Presidential elections in Sri Lanka may be due by the year-end but the main Opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa seems to have its main plank ready—failure of national security under the current regime—in the immediate aftermath of the recent Easter suicide bombings that killed over 250 people.
While a constitutional bar precludes Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has served as President for two terms, from running for the office, his younger brother Gotabaya—defence secretary during Eelam War IV between 2006 and 2009—has announced he would be in the fray.
Amidst an ongoing political tug-of-war between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, a report by a group of retired military commanders, former senior police and government officers commissioned by Rajapaksa senior to analyse the reasons for the terror strike has blamed the recent bombings on a “negative approach to national security” since 2015 (that’s when Sirisena and Wickremesinghe came to power).
“There is a need to create a national security culture, which prevailed leading up to 2015. The whole country should shift to National Security mode and it must be remembered that more than human rights, freedom of expression and individual freedom, the right to life is important. What this country achieved on 19th May 2009 was the right to life. Unfortunately, the Easter bombings proved that right to life is not guaranteed in the country. The focus on national security and the culture of security diminished from the country rapidly after 2015,” says the report that has been accessed by SNI.
Amidst media reports that India had warned Sri Lanka of impending attacks but the warning went unheeded, the Opposition report cites a complete breakdown of intelligence gathering in the tiny island nation, accusing the government of ‘dismantling’ the mechanism that was put in place by the erstwhile Rajapaksa regime.
“The intelligence services were fully integrated after 2006 and this worked well till 2015. The Directorate of Military Intelligence together with the navy and air force intelligence was highly developed, combining long years of experience and had the widest coverage in the country. The situation changed completely after 2015. Military was removed from carrying out intelligence work and police was entrusted the task completely. It seems that our intelligence agencies have become a mere ‘post box’ channeling information received to various stake holders without proper evaluation, analysis and dissemination methods,” the report says, suggesting that the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) be revamped and tasked with in-depth investigations of suspects arrested for the Easter bombings.
The report concludes by saying its recommendations have been “tested and proved to be effective during the protracted conflict we experienced until May 2009″ and should be implemented to restore public confidence in the system.