May 08, 2017

Sri Lanka: Defence Think Tank in Colombo — Who’s whom?

There was an exaggerating tamasha when a group of “interested parties” launched the first ever “defence think tank” in Colombo called “Institute of [sic] National Security Studies (INSSSL)”. A group headed by a young man who seemed to come from nowhere but posing himself as the best defence analyst in the island nation. This may be the only country where a boy can emerge as the defence analyst who is “capable of advising” forces and policy makers without any military background. This may be the only nation where those “academic thieves” can easily steal the very assets of fallen heroes. Whatever is happening in this think tank, the prime responsibility lies in the lap of Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi.

However, this tiny group or the first “defence think tank” in Sri Lanka is claiming that the authoritative voice for thinking and advising the defence and related issues in the country is owned by them. They have collected “advisors” and have added a couple of members to justify their “excellence”. The public is paying to maintain this but so far nothing not even interim budgetary allocation or basic financial details appears on their official website. This is nothing but a mockery when it comes to other genuine think tanks around the globe.

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Eng. Karunasena Hettiarachchi assumed duties as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence on 09th September 2015

However, a shameful factor of this think tank is that some of the basic information such as vision statement seem to have been paraphrased, to avoid plagiarism charges. Perhaps they may be held absolutely “innocent” before the law but can they stand before the general public in the country that has gone through one of most serious  violent experiences in the history of mankind.

Take a careful look at the pages of the official websites of this INSSSL. Under these pages, they have attempted to tell the story of this tank by including ‘objectives’. Most of the objectives seem to have been copied from world renowned think tanks such as RAND international, INSS of Israel.

According to the RAND’s vision, “The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis”; INSS – SL reads their vision as, “To improve policy and decision making through high-quality research and analysis with excellence”. This is one of dozens of examples of tricky paraphrasing. Little wonder if one looks at the name of this Think Tank itself also a copied from the well-known Israeli’s defence think tank, INSS (Institute for National Security Studies) in Tel Aviv.

But there are a few questions that need to be asked.

Whose money is being spent for this farce attempt to demoralise the true commitment by real men and women on the ground?

What is the military or diplomatic background of those who are representing this think tank at the Public level?

Have they been joined or installed in the governmental body just because of “nepotistic” influence?

What would be the consequences if such think tank were directed by a man with no demonstrated hands-on experience in defence establishment but is posing himself as the ultra-qualified man with excellence in advising three forces in the country?

What will happen if forces start to act as the advice of such leadership?

Do we need any further elaboration when such think tank is led by the most corrupted men who earned nothing reputable in the profession but everything for their own benefits during the service?

What are they really thinking in this tank?

Oh, boy!…Sri Lanka, our motherland, many may think is a pool of fools where any cunning fox can grab, power, collect, store and sell any information to anyone anytime. Unfortunately, the state policies are fragile and have been built on the stand where those sneakers have bizarre advantages. Nonetheless, most of the time it is too late to understand the importance of national assets, including that intangible asset – National Intelligence.

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The official website of INSSSL has used an irrelevant and stolen image to demonstrate the “vision”?

The formula is very simple here. When “Good Governance” prevails you have to change your mask and use language to manipulate policy makers. Then perhaps you could step in little further and offer them or their genealogical representatives a degree with a full scholarship. Second, when the populist government prevails or is taking steps towards governing a nation, then grab a key persona and offer him or her a free course to study defence matters. The best way to understand one’s weaknesses is offering them a free opportunity and being the “guardian”.

It was just a couple of weeks ago when the director of this think tank flew to India and delivered a speech on “Indo-Lanka Relations” where he used vague language to antagonize China’s diplomacy in the region. If one of those advisers were banned from visiting India, using such a tool to mobilise the Indian defence sector is nothing but a preposterous attempt. One in the audience was given satirical pokes by a colleague when the speaker was on high tone said, we must ask to train him thoroughly as he seems to be interested in becoming a mole of R&AW!

However, if the Government truly cared about establishing a Think Tank to study the country, then they must be aware of the other international think tanks around the globe from The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, Chatham House to Rand International and Party School of the Central Committee of CPC in Beijing! [In case one needed a list of Think Tanks around the global the University of Pennsylvania compiles the annual assessment each year and one can download a copy of the report free of cost.] Then they must study the structure of those Think Tanks and the background of their representations before allowing a handful of personalities to paraphrase a couple of documents in the public domain and publish them as government policies. Disgraceful!

Despite any political criticism this is where one must appreciate and admire the skillful defence persona such as Retired Maj. Gen. Kapila Hendawitharana who was successful in his profession. He caught the culprits sooner or later and never hesitated to boot them out.


Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka ( Courtesy: Facebook)

One cannot deny that establishing a think tank is a valuable idea. But the most important requirement is the benefits the country, her people – including those who truly committed themselves to Defence and sacrificed lives throughout hard times. Now they are being overridden through the Public purse. Time to help them by demanding accountability before the nation’s reputation is the muddied.

One has nothing better to say about such jocular and macular actions under the umbrella of “Good Governance” than to recall a song by Johnny Cash;

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down …!!

Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler,
The gambler,
The back biter
Tell ’em that God’s gonna cut you down …!!