2

    Presidential contender Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR) has made national security the focal point of his campaign. He and his supporters have enough ammunition in their arsenal in the Easter Sunday bombings. Security lapses of the kind during the Yahapalana term of office would not and did not happen during ten years of Rajapaksa rule.

    Unable to ignore the issue, the other leading contender, Sajith Premadasa (SP), has waded in by promising citizens to revamp the entire security apparatus in the country. He has announced a ‘smart national security strategy,’ whatever that means with a National Security Advisor to boot.

    *** Both Gotha & Sajith are talking rubbish. It is unfair to blame the Yalpana Government for the Security lapse which led to the Ester Bombings. The cause of the Easter Bombings was the result of 71 year brutality. The idea that Indian Intelligence warned of an impending attack is a load of Rubbish . The question is if the Indian intelligence is so sophisticated how come thy didnt prevent the Bombay attack.. Even American security network couldnt prevent 9/11. So I challenge Gotha come ouf of the closet and stop pretentending and without a solution to underlying causes of the Conflict no one can stop a determined Suicide Bomber. All he or she needs is explosives which iswidely available. Saudi Arabia can import it in diplomatic bags.

  • 2
    1

    Rajeeva,
    Gotabaya is contesting for the post of President, not to the PM post. Under the 19th amendment President’s powers are limited and he has to with the parliament which has no majority for SLFP and no one for SLPP. For the past 4.5 years President was Sirisena of SLFP and half of the ministerial posts were kept by SLFP. The main defence ministry was under Sirisena and he continuously refused to give defence ministry to Sarath Fonseka under his leadership the war with LTTE was won. Gota was responsible for the murder of LTTE surunders who surrendered after the talks and agreement with Gota & Ranil.
    What a joke? You say there is no security lapses during the 10 year period. That means 2005 to 2015. The peace talks collapsed in 2006 and there was a war from 2006 to 2009. During that time LTTE’s . One example:
    2006 Digampathana bombing: A suicide bomber in a truck kills 103 Sri Lanka Navy sailors on buses going on, or returning from, leave at a transit point and wounds over 150 other sailors. Several civilians may also have died.
    Why could’ nt Gota stop those bombing? If there is no security lapses how could this happen and the war continued for three years. How many troops, civilians dead during that war? Did the peace come after 2009? How many mosques were attacked? How many were abducted? Who was responsible for their security?

  • 2
    1

    Gotha says

    Rejected Tamil extremists’ proposals for the sake of country’s sovereignty:.

    Gotha if you are listening. what about the following.

    1) Sinhalese Exremism practised by BBS under your patronage.
    2) Are you joking or fooling you Country men when you say Countrys Sovereignty. If you are Sovereign how can India force you to forfeit the Lease you carved out and gave to China and

    As regards the Extremists Proposals by the Tamil parties and for your information these proposals were put forward by TNA & others based on the promise given by Mr.Modi when the parties visited him at his request. You understand what Indian pressure means if in doubt ask your brother MR

    • 0
      0

      It is not surprise that American CIA influenced American Gotabaya categorising Srilanka registered Tamil political parties as Tamil extremists. For him Dalada Maligawa bomber Karuna & Pilliyan are not a terrorists, international arms dealer and supplier KP is not a terrorist, BBS ganarasa is not a terrorist. For him Samanthan is an extremist, Vigneswaran is an extremist, even Sajith is an extremist because they did not involve with any whitevan abductions, murders.

  • 1
    0

    Rajeewa
    You identify two kinds of ‘terrorists’ but it seems to me that yr definitions omit a possible third kind. How would you define the terrorism of the invading Zionist gangs, the Haganah, Irgun, etc.? They certainly weren’t liberating land that belonged to them — weren’t they invaders, colonisers? Arent they still?

    • 0
      2

      The problem is Manel, those you refer to gained legitimacy as agencies of the state of Israel when the UN approved the plan of partition in 1947. While not agreeing with the policy, it has to be debated another day.

  • 0
    0

    It is wearying to hear – sometimes even otherwise sensible people – say what Sri Lanka needs is a dictator. This, despite evidence of the failed experiments in countries like Pakistan, Myanmar and Thailand and the experience of the Rajapakse years. Wearying though it may be, it ought not perhaps be so surprising. The yahapalanaya government has us down badly. There is a prevailing sense of confusion, paralysis and insecurity – and a climate in which people yearn for discipline and good order. Some time ago a Northern MP said she occasionally wished the Tigers were still in control in the north because they at least provided security and safety? Many were horrified with the MP’s remarks but after the Easter Sunday bombings they may be disposed to regard those remarks with greater tolerance. For Gota the bombings were a godsend and could not have been better timed. He and his team have exploited the tragedy for maximum benefit. But we need to ask if Gota might indeed have made a difference. And, seriously, did we need a ‘strongman’ at the top to have prevented the Easter Sunday bombings? There were enough warnings from India of an impending tragedy, and you only needed someone with common sense to have been in charge – instead of the nincompoops who were – to forestall the disaster..While Gota and his men are bent on promoting ‘National Security’ as the defining issue of the Presidential Election, it is simply designed to tap into the public’s fears and insecurities and is a red herring to divert attention away from the deficiencies of the Gota campaign. But it is amazing how people can get sucked in by seductive slogans and specious arguments. We need to be wary of snake oil salesmen – they can be very persuasive indeed.

  • 0
    0

    Fred, it is refreshing to see your comment which shows maturity and sense. I like you,had many questions and the main one was , ” how is it even possible to take place,especially after receiving enough of warnings and familiarity with local perpetrators”.(not some international or unknown ) The answer I got is right there within your statement. Rajapaksas with help of MS intentionally allowed the tragedy to take place by pretending not to know and in truth closed their eyes and looked the other way. MS had switched loyalty right after realizing he will not be able to hang on to power. Hence his attempt of a constitutional coupe months before is a crystal clear evidence of MS allegiance back to Rajapaksas. In my opinion MS has caused equal or more damage to country, as Rajapaksas. The motive behind such dastardly act is, for Gotha to promote his “national security ” which is his now his main (even only) agenda,in winning election.Trust me by Easter Gothas candidacy had been decided but was kept secret among family , so that they could stage “search the candidate” SHAM, if not there would have been plenty of opposition within party and among the alliance. At the time of Easter, national security was, way down in election priority list and indeed Easter turned out to be “god send” gift for Rajapaksa family, to make it a number one priority again.

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