Interesting but frightening reports are coming out from the mainstream media in India on the ongoing ideological covert operations by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria known as ISIS or ISIL or IS, in Sri Lanka. Almost all news stories are able to quote the Indian intelligence sources anonymously, while those news pieces have been dramatically decorating the imminent threats.
However, great stories require substantive investigation, so that they will have the authentic shreds of evidence to prove, which, unfortunately, is almost absent in the news of IS presence on Sri Lankan soil.
However, security threats are not a new phenomenon in Sri Lanka as the nation suffered from one of the most brutal terrorism effects for about three decades, costing countless human deaths and high-value human resources through mental conflicts amongst Sri Lankans. It has assassinated the opportunities towards what Sri Lanka wanted for itself.
More disturbingly, for some reason, many surrounding nations around this beautiful island have contributed to destabilisation rather than extending a helping hand to develop sovereignty. Many were interested lookers on of the political turmoil in Sri Lanka. At the same time, the conflict was a shield used by the corrupted system to strengthen its custody of power resulting in the deterioration of the commitment to Common governing principles and values of the State.
During the latter part of the conflict many neighbouring nations and other foreign counterparts, have helped us the threat of the Tamil Tigers went beyond the earlier projections. It was ultimately threatening to the neighbouring countries in addition to seriously damaging the sovereignty of the Island.
Just little more than seven years after vanquishing the Tamil Tigers, what we have confronting us is the ISIS. Indian mainstream media have been quoting their intelligence sources to alert us on how the ISIS members have been sneaking into Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan security forces, based on the media reports, have launched the “investigation”.
However, according to highly placed intelligence sources in Sri Lanka, the threat is much more than just security threats. This could be the new version of earlier strategic double-dealing steps by regional power players to counter the escalating influence of China in the country.
Was there any intelligence cooperation between the intelligence agencies of the countries in the region, before the stories popped up through selected media outlets? Will those speculations create more opportunities for those interested parties to sneak into the system? Has the government strengthened the professionalism in the country’s intelligence agencies or ignored their service on sensitive issues? The truth is out there!
Substantive intelligence cooperation is the fundamental tool to prevent any cause of harm. But, history tells us, as B. Raman, a late spymaster of the R&AW recalled in his memoir, most of the regional intelligence agencies are, strong in TECHINT but weak in HUMINT; strong in crime investigation but weak in crime prevention; strong in crisis management but weak in crisis prevention; obsessive in its secrecy but fearful of transparency; the list goes on.
In the case of IS presence in Sri Lanka also this is the underlying problem. But that does not mean we are away from the threat. What one could appreciate here is that the intelligence hoax takes the place of conspiracy theories, which will lead to an acquisition of having more political means than security cooperation strengths.
There is much information gathering going on in relation to the IS. Many of those have highlighted the danger of this vicious terror outfit which has its tentacles throughout the world. Therefore, almost every caring citizen is fearing the imminent threats.
What is important for Sri Lanka at this stage is the monitoring, gathering and analysing of an ongoing tendency of extremism in relevant segments of all communities in the country, and the economic implications in the region. Sri Lanka needs more investments by the state-friendly strong responsible investors. This could help heal the wounds in the fragile economy of the country. Will the response from the ruling parties to the IS threats in Sri Lanka, be developed on this very notion?
Time to re-read and take the necessary steps on the danger of old ghosts who felt emulous of possessing victory status in the name of development and peace in Sri Lanka.
Nilantha Ilangamuwa edits the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily newspaper, and he also an editor of the Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, bi-monthly print magazine. He is the author of the just released non-fictions, “Nagna Balaya” (The Naked Power), in Sinhalese and “The Conflation”, in English. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org