24 May, 2022


Sri Lanka’s National Security Silence: Threat Or Defence?

By Niranjan Rambukwella

Flipping through newspapers or scrolling through Colombo Telegraph, absence is as significant as presence. Absence of discussion, that is silence, often points to areas where society has arrived at consensus. Lack of debate on slavery can either signal broad societal agreement that slavery is wrong, or the counter-consensus that slavery is right. In either case, silence points to consensus.

Studying silence can reveal a society’s most fundamental beliefs, those beliefs that are so deeply entrenched that they need no articulation. For many years Sri Lankans believed in the success of our education system. Debate and discussion were limited to fixing peripheral problems like the Scholarship Exam. Newspapers and political discussion never questioned the fundamental structure of educational institutions – everyone agreed that the basic structure was sound, no debate was needed, and silence prevailed.

The people of Sri Lanka need debate and discussion on national security

The people of Sri Lanka need debate and discussion on national security

Silence is also sinister – signifying ignorance, taboos and outright oppression. For many years public debate ignored the necessity of education reforms. While teaching standards fell and graduates struggled to find work, Sinhala and Tamil speaking society complacently accepted the comfortable consensus of Sri Lanka’s educational success – persisting till FUTA’s iconoclastic strike. These strikes razed the idol, and now collective inquiry into Sri Lanka’s educational problems slowly emerges as debate expands. Teachers, parents and students starting to comprehend the gravity of the issue, are beginning to talk and question. As the embers of discussion are fanned, understanding grows further and virtuous cycle is set in motion.

Silence Muted

Over the last year the government’s foreign and economic policies, which for a couple of years commanded virtually universal approval, are now the subject of considerable debate. Why did the silence break so suddenly? These policies have not changed much over the last few years – then why the sudden shift.

Disruptive interventions destabilize consensus. When an infallible truth is credibly questioned debate emerges. Consensus and certainty give was to debate and doubt. Existing critical voices become credible, the disheartened encouraged and defenders roused. A war of ideas then emerges, and while the battle rages certainty is dead and doubt reigns.

Public debate (by this I mean Sinhala language debate) on foreign policy over the last year is an excellent case in point. Dayan Jayatilleke’s arrival in Sri Lanka marked the start of the skirmish – his weekly television appearances, regular writing to the Sinhalese press criticizing the government’s foreign policy and formidable speaking schedule all played an important role in destabilized the conviction that Sri Lanka’s foreign policy was well handled. Over the last few months that skirmish has become a pitched battle with many commentators and political parties joining the fray. Regardless of their view of the government’s ends, faith in the government’s policy is shaken, debate is emerging and consensus and certainty are slowly slipping away. Silence on foreign policy management is now replaced with sustained criticism and the Sri Lankan people now know that all is not quiet on the Western Front (or the Southern for that matter). The UNP and JVP and even the nationalists are all questioning its efficacy. Newspaper editors are increasingly publishing critical voices and the government is forced to defend its record.

The same can be said of the economy: the JVP’s sustained and informed critique in the Sinhala sphere was almost as successful as Dayan’s in foreign policy. While a year ago the multiple Nagumas and the photos of infrastructure deluded that masses very few now believe that the government will win the ‘development war’ as it won the other war. Tales of corruption, evidence of economic mismanagement and widespread waste, combined with criticism from commentators and politicians has put paid to certainty.

The Next Idols

The Foreign Policy and Economy idols are dead. Now the National Security Idol must be extinguished.

Radio silence is imposed when ships want to sail discreetly, without others knowledge. Sri Lanka’s national security policy is a ship on radio silence. No one knows how big it is, where it going, why etc. The tax payer knows precious little about how the nation’s security is being protected, and how the defence forces plan to prevent the phoenix like rise of another violence conflict. Even in policy circles there is virtually no debate, discussion or even conversation on Sri Lanka’s national security objectives, its strategy and its operational methods. There is no Dayan challenging the Defence Idol.

We, the people, have no choice but to assume that the current strategies, tactics and operations are the best for us and our country. We have no choice but to assume that we need a 300,000 strong army. We have no choice but to assume that we need a totalitarian intelligence apparatus. We have no choice but to assume that we need military rule and colonisation in the North.

The people of Sri Lanka need debate and discussion on national security. Silence means we will have to believe that the methods that won the war will win the peace, we will have to believe that extraordinarily calling out the army every month protects the Sri Lankan people and not the government, and we will have to believe when we are tortured and executed without trial that it is for our own protection. This is the price of worshiping the National Security Idol.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    They won an “unwinnable” war using this defense strategy didn’t they ?

    At least this is something that worked !

    Give it a while before you start tearing it apart and also remember the DIE – ARSE – Pora is trying their best to re-organize the LTTE.

    • 4

      “Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, where as who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards look for victory” Sun Tzu

      Yes killing civilians and winning a war is destined to defeat. Both LTTE and the Rajapakse regime first fought and then looked for victory. LTTE died in the battle and victorious Rajapakse family won the war, but since they jumped into the battle without any after war planning and because the victory satisfied their ego they did not make use of the victory they won to bring about a lasting peace. See what battle they have to face now, it is almost their own life if they are found fault under an international investigation. Both LTTE and Rajapakse family did not have a strategy before they started the war.

    • 5

      1.It wasn’t an unwinnable war – many countries with sophisticated warware against a bunch of rebels in an island !!

      Unwinnable only if there is connection between land masses of different states.

      2.”Give it a while before you start tearing it apart” ?

      Five years not enough? Five years to fill up the North with war monuments and Buddha statues and boutiques and restaurants and hotels and camps/cantonments and Sinhala colonies and recruit Tamil women into the overbloated army and ……….

    • 0

      Do not forget that You also one of the “DIE – ARSE – Pora” sitting on the Brain..

      And you are supporting to Djahja Jarapassa clan with Shit eating Pig, That Hothambaya to reorganize the LTTE with K P, PILLAYAN and Karuna Amman.
      to terrorize Sri lanka Again to loot our, poor people’s money.

    • 1

      D Q;
      [ Donkey Quotes],

      Hothambaya’s Shit of “Defence strategy”????????/.

      YAKKO, Who are your THEY ????.

      People of Sri Lanka scarified their lives for the War.
      NOt the Jarapassa Shit eating PIGS!?.
      Your “they” looted only.
      Still looting the Steel debris from War and sending to India in Containers.
      Ask Army Hathuru singho?.

      That Shit eating Pig canot stop Intruding Fishermen From Tamil NAADU.
      At least Bastarsd canot put Marked Buoys along the IMBL,
      off Jaffna peninsula, but Doing Arms smuggling using LTTE SHIPS.

      Ares Lickers of sht eating pig Talking big about “DEFECE STRATEGY”

      • 0

        How sad, how pathetic…..why not go shoot yourself JA ?

    • 0

      This article below will show the levels of lanken regime today, if BBS´s invitation would be allowed.


      BBS invites Ashin Wirathu Thera to visit SL

      1 March 21, 2014 2:04 am

      By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody

      The man that Time Magazine dubbed ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror,’ Leader of the 969 Movement in Myanmar, who is notorious for his anti-Islam rhetoric, Ven. Ashin Wirathu Thera, will be arriving in the island on an invitation by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS).

      BBS General Secretary, Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera said, “There is no need for a hullabaloo yet. We will let the relevant people know in due course. We have invited him and he will come and we will have a meeting. That is all. The media does not need to know for how long he will stay here.We will plan it and reveal it at the appropriate time.”
      BBS Education and Research Unit Chief Coordinator, Chamila Liyanage, said, “Even though the dates are not confirmed yet, he is definitely coming.

      “Buddhist countries in the Asiatic region are facing difficulties and even violencerom the Muslims and the other religions in the region. The best example comes from Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh. This is the very reason why Ven. Wirathu decided to start the 969 Movement in Myanmar. We visited Thailand and Myanmar and we will be visiting other countries in East Asia. We will definitely be starting an international network with global reach with likeminded Buddhist civil society institutions, Buddhist scholars and Buddhist activist organizations in these countries. With Ven. Wirathu Thera we will be discussing strategic plans for at least a regional network for the time being, for which we need a concrete plan,” he added.

  • 0

    Come on leave this monkey alone, there will be more to follow and yet it will be the same story!!!!!!!
    Make hay while the sun shines,………………….

  • 0

    The relative peace of the early fifties lulled us into a sense of false security. For years our police and security forces were underfunded and under-resourced and found wanting when they came up against increasingly demanding challenges. When the political will changed, so did the capability of our security forces; evidence 2009. This GoSL (and, hopefully, others to come) will never ever again make the mistake of compromising on security; internal or external. We had better get used to varying, and sometimes painful and inconvenient, degrees of operations until those charged with this thankless and difficult job arrive at the right balance. Yes, and from time to time, our forces may be used for ‘political’ expediency. That is nothing new. As we all have learnt over the years, peace comes at a price, and cheap it is not.

    • 0

      Oi Garfield you are croaking in spring.

      Old is gold but all that glitters is holmaan!

      Lankian MOD is FOS-Full Of Sh*t (either severely constipated or metaphorically)

      UK is first world and where everything takes place yet they are cutting for good causes.

      Since 2010, the British government has been taking steps to cut the size of its armed forces to rein in the country’s massive defense budget deficit.

      `Gooo`ta is FLUF – Funny Little Ugly F*cker.

  • 3

    Thanks a lot for writing this and this should give people in the South of the country to speak up their conscience.

  • 4

    This is exactly what the Germans in Nazi Germany underwent.

    The result in Sri Lanka will be similar, I suppose, sooner the better!

    Who will bell the big vicious cat of Sri Lanka, India or US or both?

  • 4

    A brilliant article well debated. Thank you for the inspiring and thought provoking article which should be read by all right thingking people. The only problem is that it should be translated into Sinhala and Tamil if it is to be debated by the masses and to have an impact. The only thread by which the Govt is hanging is by the National Security MYTH. When that bubble is pricked is the final demise of the Rajapakses.

  • 2

    Very intelligent analysis and the undeniable fact of the situation of the national security and it’s silence mode. No one dare to speak about it’s silence as a threat or defense. That’s how many things are kept today in total darkness and the authorities doesn’t want that to be discussed in public or media. Everyone is observing a complete self-censoring… sort of.
    The “unwinnable` war`s strategy belongs to all the backers and abettors of the International Community nations who immensely helped Sri Lanka `win` it. If not for their support, logistics, arms supply, satellite surveillance, radars,locating LTTE arm shipments in the international waters, supply of coast guard cutter(USA), supply of three war ships(India), Russian, Pakistani, Iranian, Chinese(Chemical weapons)weapons from USA, UK, embedded Indian forces etc., nothing much would have changed the balance of power LTTE was holding for the 26 years and keeping Lankan forces at bay.
    Even with enormous support of arms, training and expertise of many countries, the Lankan forces struggled to win on their own and kept on fighting and fighting loosing their men and killing quite a number of Tigers. There was no end in sight at all. Hence, It`s a joke now the òthers`are claiming victory, about their strategies and even inviting other rouge countries to `learn` their (dirty)lessons, before and after the war, from SL forces ! The whole world knows that, it was all a combined effort and actions of countries who were `convinced` that the Tigers were a threat and toady they are still trying to convince the International community that they are still a threat and regrouping. No one is ready to believe the SL story this time around. Those are the results of UNHRC and the combined nations reason for trying to take some action at last.
    There is no security for people of North, East, Tamils, Muslims and even Sinhalese. Then only everyone will help maintain National Security. The forces alone cannot do it without the help of the people living in the country, even if there is any threat paranoid of any sort.

  • 1

    Indeed that armed forces should be down sized and right sized! National Security IDOL is a good way to put it.
    A few academics have written about the Buddhist-Military-Business complex in Sri Lanka which is being modeled on the Pakistan Islamist-military- business complex, where the ISI funds the Taliban to get US funds to fight the Taliban – and swell the military control of the cournty!
    Similarly Gotabaya Rajapaka the Goon and de facto military dictator of Sri Lanka who thinks he is KING OF COLOMBO 7 in operating a DEEP STATE (State within a State), and running the BBS Balu Sena of Saffron monk-thugs to attack minorities and Divide, DISTRACT and RULE the SInhalaya Modayas. The second distraction strategy is the LTTE ghost/ Diaspora.

    • 0

      I agree if you will add that the comparative financing is done via millions from China, directly handled by Ministry of Highways under MR with a perpetual ROAD building, renovating etc mode. The trend is so
      obvious to all.

  • 0

    An interesting analysis of how public opinion forms,changes and consolidates, through steps of believing, hope, questioning and disgust. Some security aspects that are impinging on the rights of people to be free, express their thoughts and seek information are also in public focus now and in the process of consolidation.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 0

    Niranjan Rambukwella is very perceptive and original in defining the meaning of silence. Naturally it is relevant to all aspects of governance in Sri Lanka. Is it a threat or is it a defence. It is probably both or neither. My fear is that it is ignorance and self absorption that is driving this government and we citizens are no part of it’s thinking. Come to think of it that describes the thinking of the citizen as well.

  • 0

    talking of defense, forget the public discussion , how about Q & A session in the parliament ,as a customary practice almost every question had been ignored and conveniently swept under the carpet, or yes , that is under the guise of ” National security ” !

    speaking of military , has any body questioned why the great hurry in recruiting more and more in to military ? what is the sudden rush for voluntary Army recruitment ? who is living under constant fear ?

    how many STF/Army camps have been mushroomed all over the country ?

    why did the army take over the role of police’s riot control duties?

    what is the role play by ( Rtd) Gen. Nanda Mallawarachhi in the police force ?

    why do school principles being appointed as Army colonels ?

    why does uni student’s military taring is mandatory ?

    why do private business ventures operate by military (Air, Naval, Hotels etc )

    why and how the colossal amount of annual budgetary funds allocation for the military 5 years after of war ? every thing is top secret , why because every body is led to believe & ready to accept that revealing any of the information to general public may lead to destabilize the security situation of the country and as a consequence LTTE may Resurrect again ??????????????what a load of baloney !

    • 1

      SRILAL,I would like to answer your questions on behalf of DS.

      1. No country share their defence secrets to public. How many camps or how many soldiers in the Army or STF is a top secret. Only way you to obtain these figures is to make an appointment with DS and meet him. But you must give him explanation why you need these figures.

      2.Army only Deploy it’s soldier’s to control mobs,riots or violent protestors by the request of Police. When a Police station only manned by less than 100 officer’s, how can they controll thousands of people?

      3.Rtd. Army General Nanda Mallawarachchi is an excellent officer and served 36 years in the Army. He has Msc{Defence} and training in USA and India. And also war veteran. So President appoint him as a Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Order. So what’s wrong appoint him to the above post.

      4.School Principal’s after undergo about one month of training appoint them as Army [Civil]Colonl’s because there is an attempt to provoke school children and get them onto the streets to protest by bankrupt political parties in SL like they did in 73 and 88. So in schools there must keep strict discipline and students must guide to focus their attention only to their studies.

      5.The University students training is not a military training but a leadership training. This training give them lessons how to exercise,how to eat,[using cutlery],how to study,work and stay as a group,how to face difficult situations, how to controll stress etc…These students mostly coming from villagers and they don’t have any experience about above things. Some people question why Army is giving this training? Who else can do it? Who gave accomodation to about 500 students?

      6.Tri forces operate few tourist hotels and cateries in North and in Trinco[and few other locations in South]. There are no clean, well maintain hotels in Jaffna to eat for tourists and visitors going there. And on the other hand it is good idea to give our forces a chance to learn about hotel industry,catering etc..

      I hope you satisfy now. If not call Defence Secretary and request for an appointment to verify these matters. I hope he consider your request.

      • 0

        Noel-jones ,

        i must thank you for your professional approach and courtesy shown in answering my queries , i may not agree with you explanation and same time you may not agree with my questioning , either way i humbly request you to maintain the same standard which you have displayed so far in the future as well.

        1) i’ve not asked the strength (numbers)of our armed forces , even though you consider them to be a top secret , approximate figures of our 3 forces and police are publicly known facts , as to how many numbers of STF/ARMY camps mushrooming across the country at an alarming rate is a concern for general public , reasons may vary , it could be the security of our own loved ones and properties ( there are reports even current serving officers getting involved in day light bank robberies , contract killing, looting , sexual assaults etc) , environmental pollution( constant movement of motor vehicles ), will they accrue adjacent properties as it could be a genuine security threat , what impact would an army base will bring to a peaceful community etc etc ? after all haven’t we won the war by decimating LTTE from the face of the earth ?often Authorities going extra miles in describing how peaceful & calm SL now and thereby inviting foreign investors to come and invest in SL , yet the whole country seems to be under the 24×7 surveillance of military , pl tell us who you are after ? LTTE or southern terrorists or from both ? if authorities feel there is an imminent danger for the well being of the general public either from LTTE or an unknown entity , please educate the general public so the general public can help to avoid another blood bath ! as I asked earlier who lives under constant fear to have this much tight security measurements right across the country ?

        2)i’m afraid your explanation is not an accurate one , under the sri lankan constitution police force does not fall under the military force ,rather it used to be a civilian/community based organization, hence police was the first to call on any riot situation and its mandate was to CONTROL the situation , IF AND ONLY police were to find that they were in a uncontrollable (vulnerable ) situation , then they would seek army’s assistance , on contrast what is happening today , the president had hurriedly issued a decree to deploy army instead of police for riot controlling purposes ( after the weliweriya massacre)

        3)yes i agree Rtd. Army General Nanda Mallawarachchi is an excellent officer and a war veteran , in fact he was the acting army commander during Gen SF’s absence (medical treatments in S’pore). if you can recall , soon after the appointment of the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Order , his very first statement to the media was , ” TRAIN POLICE OFFICERS TO USE ONE BULLET TO KILL ONE PERSON” , now one can ask is this the very reason he was given the new position ,were police officers wasting bullets shooting at protestors ??? frankly ,these statements are mind boggling !isn’t protecting , safe guarding and keeping law & order of the community , the mission & vision of the police ? or is to train police officers to kill the so called protestors ?

        4) Again looking at every aspect of the life in military perspective is the root cause of the problem , generally speaking all school children fall under the ages of 5 to 19 , these are the most formative, delicate and challenging times for a any child has to go through and one third of the their life spending in the school, so its not an exaggeration to call the school to be his/her 2nd home and its teachers and principles to be their 2nd parents , if a school principle to govern a school as a military base , what would be the out come ?in difficult circumstances most children desperately seek a tender and a motherly/fatherly approach from their principles in resolving their embarrassing/compromising/life threatening issues , if the principle were to behave as an army officer , what would be the out come of the poor child ? haven’t we witnessed enough heart breaking stories in this regard ?

        5)yet again , why is it mandatory ? are the authorities so concern of well being of the students ? if so why don’t they utilize that colossal amount of money in more urgent matters ? or is it a convenient way to control the students ? if one looks at current uni students behaviors , its obvious the desired yields are not to be seen any where closer !!

        6)is it ethically & morally right to enter in to business ventures , after all business is a competition , how would other struggling business community compete with well equipped government sponsored business entities ?

        by the way Noel-Jones , as a citizen of srilanka i’ve asked general questions with regards to the general security situations in SL and there is no need for me to meet DS and discuss about it , if you care to read the above article carefully , author is suggesting to have a general consensus among the public in this regard !

  • 0

    How long to blame LTTE & Tamils. Pretty much China, India and Rajapakse Clan with their associates own Sri Lanka. Who is public???

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