Combating ideological terrorism requires a balance between militaristic safeguards and staggered ideological counter-initiatives, former Defence Secretary General (Rtd.) Shantha Kottegoda said. He said in his farewell statement as the Secretary to the Defence Ministry that 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 programmes 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 radicalisation and violent extremism in all forms,” he said. He said 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 Defence Secretary under these circumstances, I carried out my duties to fulfil the aspirations of the government and the people of this country to the best of my ability,” he said. He said that during his short period, he also spearheaded initiatives to carry out the formulation of a National Defence Policy as early as June 2019.
A Presidential Task Force was established with the specific aim to create a secure environment by eliminating radicalisation 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 Radicalisation and Violent Extremism was also established. A comprehensive and systematic security survey plans are being carried out at the Bandaranaike International Airport Katunayake, Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, and the Ratmalana, Palaly and Batticaloa Airports.
Also steps are being taken to enhance the operations of the Defence Cyber Security Operations Centre (DCSOC) with the participation of public sector.
Sri Lanka has been taken off from the ‘Grey List’ of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recently by setting up a Targeted Financial Sanctions Committee (TFS Committee), General (Rtd.) Kottegoda said. 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.
Sri Lanka Army carried out a study and made recommendations to set up a Presidential Task Force to counter religious radicalisation and violent extremism in all forms