ARMED FORCES DEFEND PEOPLE’S SOVEREIGNTY | Daily News


 

ARMED FORCES DEFEND PEOPLE’S SOVEREIGNTY

The people regularly elect their representatives especially at the national level to work for the common good, progress and the well-being of all the people of Sri Lanka. It is of course the duty of every one of the electors to be conscious of the civic responsibility of electing men and women of the highest integrity who would be concerned about the overall security, welfare, prosperity and happiness of the diverse communities of people who make up the society, the national family of Sri Lanka today.

No person living in Sri Lanka as a citizen today, – from the highest in authority to the humblest person in a rural village or on a plantation – even at the time of Independence or before or after that, ever chose to be born as a citizen of Sri Lanka. Circumstances that we may not probe and fathom have placed us here as citizens of this blessed land.

Our human nature demands that we live just, upright fraternal lives enhancing the lives of others like us. Peculiar confluences have placed people unknown and perhaps unfamiliar to us, as our neighbours. In our humanity we share a common human nature which induces us to move from a lesser understanding to a better understanding of who we are. This enables us to relate to others from being apathetic neighbours to good neighbours. We are not born nor do we live as anti-Sinhala, anti-Tamil, anti-Muslim, anti-Bugher, anti-Malay or anti-Budhist, anti-Hindu, anti-Muslim, anti-Christian or anti-anything; we live pro humanity. Many of us and many of our leaders have not been able to understand and grasp that simple radiant truth that is transparent to normal people of common sense and goodwill.

Every human being born, having a human nature, is a unique individual of the human race. This uniqueness seems to be confirmed by our finger prints. Each human being is born to a father and mother and blessed with brothers, sisters and cousins. We grow with a sense of belonging to a family, to an extended family and a neighbourhood community. And we are born to a cultural tradition, an ethnic and religious or non-religious tradition in which we relate to and open ourselves to other human beings or close ourselves in an enclosure or a pattern of thinking of our own making. Some also search for and are attracted by truth and justice. The human dignity and rights of all human beings of the human race are equal. No one disputes this today though some are insensitive to it.

In Sri Lanka, the majority of the people are Buddhists. All citizens of Sri Lanka who are not Buddhists, relate fraternally to Buddhists, respect the Buddha as a very noble person and accept whatever is true in Buddhism that enhances human life. Buddhism should never be turned into a sectarian ideology or influenced and dominated by prejudices. Prejudice makes some people who call themselves ‘Sinhala Buddhists’ erroneously think they are more Sri Lankan than everyone else and assert that they have an exclusive claim to Sri Lanka, contrary to the rationality and the tolerant sane spirit of the large majority of the Sinhala people or the noble dharma of the Buddha. Some citizens, ex-members of the Armed Forces, some doctors and even some members of the clergy, who have narrow political inclinations, are also stricken with the biased malady that discriminates.

We seem reluctant to accept evident simple truths. Is it because some feel insecure with the unknown crowd and bar themselves from others, feeling secure and safer only with the familiar community? It is because our knowledge about what is human is often unreliable, erroneous and incomplete. Thus many erroneously think that to commit adultery, incest, murder is ‘human’ in certain circumstances. And we enclose ourselves in our biases. Biases are prejudices. ‘Pre-judicium’ means a ‘judgement’ before a considered rational judgement. We selfishly refuse to move from an imperfect self-understanding to a better self- understanding.

Afflicted as they are as citizens, some members of the Armed Forces or some medical practitioners or some of the clergy are prejudiced, they would act according to a pattern of their upbringing they have inherited. This means they remain prejudiced against some people of Sri Lanka while they are supposed to be exercising civic responsibility, defending their sovereignty, while engaged in healing or preaching religious liberation! Some of the politicians and people of Sri Lanka, and sadly some members of the sangha or religious denomination today are suffering from this irreligious racist affliction. What Buddha dharma or religious teaching will these members of the Sangha or religious leadership preach to people who are not of their race or religious denomination? A religious call to emancipation preached by the Buddha or a religious leader is not a call to an internment in a racial-religious ghetto. Religion must also heal mankind’s maladies, bring healing, health and peace to humanity.

NOT TOTALLY FREE OF CONFLICT

In any case, the global human community, though it has reached a level of civilization and strives to live up to a charter of a United Nations Organization that the Nations together have drawn up, has still not totally eliminated inter nation armed conflict on earth or civil war within national boundaries. Sri Lanka ended in 2009 a long winded war the seeds of which were sown by power-greedy politicians and some members of the sangha who pandered to racial and religious prejudices of a vociferous irrational minority. (Their prejudiced misguided progeny still live in our midst.) During the civil war, except for a small minority, the Armed Forces that defeated the insurrectionists and re-established civilian rule acted professionally. They treated all citizens equally.

After January 8, 2015 Presidential Election results were announced there was a moment of uncertainty, dispelled, as is now believed, by the firm stand of the Armed Forces supportive of the decision of the majority of the people, thus upholding democracy.

Sri Lanka has been spending huge sums of money on defence. From 2010 to 2019, the expenditure on defence has been Rs.27, 271 billion of which Rs.17,122 billion has been spent from 2015 to 2019 even though there has been no civil disturbance until the suicide bombing of Easter Sunday. The recent threat of terror from elements of radical Islam has forced the Armed Forces to be prepared and maintain a high alert defence posture. The Minister of Defence, the Secretary to the Ministry and the Intelligence Services are key authorities and professional functionaries committed to defend the people.

It was surprising that on April 21st either essential communication in the top rungs of defence had broken down in an unbelievable manner or the seriousness of the intelligence that flowed in from early April was not comprehended by those who should have had the knowledge of and been concerned about the country’s security. That the intelligence that flowed in good measure and with ample time was not made use of, implies the culpable ignorance and incompetence and the unbelievably unprofessional approach of those at the highest levels of national security; which means that those who had been elected by the people as well as those appointed by political authority and who were reimbursed handsomely to look after the safety of the life and limb of the people, have badly let down the people and acted ignominiously. Those who appointed them did not either know how disqualified they were to hold the positions they were appointed to, or, as is now apparent, ignored the intelligence that was passed on to them. Anyhow, the politicians at the summit of power are not a class that admit that they commit great blunders that cost the nation dearly.

CULPABLY IGNORANT AUTHORITIES

The culpably ignorant political authority stood in the way of the safety of the people. The neglect of duty by the political authority cost the loss of over 250 lives and injury to over 500 citizens. The trauma caused to the children who lost their parents, and children all over the country who came to face disturbance, suffering, unexpected psychological strain and interruption to their schooling cannot be calculated. The economic costs exceed hundreds of billions of rupees. The social phenomenon we see today is not a political leadership confidently handling an unforeseen critical situation, but an irresponsible political authority confessing ignorance and passing the buck to subordinates who would not ingratiate themselves to a hollow character that has been hoisted to the top.

An Islamic radical group’s bomb blasts on Easter Sunday, confronted the Armed Forces with a peculiarly vacuous political situation. Yet the moment it came to be commissioned, the army quickly strategized and coordinated operations to arrest the residue perpetrators of terrorism and successfully execute mop ups within a matter of days to consolidate the security of the people and become a live warning to any future suicide bombers.

In the uncanny and vacuous political scenario, the Defence Forces were presented with a situation to step in and take command of a country when the overall authority of the country had gone numb. Yet, the Armed Forces respectful of the sovereignty of the people, and acting in a disciplined and professional manner with admirable patience waited for the appointed authority to gather itself up and recover its sanity, as there is no constitutional accommodation for the Defence Forces to take charge of the governance of the country.

ARMED FORCES DEFEND THE PEOPLE

Today, the Armed Forces, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, number over 346,000 men and women. Those recruited to the defence forces to be trained, enlisted and commissioned should have certain required qualifications. In their training they are not only made physically fit and capable of facing challenging situations of armed conflict, they are trained to think of hitherto unforeseen scenarios of mortal conflict, coordinate with and carry out orders from their immediate commanders to achieve the overall task of outmaneuvering the enemy and defeating him. It is not an easy task to coordinate the operations of combined Armed Forces. Yet defence studies in military academies and training of soldiers in camps are at a high level today that Armed Forces are also instructed about the dignity and human rights of all human beings and the right, especially of non combatants, to be respected by the defence forces. Defence capacities of our forces are at a high level that members of Armed Forces of friendly countries together come to Sri Lanka to learn and exchange views on war tactics with one another.

The Army Act 17 of 1949 Sections 107-110 specify the misdemeanours that cannot be tolerated in the soldiers and officers of the Army and the punishments that go with them. Defence forces are expected to keep high the honour of the Sri Lankan people.

The Armed Forces have been established according to the Constitution and are under the Commander-in- Chief. Yet even the Commander-in-Chief cannot command anything contrary to the Constitution. The Defence Force Commanders are not bound to carry out orders contrary to the defence of all the people and the Law of the Land.

Therefore, the defence forces need to have very intelligent, skilled, trained and courageous patriotic personnel. The highest authorities at the summit of the Defence Complex should be persons of the highest integrity who could summarily eliminate every possibility of corruption in the defence establishment and still keep it at the highest levels of readiness and efficiency. Political authority has been horribly corrupt; they have abominably failed in the past and deserved the highest punishment for breach of public trust and dereliction of duty.

Though they have escaped, they have also left a tempting opportunity for the Defence Establishment to arrest the politicians and take over the governance of the country. That such a moment would never arise, a new generation of political authority should rise above short-term political manoeuvres and electoral tactics and demonstrate uncontaminated dedication to duty and loyalty to the Motherland. It is up to the people to elect especially to the highest positions of political power the noblest men and women of the highest human qualities who could be entrusted with the destinies of the people.

Those at the summit of power should be worthy of the services of defence professionals of the Combined Armed Forces and the Police who together defend the sovereignty of the people as the present holders of power have proved themselves to be very disappointing. 


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