Secretary Waidyaratne delivers keynote address at 'Colombo Air
Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Mr. Kapila
Waidyaratne PC made the keynote address at the inaugural session of the
3rd 'Colombo Air Symposium', held at the Eagles' Lakeside Banquet and
Convention Hall in Attidiya, today (12th Thursday, October). The State
Minister of Defence Hon. Ruwan Wijewardene was the Chief Guest of the
inaugural session held this morning.
Making the keynote address Secretary Waidyaratne said
that, asymmetric warfare and more generally the violent attacks in
recent times in whose backdrop that this forum is being held puts
greater emphasis on the theme of the air symposium. While expressing his
sympathy over the Las Vegas shooting he said that the nature in which
the attack was orchestrated has become a warning in how unconventional
actors could engage in such acts as to destabilise societies by being
viable asymmetric opponents to the established system and law and order.
He said that, national defence is inalienable and is a
matter to which nations are very attentive to. Though the Indian Ocean
has managed to minimize the threats we faced it is important to recall
that the multiplicity of threats that came our way also emanated over
these waters. The rise of Sri Lanka as a strategic partner for many
international actors is inevitable with the host of strategic assets
present in the island whose protection is needed now more so than ever.
It is due to such reasons that our armed forces, including the Air Force
continuously seek knowledge on new world threats and the preservation of
peace in the region through such forums.
The evolution of battlegrounds in the recent past has
transformed conflicts from land, sea and air to the cyber and space
spheres. The proliferation of cyber weapons and rapid growth of
autonomous weapon systems is another cause for concern and these
relatively new fields of warfare are yet to be defined under a legal
framework. Organs such as the UN along with its member states should
strive for the regulation of such advancements through international
law, he opined.
Further speaking he said that, nations are racing to
develop their cyber and space capabilities furthering their national
interests in an increasingly competitive global setting. In such a
context, Sri Lanka must find its footing whilst ensuring that its
interests and survival go hand in hand with the greater global peace.
He mentioned that, unconventional forces depend on
asymmetric approaches that target the military's weaknesses and undercut
their advantages. Traditional powers also seek asymmetric capabilities
through the use of non-state actors, thus adding complexities to
non-traditional warfare. As a victim of such strategies Sri Lanka is
aware of the dynamics of asymmetric warfare.
Drawing country's own experience the Secretary said
that, during the conflict in Sri Lanka, the LTTE was able to leverage
their vulnerabilities by using strategies pertaining to asymmetric
warfare. Such groups engage in violent, lethal activities with far less
risk of being overwhelmed by reprisals that a nation-state might face.
Asymmetric threats should be therefore, understood as a strategy, by
which the inferior actor exploit asymmetric strategy to gain
Law has become a flexible strategic partner for both
the military and for humanitarians seeking to restrain the violence. The
relationship between modern war and law is made complex by today's
asymmetric conflicts and by the loss of a shared vision about what the
law means and how it should be applied. This sadly leads to selective or
disproportionate application of law to some parties to a conflict. Thus
the unconventional adversaries tend to take best advantages of these
circumstances, he highlighted.
Drawing attention to social media he said, social
media provides a hospitable environment for the dissemination of
propaganda and disinformation and the manipulation of our perceptions
and beliefs. Due to the potential effects social media activities can
cause with little cost or effort, it has become an essential tool for
war fighting used by both states and non-state actors.
Advancements in communication have made methods used
to shape the opinions of populations becoming sophisticated. It is
noticeable in this regard that the LTTE's use of propaganda influenced
terror outfits such as Al Qaeda and ISIS to use mainstream media and
social media effectively for the dissemination of propaganda and
disinformation, he further added.
He also said, asymmetric tactics too are spreading
beyond traditional domains. Information technology increasingly
underpins both military and economic strength. Low-cost, asymmetric
threats have proven dangerous for military forces and security within a
state. Such asymmetric threats require us not to become complacent with
conventional military power.
It has not been a lack of understanding or of lessons
learned about the many varied elements of asymmetrical warfare that has
led to the lack of progress in effectively countering threats in recent
years. Rather it has been the lack of a new, comprehensive strategic
vision against what is essentially new and different type of armed
conflict. There is also the issue of lack of adaptivity of
organisational structures, the mind-set of policymakers and relevant
actors which has hampered the countering of such threats, he added.
He underscored the need to stay abreast of the latest
developments especially in the field of technology. Air assets remain a
prime choice when responding to security threats. Sri Lanka was once
lagging behind her regional peers in research and development and
innovativeness in both military and civilian technological developments.
This is soon expected to change with the initiation of forums as this to
gather required knowledge to make us a regional leader in air
capabilities and innovativeness.
He revealed that, the present threats and the
geostrategic importance of Sri Lanka has called for the establishment of
a Naval Air Force Wing to secure our waters with greater surveillance
and striking capabilities. It is with this vision that the Sri Lankan
armed forces have been supplied with a number of naval crafts with HLF
facilities. It is also under the same rationale that a Joint Naval
Command with the Air Force has been recommended along with a Joint
Communications Network that would seek to build air and maritime
He said that, Research and Development has become a
priority for the Sri Lankan Air Force and emphasised that partnerships
made in forums such as this with our international partners would be
Presently, air power is not confined to a restricted
military arm. This poses many advantages as well as many challenges.
Thus making the theme of this year's symposium "Air power in addressing
asymmetric threats" more relevant and apt to be deliberated so that we
can forge ahead together with a common understanding, he said.
He stated that stimulating economic growth is of key
essence and the future lies in a knowledge based economy. Air power -
both military and civil - can be a stimulus and a catalyst for our
growth. I see forums such as the 'Colombo Air Symposium' as vital
platforms where proactive approaches can be hatched, bringing us to a
stronger point as one unique region.
Before concluding his speech, the Secretary made it
point to remember the sacrifices made by the valiant Air Force Officers
who made the ultimate sacrifice for the motherland, and said "We live in
a peaceful country today and can be proud to claim being the only
nation, whose military took on a powerful, ruthless, unconventional foe
and defeated it, whilst showing maithree or compassion to the surviving
cadres who live amongst us today as rehabilitated, law abiding civilians
of one nation".
The 'Colombo Air Symposium' is attended by a number of
participants including 24 delegates from 17 countries. The two-day
conclave will see 12 local and foreign speakers sharing their knowledge
on thematic topics during six sessions.