Corruption and National Security
military came under mention on two unrelated occasions last week. One,
in the incident involving an armed forces trooper of the former
President's special bodyguard who was detected on the periphery of the
personal security ring around President Maithripala Sirisena at a rural
public event in the deep South recently. An inquiry is currently under
way to learn why this military officer, armed with a pistol, had been
present at that location.
To the average reader, this mingling of bodyguards of the former and
incumbent heads of state may seem innocuous - until one ventures into
the murky world of clashing political factions and ruthless power play.
The higher the stakes - especially in terms of political and personal
survival - the greater the length to which cabals and cliques will go to
eliminate perceived threats to themselves.
'National security', then, is not only about the external threat to a
country and society but also the internal threat to the general social
weal and public interest by small, non-representative, groups within the
society that attack and undermine the public interest for their narrow,
selfish purposes. As this country has learned to its bloody cost, once
interest groups - big or small - resort to violent action to achieve
their ends, the degree of violence is not measured by need for damage
control but by the need to inflict maximum damage for maximum results.
Hence, the waves of killings and 'disappearances' and
counter-killings and 'disappearances' by numerous clashing interest
groups - both non-State and State-related. While large insurgent
movements resorted to bloody massacres, State forces countered with
equally desperate, if misguided, bloody offensives. And within the power
structures, rival groups have resorted to secret assassinations and
counter assassinations over recent decades, little of which has ever
been investigated and perpetrators prosecuted.
In a country that has experienced such un-controlled violence and
impunity, it is incumbent on the national security authorities to be
doubly vigilant to guard the officers of state who have been elected by
the citizenry to govern.
The current political context of a clean-up of government and public
administration being led by the new governing coalition predicates such
vigilance against any threat by elements affected by this clean-up.
Those miscreants now under threat are not only from the political
class but, also, elements of the business class and bureaucracy who
exploited the politicians' corrupt practices and benefited from them.
While some miscreants flee the country, others lacking such options
or, determined to defeat the initiatives for justice, may seek more
dangerous options. While the top politicos may not stoop to such
barbarity, there are always lesser mortals, henchmen and camp-followers,
who may not be as restrained. Desperate elements will then search for
loopholes in institutions and unguarded moments in security to wreak
havoc to stymie justice and escape retribution.
Just as much as the country's military and police remained steadfast
in support of the national democratic institutions at the conclusion of
the last presidential elections, it is incumbent on them to sustain this
vigilance and extend maximum security to the machinery of government and
There must be perfect clarity as to where their loyalties must lie;
how their professional mandate directs them to fulfil their national
duty to the nation, over and above the personal interests of any
individual, however exalted that individual may be.
Ultimately, the armed forces and police in a country are committed to
guarding the sovereignty of the people and must, therefore, resist all
encroachments of that sovereignty from within and without.
Building genuine peace
The military came under
mention a second time when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed
former and current senior military personnel on the future orientation
of the country's armed forces and urged them to be open to broad
international co-operation so that global and national security are
complementary and not contradictory.
On the one hand, the Prime Minister argued that the armed forces must
be appreciated and nurtured in their role as protectors of the security
and integrity of the country.
At the same time, the Premier held out the prospects of an
international role for the Sri Lankan military in serving in
humanitarian relief operations and also in multi-lateral initiatives for
regional security such as the on-going battle against piracy and
terrorism in different parts of the Indian Ocean.
For too long has the Sri Lankan military been the tool of political
potentates either to enforce their corrupt rule or as a brute force
substitute for the political resolution of major social problems like
the ethnic conflict and rural poverty and marginalisation.
For the first time, the country has in power both major political
parties, the UNP and the SLFP, which, in the past have similarly misused
the security forces in this manner. That both parties now share in
government is perhaps the harbinger for a more rational deployment of
military resources for social peace and stability rather than political
or ethnic aggrandisement.
At the same time, the bold steps being taken to de-militarise
governance and administration in the northern and eastern regions -
without compromising on military presence and security - are also laying
the foundation for building social trust among communities. These are
all essential ingredients for building a genuine peace in the country
that guarantees long term stability which, in turn, is the basis for