13 June, 2024


Sri Lankan Perspective On Insecurity Dilemma: National Security A Shield For Regime Politics?

By Chamathka Sewmini –

Chamathka Sewmini

The intricate web of National Security is woven with the threads of diligent responsibility of the civilians in the country to preserve their nation. Thus, the decisions and actions of the political regime are mostly substantial as the pioneers of decision-making in Sri Lanka. Therefore, it draws the concern that either the party in power or the opposition parties are promoting national security or their own regime interests behind the shades of National Security.  Consequently, as emphasized by Lyons (1993) the “Insecurity Dilemma”, deliberates how the regime leaders attempt to acquire undue advantages from the existing bottlenecks in the realm of national security. Furthermore, the undue advantages would cause weakening the national security of third-world countries in the long term (Acharya, 2020). Hence, every decision and action that they implement in the name of National Security must serve the National security of Sri Lanka. Despite that, it questions whether the reflection of every action that the regime initiates absolutely aiming at ensuring the national security of Sri Lanka. 

Existing issue 

National Security is the foundation on which the nation’s sovereignty, integrity and safety are born. Moreover, the crucial decisions that persist to National Security are taken by the political leaders. Hence, it is significant to have a specific mechanism consisting of a policy framework in Sri Lanka to examine and determine whether the specific national security concern has been addressed through the decision taken by them which was implemented under the name of National Security, which Sri Lanka is lacking at present. Consequently, this mechanism will determine whether the political leaders are pursuing their interests under the shade of national security. Thus, this bottleneck is still unraveled as no one can specifically point out that National Security has been used as a shield to justify the deeds of political leaders. 


Sri Lanka as a country situated in a significant geostrategic location, has always encountered numerous threats from domestic as well as external entities.  LTTE tormented Sri Lankans for more than three decades. Rather, domestic concerns on economic, political, and social concerns have also been raised which the country had to encounter economic crisis, political instabilities including plethora of human security concerns.  Thus, these security concerns, either hard notion or soft notion persist to the entire nation of the country. Further, these concerns themselves are the main requirements of the civilians of Sri Lanka that it needed to be addressed in order to have better living conditions that every citizen is willing to have. Hence, these national security concerns open up a pathway for politicians to advocate at times of elections which easily grasp the feelings of the public. Consequently, winning people’s hearts emphasizing these requirements, to get their willingness is mainly a competition among political parties where every party pledges in the name of national security. The Crux of propaganda of every political regime, in pre-elections, mainly circulates around National Security (Stokke, 2011) thereby misleading the public that National Security can only be preserved by the specific political party while ill-defining National Security as a regime capability. 

In between the distinction between imaginary and reality, offering a glimmer of hope to people and the actual deeds after coming to power, social upheavals may come into the limelight. Thus, in 1980, after two years of the election in 1978, General Strike came into the limelight which demanded worker’s rights, job security and better living conditions. Rather, in 2021, two years after the appointment of the new government, protests were raised island-wide due to the fertilizer ban. Furthermore, in 2022 ‘Aragalaya’ led a revolutionary change in the existing government at that time. Evidently, in most occasions, the cause for the protests was the inability to meet the Human Security concerns related to the Economy, Political, Social, Food and Health paradigms. Hence, it is evident that the specific national security concerns have remained unaddressed during the specific time periods up to the point that mass mobilizations escalated. This draws concern on whether the Sri Lankan regime leaders are fostering the national security requirements of the nation that they advocated at the times of election.   

Furthermore, there lies a rationale in declaring a state of emergency in an extreme phenomenon where it is necessary to impose a state of emergency in order to maintain the stability of the country addressing an urgent situation. Though it still remains the lacunas that need to be addressed in the ER in Sri Lanka. Further, as Udagama (2015), emphasized that the Emergency Regulations(ER) can be used against the public themselves since the public holds very little knowledge where a complete ER gazette is unavailable, and one has to wade through numerous gazettes while even some Gazettes are unavailable. 

Moreover, it is praiseworthy that the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), aims at addressing Terrorist activities while seizing the pathway to future terrorism. Furthermore, the PTA was significant in apprehending the terrorists’ network in the Easter Sunday Attack. Despite that, there are loopholes where it needed to be addressed which the lacunas may be used to pursue the political agenda. Firstly, the Act does not provide a definition for terrorism resulting a vagueness. Moreover, Regulation No.01 of 2021 on 09th March 2021 further expanded the PTA allowing for two years of detention without any trial or lawsuit causing “religious, racial, or communal disharmony or feelings of ill will between communities to be rehabilitated at reintegration centres” (Patabendige, 2021). Further, such prolonged detention is unreasonable where if by any chance the person is innocent it is an irremediable injustice done to the person (Patabendige, 2021). Hence, the PTA must ensure that the detention centres are not a place where perpetrators are abused. Further, it must be assured that Human Rights are not subjected to breach since the government is duty-bound to preserve civil liberties. This draws the concern where it needed to maintain a balance between civil liberty and national security interests without leading the arena to justify the regime agenda behind the national security interests. Consequently, this emphasizes that it must clearly distinguish the national security and the regime interests without mingling with each other.

Deep down the issue

Promoting regime interest behind the shade of national security leads the way to undermine the real security threat that persists to the entire nation. The actual threat will remain unidentified increasing the vulnerability of the country leaving the entire nation exposed to threats at any time. In the arena of regime competition, the true requirements of national security may remain unnoticed. When it decreases the attention towards absolute national security threats, it definitely may strengthen the power of belligerents and terrorists if the real threat remains unnoticed for a long time period. 

Furthermore, regime leaders exaggerate certain issues specifically the perceived threats aiming to create a sense of urgency centered on a specific matter in order to rally public support furthering their agenda. This will overshadow the actual threat leading to a sense of misjudgment and eventually, the priorities will be miscalculated without implementing the action plan at the time it must be done. 

Notably, many of the government institutions, committees and initiatives are stagnant while staggered around a specific issue, consuming the privileges and recognition that they are getting on behalf of their position. Thereby, existing institutional capabilities would definitely weaken. Corollary, the regime in power, focuses on strengthening its capabilities, enhancement and strengthening the vote base which ultimately weakens the strategic focus with regard to national security requirements. Consequently, it may have rigorous implications for the stability of the country.

Finally, it is unfortunate that the realm of political governance blended with regime interest is recurrently intertwined with the actions that compromise the National Security of Sri Lanka. Consequently, this tendency will hinder every opportunity that fortifies the National Security of Sri Lanka. Subsequently, this sophisticated scenario could lead the way to grave consequences which hold the potential to yield extreme repercussions, jeopardizing the safety, stability, unity and integrity of the country. Thus, it becomes of the utmost significance to earnestly confront the prevailing decencies that extend across the entire spectrum of the nation. 

Way Forward

The hidden rationality of the insecurity dilemma specifies the loopholes within the scenario that new implementations must be born. Moreover, as every dark cloud contains a silver lining, there exists a lengthy array of hopes which can be implemented to mitigate grave consequences. 

Implementing a policy framework: Sri Lankan regime holders utilize national security as the way they could is a grave scenario which could merely arise due to the absence of a policy where they have been restricted in misusing the national security, consisting of full-fledged transparency with legislation that regime holders are bounded.

Addressing the lacunas of the PTA: It is essential to revise the provisions of the PTA and addressed the lacunas. Moreover, there must have a monitoring mechanism to guarantee non-violence in the detention centres. 

Strengthening institutions: It is a multifaceted approach to strengthen the government institutions and initiatives that are established in order to while monitoring to ensure that the expected outcome is delivered.

Fostering the political literacy of the public: It is pivotal to enhance the political literacy of the public since it will create a more responsible and well-informed electorate which promotes better governance and holds a stronger sense of civic duty. 


Acharya, A. 2020. “Thinking Theoretically about Asian IR” ResearchGate, June 2020. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342345351_Thinking_Theoretically_about_Asian_IR_AMITAV_ACHARYA.

Lyons, T. 1993. “The Insecurity Dilemma: National Security of Third World States..” American Political Science Review 87 (1). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/2939030

Nesiah, V. 2010. “The princely imposter: stories of law and pathology in the exercise of emergency powers” Emergency Powers in Asia: Exploring the Limits of Legality.121-145.

Patabendige, C.L.C.M. 2022. “Prevention of Terrorism Act: Striking a Balance between Conflicting Interests”. Ministry of Defence-Sri Lanka. 


Pavey, E. 2008. “The massacres in Sri Lanka during the Black July riots of 1983” https://tamilnation.org/indictment/genocide83/pavey.pdf

“Prevention of Terrorism.” 1979. LawNet. https://www.lawnet.gov.lk/prevention-of-terrorism-3/.

Satkunanathan, A. 2020. “Sril Lanka: Minority rights within shrinking civic pace” South Asia State of Minorities Report. 196-229. 


Sttoke, K. 2011. “Liberal Peace in Questions: The Sri Lankan case”.1-34. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/291848918_Liberal_peace_in_question_The_Sri_Lankan_case

Udagama, D. 2015. “An Eager Embrace: Emergency Rule and Authoritarianism in Republic Lanka” Reforming Sri Lankan Presidentialism: Provenance, Problems and Prospects. 286-333.

United Nations. 1948. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations.” https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights

*Chamathka Sewmini is  Research (Intern) at the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS), the premier think tank on National Security established under the Ministry of Defence. The opinions expressed are her own and not necessarily reflective of the institute or the Ministry of Defence.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Am I the only one who suspects that the ‘opinion’ expressed has a malicious objective.

    • 8

      Surely you know what this means:”Chamathka Sewmini is Research (Intern) at the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS), the premier think tank on National Security established under the Ministry of Defence. “
      What do you expect from a twenty-something in awe of the splendid Ranaviruwos at the MoD? The very same ones who “won” a “war” that was raging even before she was born? You want reasoned arguments, not an incoherent cut-and-paste? You expect an acknowledgement that terrorists are not all Tamils or Muslims, but could even be Sinhala JVP members?
      There is no malice in the article. It is purely the result of brainwashing.
      You are asking too much, Nathan.

      • 2

        All your thoughts were at the back of my mind, when I posed the question, old codger.
        I have a handicap that we don’t share!
        I cannot be as bold as you are; I use a milder approach. Thanks.

  • 9

    If the Tamil problem was solved as per Tamil Arasu Kadchi’s suggestion for the Federal Constitution for Ceylon/Srilanka LTTE would not have been Born. Neither JVP would have been on a murdering spree. Further, various agreements were reached with the Tamil political parties only to be broken with vengeance to satisfy political gains.
    Today we are running in circles to find money to start another war.

  • 9

    The leading Politicians, political parties and Religious leadersin this island do not understand what is “National security”. For most of them, the national security means the “security of Buddhism or security of Sinhala Buddhism”. Each and every citizen should feel that he or she belongs to this land. T

  • 2

    English is certainly not a forte in this writer’s vocabulary. Instead, she turns to referencing various works to appear academic. Much of what she has written is grammatically wrong. It is a pity that she did not use an editor to convey her ideas better, to the reading public. However, the ominous thing hidden in her stance is the justifying of oppression, stifling of dissent and the murderous impunity exercised via the PTA etc. She seems to speak for the regime, and uses national security almost like how Dubya Bush claimed that God came to him in a dream requesting he take out Saddam Hussein, thus killing a million Iraqis with absolutely no justification. These kinds of writers infest the corridors of power. They deny the future children of Sri Lanka of a decent future, as they exercise every power at their disposal to maintain their own status, security and existence at poor people’s expense. That is the tragedy.

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