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General. (Rtd) S.H.S Kottegoda WWV RWP RSP VSV USP ndc hands over his duties today (19/11/2019) on a very high note at the Ministry of Defence

November 19, 2019

Following is a farewell statement from the former Secretary Defence – (29th April – 19th November 2019)

In the weeks after the April 21st Easter Sunday attacks and in the aftermath of communal disputes working to restore normalcy was the immediate and foremost responsibility of a nation. Having been appointed as the Secretary Defence under these trying circumstances, I carried out my duties to fulfill the aspirations of the government and the people of this country to the best of my ability.

During my period as the Secretary Defence, and in the aftermath of the attacks under my guidance new military and intelligence deployments were made in the eastern Province. Thereafter, Tri Forces, Police, Civil Security Department and Intelligence were able to conduct the Vesak festival throughout the country, the annual Kandy Esela perahara where over 100,000 Buddhist devotees conglomerated, the Bora conference with approximately 21000 pilgrims from 40 countries, the Kataragama Perehara and many other such large events without any incident. The period that ensued after the April 21st attacks up to date has been peaceful.  

Combating ideological terrorism requires a balance between militaristic safeguards, and staggered ideological counter-initiatives. As a first step towards this, engagement with the relevant civil society organisations were initiated during my tenure. Initiatives were taken to send senior Officers to study  counter terrorism and preventing violent extremism  programs in other countries. A team of Officers from the Sri Lanka Army carried out a study and made recommendations to set up a Presidential Task Force to counter religious radicalization and violent extremism in all forms.
 
During my short period, in addition to the above I also spearheaded initiatives to carry out the formulation of a National Defence Policy as early as June 2019. The Position of Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) was established in 2007 with the aim of providing intelligence assistance to the MoD. As this Office is an integral part of the national security apparatus, the OCNI was re-structured to suit the present national security requirements and to be able to efficiently execute national intelligence matters. Further, as prevalent in other countries in the region and the world it was proposed to enact a National Intelligence Act to assign legal responsibility and to introduce a legal methodology to empower intelligence agencies to enforce and operate in the best interest of national security.

A Presidential task Force was established with the specific aim to create a secure environment by eliminating radicalization and violent extremism and to achieve social harmony and reconciliation through co-existence and mutual understanding among communities. A National Action Plan to prevent all forms of Religious Radicalization and Violent Extremism was also established.

A comprehensive and systematic security survey of the Bandaranaike International Airport Katunayake, Rajapaksha International Air Port Mattala, and the  Rathmalana, Palaly and Batticaloa Air Ports are in the process of being carried out. Out of these, the Bandaranaike International Airport Katunayake, Rajapaksha International Air Port Mattala have been completed.  The National Border Management Committee (NBMC) was established pursuant to Cabinet Approval on 22 November 2016. Successively an Integrated Border Management process with, a Border Risk Assessment Centre (BRAC) is also to soon be established. This Fusion centre once established will have many salient features that will enhance national border management and security capabilities. Also steps are been taken to enhance Defence Cyber Security Operations Centre (DCSOC) with a view to support the wider public sector.

The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Central Bank, the MoD and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) devised a plan to promote inter-agency coordination by setting up a Targeted Financial Sanctions Committee (TFS Committee) on 24 April 2019 to adopt best practices in countering terrorism financing. It is also to be noted that as a result of this cooperation  Sri Lanka has been taken off from the ‘Grey List’ of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), on 18 October 2019 and is considered as a significant achievement.

Action has been taken to amend the Fire Arms Ordinance and to draft amendments to the existing explosives Act. Further, action was initiated to amend the Firing range Act and Military Training Act. Action was taken to gazette all shooting rangers in the country.

The MOD website www.defence.lk was re-launched in late August. It is expected that this newly designed website would create a much more user-friendly browsing experience. It is designed in such a way as to make it easy to navigate and also contains several new features such as news verifications as a measure to combat fake news. An MOD ALERTS SMS system was developed to disseminate important news related to National Security and Disaster situations with the concurrence of all service providers to facilitate the MOD request.

Looking back at the measures taken to enhance national security, I would not have been able to achieve all of the above without the support of the Staff of the MoD, Chief of Defense Staff,  Tri Service Commanders, IGP, Commandant STF, Civil Security Department and all Intelligence agencies. We all worked as a team I appreciate the support and cooperation extended by everyone to ensure the safety and security of all citizens of Sri Lanka during a very brief but successful term as the Secretary Defence.

He also wished his successor New Secretary Defence Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Kamal Gunaratne WWV RWP RSP USP ndc psc for a successful tenure in his new office.