Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Sri Lanka's National Security

Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Sri Lanka's National Security

Article excerpt

Sri Lanka is one of the most peaceful and stable countries in the world today. Its citizens enjoy the benefits of peace and have complete freedom and countless opportunities to build better futures for themselves. At the same time, Sri Lanka faces potential threats from various sources. Guarding against these threats and ensuring the safety of the nation is the first duty of the government, because national security is the foundation of freedom and prosperity. As such, the government needs to be fully aware of all the issues that impact the country in areas such as defense, foreign policy, economic affairs and internal law and order. It must formulate a comprehensive national security strategy to deal with them.

A viable national security strategy must constantly align ends with means, goals with resources, and objectives with the tools required to accomplish them. The strategy needs to be aligned with the aspirations of the people, and it must have public support. Ideally, if comprehensive security is to be ensured, it requires the achievement of national cohesion, political and economic stability, the elimination of terrorism, the countering of extremism, and the formulation of effective responses to external challenges. The government must make every effort to keep aware of a continually changing situation and take appropriate action in response to new developments and challenges. It is only then that the safety of the nation can be assured.

This article on Sri Lanka's national security concerns examines the following areas:

* Sri Lanka's overall national security context;

* The primary threats to Sri Lanka's national security at present; and,

* The strategies being formulated in response to these threats.

The Context of National Security in Sri Lanka

In the early years of independence, national security did not need to be a primary concern of the government of Ceylon. As an independent dominion of Great Britain, and as a non-aligned nation with excellent relationships within and outside the region, Ceylon faced few pressing threats. As a result, the attention given to national security was minimal, as was the emphasis placed on the country's defense apparatus. The military was largely ceremonial. It only had to assist the government on occasions when there were issues such as public sector work stoppages or riots. The need to strengthen law enforcement and the armed forces to protect the nation against internal or external threats was not seen as a pressing concern. The attempted coup d'état in 1962 further reduced the attention given to the defense apparatus by the government. Fearing that a strong military would be a threat to democracy, as had been the case in some neighboring countries during this period, funding for the armed forces was drastically reduced and recruitments curtailed.

Ceylon's weak military was not in a good position to deal with the first major threat to its national security, which came as the 1971 Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Insurrection (also known as the 1971 Revolt). Although investigations into JVP activities had been going on for some time, cutbacks to intelligence services, including the closure of the special branch of the police in 1970, had left the government largely unaware of the scale of the insurrection it was facing. The nation's military was not up to the task. In response to the government's appeals for help, India and Pakistan sent in troops to secure critical installations while essential equipment and ammunition was provided by Britain and the Soviet Union. Although the insurrection was successfully suppressed within a short time, it had many consequences. Perhaps the most crucial from a historical perspective was that national security became a much greater concern both for the government and for the general public. As Ceylon became Sri Lanka in 1972, upholding national security was one of its foremost priorities.

In the late 1970s, Sri Lanka saw the emergence of the greatest threat to its sovereignty in the form of the terrorism of the Tamil separatist groups in the North and East. …

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