Ethnic Harmony for National Security
“Though terrorism was defeated two years ago, our country continues to face numerous security challenges,” said President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the convocation of the Kotalawala Defence University (KDU) at Temple Trees recently.
Under the leadership of President Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka ended two and half decade old conflict which threatened the national security. But some elements that threaten sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka are still working in many different forms. These elements can destroy the hope for permanent peace and push the country back to another conflict. Internal cohesion is required to insulate the country from disruptive forces that attempt to undermine the military victory. So Building ethnic harmony is the main security challenge in post-conflict Sri Lanka.
Traditionally, we expected threats to national security from external sources. The perception of external threat emanate from our historical experience. For example, we experienced South Indian inventions from 10th to 15th century and European colonization form 15th to 20th century. So we tend to believe that the threat to sovereignty and territorial integrity come from other countries. And we prepared ourselves for external threats.
Internal Threats to National Security
But today the threat to national security comes from internal sources. For example, Sri Lanka experienced three uprising that threatened stability of the country since independence. First uprising led by Janatha Vimukthi Peramua (JVP) came in 1971, and they launched the second insurrection from 1987 to 1989, both under the leadership of Rohana Wijeweera. Then, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) under the leadership of Prabhakaran launched the third uprising in 1983, which lasted for two and half decade. Sri Lankan military crushed them by eliminating their leaders. While JVP demanded new political system based on communism, LTTE demanded a separate state in north and east for Tamil people.
Whenever there are internal conflicts, the external forces attempt to interfere in internal affairs. At the early stages of the LTTE struggle, South India provided material and moral support, which led to the arrival of Indian Peace Keeping Forces in 1987. International community accused Sri Lanka of human right violation and imposed restriction during the period of JVP and LTTE struggle. Internal conflict encourages external power involvement in the internal affairs endangering national security.
So the preserving internal cohesion is the key to national security in modern world. In order to promote internal unity, Sri Lanka must create an environment where every citizen gets equal opportunities irrespective of ethnic, social, or religious back ground. In other word, Sri Lanka must eliminate all form of discrimination in the society. Trust among Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims is needed to enhance unity and promote Sri Lankan based identity as opposed to ethnic or religious based identity.
We also should eliminate some misconceptions that divide our nation alone the ethnic line. For example, the idea that Sri Lanka belongs to Sinhala-Buddhist creates suspicion among Tamils and Muslims people. Similarly, the idea that Jaffna land cannot be sold to outsiders or North East is the homeland of Tamil people is not acceptable to Sinhalese and Muslims. Such misconceptions keep the society divided. We should accept the fact that Sri Lanka is multicultural and multiethnic society.
We should promote unity among all national to improve social cohesion. President Rajapaksa laid the foundation for it when he expressed that there is no majority or minority. But it should not be confined to words, and it should be put into action. Everyone should feel that they are treated equally. It is also necessary to neutralize extremism that harms unity and to encourage moderate voices that promote harmony.
Role of the Military
So armed forces have a major role to play in post conflict Sri Lanka. They should understand the new sources of threat to national security. People who spread words of extremism and hatred can cause much greater damage to national security than the people who carry arms. Military should understand their new responsibility in post conflict Sri Lanka.
They should improve their image as a national military. Today some people view Sri Lankan armed forces as a Sinhalese Army, which is a hindrance to promote national harmony. Tamils and Muslims must be encouraged to join armed forces in order to increase representation and wider acceptance. They also can encourage it member to be multilingual so that they can build a rapport with all community. Military must be seen as a force of protection and not as a force of oppression.
Sri Lanka should improve internal cohesion to convert military victory to a permanent peace.
Tags: Sri Lanka , Security
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