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Monday, January 31, 2011 - 8.33 GMT
Strategic plan vital for economic victory – Defence Secretary

 

Having a clear vision about the task and the ability to remain firm without any ambiguity will make the path for development smooth. By the same token we can create a better country if we work according to a strategic plan as we did during the war, stated Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in an interview with The Manila Times published yesterday (30).

These days with peace firmly in place and development the mounting creed, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa believes that “the commitment and discipline of each individual, is crucial in achieving success in the development process,” The Manila Times said.

“Now that every part of the county is accessible to all Sri Lankans we should all be on our guard to ensure internal security will never again be compromised or undermined”, Defence Secretary added.

“We have created an environment for everybody to live in peace as Sri Lankans, as one nation. The ground reality is we must give people the opportunity to live peacefully, with jobs and education. That is what they want, and that is what the government will ensure they get in Sri Lanka”, he added.

Following is the full text of the report:

Outlining the dividends of peace in Sri Lanka

HE is credited as having played a decisive role in giving Sri Lankans (Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims alike)—who during the dark and dismal days of the three-decade old separatist conflict were reduced to leaving their homes each day unsure if they would ever return home from work, school or even routine journeys without encountering bloodshed—their lives back.

But by cruel irony it’s not a luxury Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa can claim to enjoy. Two years after the end of the war—that brought into play in the Tamil Tigers one of the world’s deadliest terrorist outfits—he still has to live in an intrusive security cocoon.

Sitting in his well-appointed (and well-defended) office at the Ministry of Defence complex that is an oasis of calm and green he accepts this twist of fate with a weary shrug of his shoulders. “Of course, I wish it was different. But that is something I have to accept since being complacent can be a dangerous thing.

In fact, that’s the message I am trying to spread nationwide because now that every part of the county is accessible to all Sri Lankans we should all be on our guard to ensure internal security will never again be compromised or undermined”.

He goes on, the pride and awe in his tone palpable: “You know, at the beginning of this war in the early 1980s I was a junior army officer in Jaffna leading a small platoon of soldiers, all of whom had never, or for that matter even wanted to, fire a gun in anger. And there I was almost 30 years later having the honor and privilege to play a leading hand in putting in place not only a well-equipped 200,000 strong military force, but also instilling in them the mind-set to be a mean but disciplined fighting force primed to bring the hostilities to an end”.

There were, of course, other factors that also came neatly into play. Not least of these being that the Defence Secretary’s boss, Commander-in-Chief President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was his older brother, thus giving him unprecedented and unfettered access to the supreme seat of political and military power.

And as Defence Secretary Rajapaksa is quick to note, four Presidents of eight previous governments failed to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) because of domestic political posturing (which too often left successive defence secretaries operating with hands tied behind their back) and international pressure brought about at the cynical behest of Tamil Tiger surrogates abroad. This caused the military operations to be stopped half way through, resulting in the LTTE believing that they were invincible.

The Defence Secretary points out that President Rajapaksa tried hard to bring the LTTE to a democratic path several times but finally gave up when the Tamil Tigers’ only response was to target him for assassination. “That’s when the President decided that the LTTE should be defeated militarily and gave me my mission orders”, he says.

But that was then and this is now. These days with peace firmly in place and development the mounting creed, he believes that “the commitment and discipline of each individual is crucial in achieving success in the development process”. He adds: “Having a clear vision about the task and the ability to remain firm without any ambiguity will make the path for development smooth. By the same token we can create a better country if we work according to a strategic plan as we did during the war.”

On the question of discipline, Defense Secretary Rajapaksa—acting on his wide brief which also includes peace and order—has spearheaded a move to install Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras all over the capital Colombo in order to curb crime, and over a hundred have been installed in strategic locations already.

This early he has done his bit on the development front too. Five months ago when a top management team from the international luxury hotel chain Shangi-La came to Sri Lanka to check out the possibilities of investing there, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa, in a matter of just a day, made a favorable decision on the prime ocean-view location that the Shangri-La coveted for a hotel and residential complex that would infuse dollars worth hundreds of millions to the country’s economy.

It did help that the 12-acre site which sold for $125 million came directly under the purview of the Defence Ministry. But nonetheless, Chairman/CEO Shangri-La Asia Ean Kuok (son of Malaysian sugar baron Robert Kuok who founded the hotel group) was quoted as saying that it was “the fastest deal the company had sealed anywhere in the world”.

In a parting shot at its detractors on the global stage Rajapaksa remarks: “In recent weeks some people have tried to make a big deal about the diplomatic cables leaked on WikiLeaks. But if you study the postings on WikiLeaks you can see that much of it pertaining to Sri-Lanka before and after the war is based on diplomatic cocktail circuit chatter. And it amazes me that mature countries like the United States and the United Kingdom would make policy decisions relating to Sri Lanka based on nothing more than gossip.”

“Today we have a situation where the former top three leaders of the Tamil Tigers after its slain leader Velupillai Prabhakaran are working with the government. Two are actually in government positions while the other is working with us in a non-governmental capacity. Unfortunately, there is still a dwindling—but vociferous—band of Tamils living overseas with erstwhile Tamil Tiger affiliations who consider that good news from our side is bad news for them. But the truth will always prevail.

“We have created an environment for everybody to live in peace as Sri Lankans, as one nation. The ground reality is we must give people the opportunity to live peacefully, with jobs and education. That is what they want, and that is what the government will ensure they get in Sri Lanka”.






 

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Last modified: January 31, 2011.

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