Sri Lanka has a major role to play in the Indian Ocean as never before - Defence Secretary

November 24, 2020


  • MT New Diamond episode was an eye opener
  • National research institutions to facilitate decision makers
  • Environmental security has been neglected over the economical desires

The Indian Ocean that harnesses vital ‘Sea Lines of Communication’ linking the ‘East’ and the ‘West’ is considered to be the gateway for the seven seas, said Defence Secretary Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne emphasising that Sri Lanka, being part of this strategic ocean mass, obviously has a major role to play in the Indian Ocean as never before.

Quoting a famous saying of US Naval Officer and Historian, Alfred Thayer Mahan highlighting the importance of the Indian Ocean security, the Defence Secretary stressed “in order to redefine the threats against maritime security of Sri Lanka, its strategic importance is to be contrasted with emerging threats and challenges in the Indian Ocean”.

Recalling the recent incident with regard to ill-fated vessel ‘MT New Diamond’, Maj. Gen. Gunaratne said that the incident was seen as a great eye opener for us to redefine our responsibility over ensuring the security in our ocean space.

The Defence Secretary expressed these remarks while delivering the keynote address as the Chief Guest of the ‘Colombo Conclave 2020’, the inaugural national conference, held at the Foreign Ministry today (Nov 24).

The inaugural national conference ‘Colombo Conclave 2020’ was organized by the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL), the premier think-tank on National Security under the aegis of the Defence Ministry.

This year’s conference was held virtually under the theme of “Comprehensive Security Paradigm for Sri Lanka” bringing twelve local scholars together to discuss thematic issues which play a dominant role in maintaining the national security.

Three sub themes of the sessions include ‘Redefining Threats to National Security’, ‘Recognising Sustainability for Healthy Medical Disclosure’ and ‘Eco-Responsibility towards a Greener Tomorrow’ of today’s virtual conference.

This mammoth effort has been planned to setup an avenue for researchers, academia, former officials, and country’s senior professionals to engage in policy relevant problem solving dialogues, carrying significance with respect to national security aspects.

Commenting on the conference theme, the Defence Secretary said “It is a topical theme capable of augmenting the significance and emphasis of the sessions which are systematically focused on three sub themes”.  

The Defence Secretary said “It is certain that, this conclave would pave an insight to the governments determined battle to conquer the religious extremism, radicalisation, de-radicalisation and proliferation of narcotics along with an identification of probable ways and means in countering the same”.

Further, matters that emanate through fisheries, marine pollution, Search and Rescue (SAR), responding to oil and chemical spills, poaching, Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and protection of marine species etc., have become significant issues that we have to keep our eyes and ears open, he added.  

Specifying that Coronavirus has reminded us, how bitter it would be the repercussions of negligence in health security, he said “the global pandemic of COVID-19 in the perspective of health security has unleashed its rage in a global magnitude threatening the stability of the strongest nations worldwide”.

It clearly depicts the lapses of national level readiness to confront unpredictable health outbreaks and the risks of solely depending on the solutions from global organisations, he also noted.

Indicating the successful suppression of the pandemic virus surge from its initial stages, he said the country has demonstrated the exemplary ability of reacting towards unpredicted threats, utilising the professionals in the most effective method while proving the President’s promise to endorse meritocracy.

However, the extreme end of the pandemic will not only affect to the lives of the citizens but also damage the country multi-dimensionally, urging for a strong collaboration among professionals in every field.

Maj. Gen. Gunaratne stressed, “Then comes the pivotal role intended to be played by national research institutions such as ‘INSSSL’ to facilitate decision makers with precise solutions based on analytical and accurate assumptions”

As the premier National Security Think Tank of Sri Lanka, the comprehensive and thought-provoking security studies conducted by the INSSSL have been the cornerstones for identifying the modern security developments of concern and providing the vital information required for the National Security policy formulation, he added.  

Indicating the national security as the foremost demand to ensure the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of a country, the  Defence Secretary said, “This encompasses its citizens, economy and all its institutions and regarded as the prime duty of a government”.

“Therefore, the Governments rely on a range of measures including political, economic and military power as well as diplomacy to safeguard the security of a nation-state”, he pointed out.  

Mentioning that Sri Lanka as a nation has given a novel significance to national security by designating it as the top priority, amongst its key policies, in line with the President’s vision, ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’, Maj. Gen. Gunaratne said “the focus of ‘Colombo Conclave’ in this context to address the said key thematic areas of National Security including health, food, environmental and maritime security sets out an ideal opportunity to probe further into the core of the issue with special reference to non-traditional threats which is a major concern in the current context”.

Paying attention into current environmental dimensions of global security which considered within the frameworks global warming and possible nuclear fallout and their consequences, he said “Most recently, environmental security has focused on increasingly severe climate change, the limited effectiveness of emission mitigation measures and the necessity to work on adapting to environmental change”.

Further, citing combination between the environmental conditions and national security which was ambiguous due to the absence of a standardised mechanism to analyse and research, he said “The environmental security has been neglected over the economical desires for centuries and the bitterness of repercussions will be upon our future generations”.

Foreign Ministry Secretary and Director General INSSSL, Admiral (Retd) Prof. Jayanath Colombage, delivered the welcome address at the outset of the programme.

Admiral Prof. Colombage also presented a memento to the Defence Secretary to mark the occasion.   

Secretary of Ministry of Environment Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Health Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe, Acting Chief of Defence Staff, Tri-Forces Commanders, Inspector General of Police, Vice Chancellor of Kotelawala Defence University, Director General Civil Security Department, Chief of National Intelligence, Commandant of Defence Services Command and Staff College, Director State Intelligence Service, Director General Sri Lanka Coast Guard, Commandant Special Task Force Headquarters, professionals, Ministry Officials and Senior Military Officials joined the virtual conference.



INSSSL Press Release