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Midweek Review

Violence Disarmed

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By Lynn Ockersz

The Sage in pristine white,

Sat in sedate Samadhi style,

Anchored in Inner Quietude,

As the vile mob around him,

Spewed words most foul,

Seeking a quick collapse,

Of his ethnic peace project,

But he in quiet meditation,

Disarmed his raucous critics,

With a compassionate smile,

Thus making A. T. Ariyaratne,

A true Disciple of the Noble One,

And a Doctor who treated best,

The ills of the Islander’s heart.



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Midweek Review

15th anniversary of Lanka’s triumph over terrorism

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May 19, 2009: The body LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran being carried as frontline troops celebrate the eradication of separatist terrorism

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka brought the war against separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to a successful conclusion on May 19, 2009 – fifteen years ago.

The New Delhi-sponsored group, that turned its guns on the Indian Army during the latter’s deployment in the Northern and Eastern regions here (July 1987 to March 1990) was once considered invincible by its covert and overt backers, until then Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s Army brought back Kilinochchi under government control in the first week of January 2009.

The recapture and military consolidation of the Elephant Pass-Kilinochchi stretch of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road, in a matter of days, effectively restricted the LTTE to the Mullaithivu district. Once highly mobile conventional LTTE units were trapped as several Army fighting formations closed in on them from all directions.

Within months what had been once considered to be impossible for the Sri Lankan military to defeat the conventional military power of the LTTE, was reduced to tatters. That wouldn’t have been possible if not for the unprecedented parallel success achieved by Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda’s Navy in the high seas, destroying much of the LTTE floating arsenal, while Air Marshal Roshan Goonetilleke’s Air Force, too, proved its superiority by speedily supplying urgent military needs, while evacuating casualties from whatever battlefront, as well as engaging LTTE targets from the air based on specific intelligence deep inside enemy run territory.

When a bullet was put through megalomaniac Velupillai Prabhakaran’s head on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon on the morning of May 19, 2009, the terrorist movement’s fate was sealed.

Unfortunately, as we are about to celebrate Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism 15 years ago, various interested parties continue to cause turmoil here. The issues at hand cannot be discussed without taking into consideration the presidential polls scheduled for later this year.

Never again

One-time Norwegian International Development Minister Erik Solheim, who previously spearheaded the catastrophic and sham Norwegian peace effort here, is back. The 69-year-old former politician is President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s advisor on climate change. Although we will not go to the extent of finding fault with the President for appointing Solheim as his climate advisor, but the latter shouldn’t be allowed to get involved in local politics ever again for the simple reason Norwegians were never the honest broker of peace here. Haven’t we learnt enough from their duplicitous behaviour in the recent past just as our naive forefathers learnt the hard way the vile ways of colonial powers after inviting one after another from Portuguese to Dutch and then the British?

And this country is certainly not the inheritance of President Wickremesinghe to do any more dangerous experiments with crafty pale faces the way he blindly signed a one sided peace agreement with the LTTE, prepared by the Norwegians.

Solheim himself couldn’t have forgotten, under any circumstances, what far right extremist Anders Breivik, who had been influenced by the LTTE, did in July 2011. The Norwegian diplomat’s son murdered 77 persons, mostly children in two attacks carried out within hours.

The writer dealt with Solheim’s recent declarations regarding post-war Sri Lanka ahead of Norwegian Ambassador May-Elin Stener’s visit to the North where she met Northern Province Governor P.S.M. Charles. Stener met Charles on May 6 whereas Solheim held talks with her on April 30 in Jaffna. It was Soheim’s second meet with Charles since he received appointment as President Wickremesinghe’s climate advisor renewing old friendship. In the fresh avatar they first met in Colombo on Nov 20, 2023.

Against the backdrop of Norwegian Ambassador Stener meeting JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa in Colombo, it would be pertinent to also discuss the possibility of Norway eyeing a larger role here once again. Those who represent the interests of Western powers sometimes operate in not so mysterious ways knowing how gullible some of our leaders are on seeing white skins. Perhaps, Solheim is an exception. The international news agencies reported how Solheim, in his capacity as the UN environmental chief, promoted the China-led Belt and Road initiative as well as Chinese investments in Africa. Solheim should be able to explain the circumstances he threw his weight behind China, when the West in general is so hostile to Beijing.

Amidst that controversy, the Norwegian was compelled to resign several years ago following serious allegations of him squandering funds on overseas travel. The UN found itself in an untenable situation when some countries withheld funds for the UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) in a bid to pressure the global organization. So, Solheim’s latest project here seems somewhat surprising and questionable. What Solheim really wants or whom he is now working for are two issues that needed to be addressed by the powers that be.

An expert opinion

Solheim’s latest foray should be analysed meticulously taking into consideration the crucial presidential polls, the first national election after the change of government through unconstitutional means in 2022. Does Solheim still believe that he could play a role in consensus building among Tamil political parties?

Eyebrows were raised when Solheim recently met EPDP leader Douglas Devananda who is also the Fisheries Minister.

But let me repeat author of ‘To End a Civil War’ Mark Salter’s response to my last week’s piece ‘Solheim is back’ published on May 8, 2024, edition of The Island. Salter, who began as a radio journalist for the BBC, subsequently specialised in Central European, West African and most recently South Asian affairs. Salter launched ‘To End a Civil War’ – a detailed description of the Norwegian peace role here in Colombo in early March 2016. Salter’s narrative should be examined, taking into consideration ‘Evaluation of Norwegian Peace Efforts in Sri Lanka (1997 -2009)’ produced by a team consisting of Gunnar M. Sørbø, Jonathan Goodhand, Bart Klem, Ada Elisabeth Nissen and Hilde Selbervik.

Salter found fault with the writer for not paying sufficient attention to what he called factual details. Pointing out the failure on the part of the writer to properly deal with the process leading up to the CFA, its aims and objective, etc., Salter countered the following assertions:

(a) “There is no doubt Solheim was one of those ill-advised diplomats or a deliberate hatchet man, who repeated their mantra that the LTTE couldn’t be militarily defeated.”

Simply not true – and in fact tendentious in its description of Solheim, whose views on the military balance at this point were derived chiefly from discussions with Delhi at this early point. Multiple evidence from the time indicates that the view that ‘the LTTE couldn’t be militarily defeated’ was essentially the view of, for example, both the Sri Lankan and Indian governments (Later is a different matter). This conclusion being chiefly based on readings of the prevailing military situation in the Vanni.

Adherence to this reading of the situation was a key factor in bringing the GoSL – in particular CBK and Kadirgamar – around to the idea of seeking facilitated talks with the LTTE.

(b) “The CFA was meant to create a separate region under LTTE control in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.”

There’s a straight confusion here. The CFA was not intended to create anything in a territorial sense. It simply sought to provide an agreed territorial basis for the ceasefire. LTTE control over the N&E was achieved via earlier LTTE military gains – not the CFA.

(c) The LTTE always had its way until President Mahinda Rajapaksa decided to put an end to the separatist terrorism.

Evidence to back this claim? The Lankan military retaking Jaffna 1995, for example: is that an example of the LTTE ‘always having its way’? Overall – and as often – these are the kinds of loose generalizations that I feel skew your whole approach.

Let me explain my stand on the above matters towards the end of this piece.

On May 2, the media received an email from the EPDP Office. Titled an urgent meet, the two-page statement in Sinhala, sent by EPDP leader Douglas Devananda’s longstanding Media Secretary, Nelson Edirisinghe, disclosed the Fisheries Minister meeting Solheim at the Colombo Hilton.

Edirisinghe, who had been with Devananda in the days he carried weapons, without hesitation revealed that the meeting was meant to discuss the current political situation. Why on earth the leader of a political party discuss current political situation with the President’s climate advisor?

The EPDP contested the last parliamentary polls, conducted in August 2020, on its own. It won two seats – one in Jaffna and another in Vanni. However, the EPDP accepted Cabinet portfolio from ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The EPDP continues to retain the Fisheries portfolio and recently declared its support to President Wickremesinghe’s candidature at the next presidential poll.

Devananda-Solheim meet

The EPDP statement declared its decision to go with President Wickremesinghe at the presidential poll.

This was the day after Devananda appeared with war-winning President and SLPP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa on their May Day stage at the Campbell Park. Interesting. Isn’t it?

Let me stress in point form what Devananda told President Wickremesinhe’s advisor Solheim:

(1) President Wickremesinghe is the only leader capable of successfully overcoming political and economic challenges experienced by Sri Lanka (2) Wickremesinghe has received international recognition (3) The incumbent President is committed to properly addressing problems faced by the Tamil speaking people (4) reminded Solheim how he (DD) warned the then Norwegian International Development Minister, 28 years ago, that peace couldn’t be achieved through violence (5) Wickremesinghe’s continuation as President would be beneficial to the Tamil speaking community as well as all other communities (6) Under Wickremesinghe’s leadership, the country could achieve rapid development.

Finally, Minister Devananda asked Solheim’s intervention with the Norwegian government on behalf of the fishing community here. MP Himanshu Gulati (Progress Party), son of Indian migrants, accompanied Solheim.

It would be pertinent to ask Solheim whether he in anyway represented the government of Norway.

During the Norwegian-spearheaded peace talks, the LTTE never accepted the right of other Tamil political parties to engage in politics. By then, the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK)-led Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has been compelled to recognize the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people. In addition to Norway, peace co-chairs consisting of the US, Japan, EU, as well as Norway, accepted the LTTE’s status. Otherwise, the LTTE wouldn’t have accepted none of them as co-chairs. That was the reality.

The LTTE hold on the TNA was such, its candidates for the 2004 General Election and its National List had to be cleared by the LTTE. By then, the LTTE had been divided with its Eastern cadre (Batticaloa-Ampara sector), led by Vinayagamoorty Muralitharan alias Karuna, switching allegiance to the government.

The post-2004 General Election report, issued by the European Union Election Observation Mission, in no uncertain terms disclosed the sordid relationship between the LTTE and the TNA. The EU asserted that the TNA secured 22 seats in the Northern and Easter Provinces, with the direct backing of the LTTE that resorted to violence and stuffing of ballot boxes in support of R. Sampanthan’s grouping.

One shouldn’t forget that by the time the LTTE declared Eelam War IV in August 2006, the Northern Province has been exclusively inhabited by Tamils as Muslims were driven away in Oct/Nov 1990 during Ranasinghe Premadasa’s tenure as the President and the Sinhalese much earlier. That had been one of the key factors that influenced the young Norwegian to go on the rampage in Norway in 2011.

A war that can’t be won…

Having held talks with the LTTE in February (Oslo) June (Oslo) and October (Geneva) under Norwegian facilitation without any success, the Rajapaksa government decided to go ahead with an all-out combined security forces campaign. The LTTE adopted an extremely hard and uncompromising stand as it quite confidently believed the military could be overwhelmed. (The Directorate of Military Intelligence gave the writer access to Kumaran Pathmanathan alias ‘KP’ a few months after the conclusion of the war in May 2009.

During the long interview, ‘KP’ asserted that the LTTE, at the time the war began, believed the military could be overwhelmed in the North within two years).

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa hadn’t been hesitant when he told a top Norwegian delegation that the conflict could be settled through military means. Gotabaya Rajapaksa made that declaration during quite an early stage of the war. Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts-in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009 acknowledged that statement.

Retired Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne in his ‘Ranamaga Osse Nanthikadal’ (Road to Nanthikadal) revealed that Army Commander Lionel Balagalle during Norway arranged CFA said that the LTTE couldn’t be militarily defeated.

Dr. Rohan Gunaratne, too, during quite an early stage declared that the LTTE couldn’t be defeated. The writer had highlighted Dr. Gunaratne’s assertion on several occasions. On March 22, 2007, the Bloomberg news agency quoted Gunaratne as having said that Sri Lanka’s war couldn’t be won by either side. A story headlined ‘Sri Lanka, Tamil Tiger Rebels Fight a War That Can’t be Won,’ by Colombo-based Anusha Ondaatjie, quoted head of terrorism research at Singapore’s Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Gunaratna as having asserted: “Continuing the current spate of violence is not going to bring about a different outcome, or change the status quo. Both parties have developed significant support to be able to recover from losses, but this type of warfare is protracted.” Gunaratna declared: “What is needed is a negotiated settlement to the conflict.”

Just three months after Dr. Gunaratne stressed the need for a negotiated settlement, the military liberated the entire Eastern Province.

The then Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Store, who had been involved in the Sri Lankan initiative, in May, 2007, asserted that all observers believed that the conflict couldn’t be won by military means, and the majority was of the opinion that the government wouldn’t be able to defeat the LTTE militarily.

Veteran Canada-based political and defence analyst, D.B.S. Jeyaraj, in late Dec. 2008, declared that the LTTE had the wherewithal to roll back the Army on the Vanni east front. In an article titled WAR IN WANNI: WHY THE TIGERS ARE DOWN BUT NOT OUT, Jeyaraj maintained the circumstances under which the LTTE could inflict massive defeat on the Army on the Vanni east front.

Less than two weeks later, the Army captured Kilinochchi. The liberation of Kilinochchi, on January 1, 2009, effectively ended the possibility of an LTTE fight back. The capture of Kilinochchi and the A9 road, northwards up to Elephant Pass, sealed the fate of the LTTE, with several fighting formations rapidly surrounding the remaining LTTE units operating in the Vanni east.

In fact, the UNP, as well as the JVP, too, believed the LTTE would ultimately strike back and roll-back the Army. The media, too, propagated that the LTTE tactics were far superior to that of the military

Gen. Sarath Fonseka declared during drinks and dinner at his Baudhaloka Mawatha official residence of the Army Commander in January 2008 that he wouldn’t leave the war unfinished. A smiling Army Chief with a drink in his hand declared:

“My term of office is coming to an end this year and I will not leave this war to the succeeding Army commander”.

So unlike all the self-proclaimed experts who generally toed the Western lies by wooing for Tigers, while pretending to be independent analysts, only to be proved wrong soon before the whole world, Fonseka’s words were far more prophetic. Have we not seen a similar repeat in Ukraine where all the Western military experts on mainstream media were predicting a Russian defeat there and even a dismemberment of Russia while the opposite is happening.

The writer was present on this occasion when the Sri Lankan Army Commander made that almost prophetic pronouncement and no doubt when it came to prosecuting a war he certainly had a sixth sense, whether it be during fighting the ruthless Tigers or even JVP terrorists. Though Fonseka’s Army couldn’t finish off the LTTE before the end of 2008 it achieved the most unexpected just five months later. The rest is history.

At the time Eelam War IV erupted in 2006, the entire Northern and Eastern Provinces hadn’t been under its control. The Jaffna peninsula and neighbouring islands had been under military control whereas a large section of Vanni remained under LTTE. In the Eastern Province, the military controlled major towns though there were frequent attacks. The LTTE never managed to secure total control of the two provinces through military means.

The LTTE pursued Eelam dream regardless of consequences. In a way, it always had its way regardless of the consequences though from time to time it suffered setbacks. The LTTE adopted a similar style when it dealt with India. When the LTTE realized that Indian strategy didn’t facilitate its own, it declared war on the Indian Army, then secured financial and military support from the then Premadasa government to wage war against the Indian Army and then ultimately assassinated former Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991. Gandhi’s crime was deploying his Army in Sri Lanka.

When the relentless Sri Lankan military drive forced the LTTE to retreat in all fronts, it dragged the civilian population to the Vanni east as a human shield where it made its last stand. Let me finish this by reproducing a letter written by wartime Norwegian Ambassador here. It explains the mindset of the LTTE.

Ambassador Hattrem’s note, dated Feb 16, 2009, to Basil Rajapaksa, revealed Norway’s serious concern over the LTTE’s refusal to release the civilians. The Norwegian note, headlined ‘Offer/Proposal to the LTTE’, personally signed by Ambassador Hattrem, underscored the developing crisis on the Vanni east front. The following is the text of Ambassador Hattrem’s letter, addressed to Basil Rajapaksa:

“I refer to our telephone conversation today. The proposal to the LTTE on how to release the civilian population, now trapped in the LTTE controlled area, has been transmitted to the LTTE through several channels. So far, there has been, regrettably, no response from the LTTE and it does not seem to be likely that the LTTE will agree with this in the near future.”

There wasn’t been any positive LTTE response and the military went ahead with the final phase of the operation which was completed 15 years ago this month.

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Midweek Review

Sri Lanka’s digital ID project: Implications, risks, and safeguards

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by Prof. Amarasiri de Silva

The government of Sri Lanka is waiting for clearance from the Public Security Ministry to go ahead with an India-funded Unique ID card project, according to a report published in The Island, quoting State Technology Minister Kanaka Herath. It is akin to seeking approval from the father to hand over control of the family’s personal details to the next-door neighbour! The state of affairs concerning the issuance and upkeep of ID cards in Sri Lanka, coupled with the prospect of outsourcing their management and execution to an Indian company, is undeniably a matter of serious concern. It is disheartening that there is a lack of capability within Sri Lanka to handle this crucial task, leading to the consideration of outsourcing the responsibility to an agency in another country. However, entrusting such a sensitive task to an external agency, particularly one based in India, comes with a myriad of challenges, foremost among them being data security issues.

India’s offer to provide advanced aid of 450 million Indian rupees to President Wickremesinghe’s government for funding the digital ID project undoubtedly presents an opportunity for financial support. However, this offer raises questions about the underlying motivations and implications for the countries involved, particularly for Sri Lanka. From a political perspective, the decision to introduce a project involving the outsourcing of national data to an Indian company, particularly under the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe, is likely to face scrutiny and questions regarding its legitimacy and mandate. This scrutiny can stem from several factors, including concerns about transparency, accountability, and national sovereignty.

Critics may question whether Ranil Wickremasinghe, as the leader of the government or a relevant authority, has the proper mandate to initiate such a project without sufficient consultation or approval from people, the Opposition, and other branches of government, such as parliament or relevant oversight committees. They may argue that such a significant decision, involving the collection and management of sensitive national data, should be subject to broader scrutiny and debate to ensure democratic accountability.

There may be concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the decision-making process and the extent of public consultation undertaken before committing to the project. Citizens and civil society organisations may demand clarity on the rationale behind outsourcing sensitive data to an Indian company and seek assurances regarding data privacy, security, and potential risks associated with foreign involvement.

Outsourcing the management of national data, including biometric and personal information, to a foreign company raises questions about national sovereignty and security. Critics may argue that such a move compromises Sri Lanka’s ability to control and protect its citizens’ data, potentially exposing it to risks such as unauthorised access, misuse, or exploitation by foreign entities. There may be concerns about the implications for national security, particularly if the outsourced data falls into the wrong hands or is subject to foreign influence or interference.

Beyond political considerations, there may also be concerns about the economic implications of outsourcing such a project to an Indian company. Critics may question whether sufficient efforts were made to explore domestic alternatives or support local expertise and industries in developing and implementing the project. They may raise concerns about the potential loss of revenue, jobs, or technological capabilities that could result from relying on foreign assistance for critical infrastructure projects.

In response to these concerns, proponents of the project, including the government and supporters of Ranil Wickremesinghe, may argue that it is necessary to leverage external expertise and resources to address capacity constraints and accelerate the implementation of essential projects, such as digital identity systems. They may emphasise the potential benefits of collaboration with India, such as access to advanced technology, financial assistance, and opportunities for bilateral cooperation and knowledge exchange, but the advantages may outweigh the benefits.

However, the government must address legitimate concerns about transparency, accountability, data privacy, and national sovereignty through open dialogue, robust oversight mechanisms, and clear communication with the public and relevant stakeholders. Building trust and confidence in the project’s integrity and objectives will be essential to mitigate political opposition and ensure its successful implementation in the long run.

The digital ID project, as described, aims to collect biographic and biometric information, including facial, iris, and fingerprint data. While this endeavor may offer certain advantages to the Indian government, such as potentially enhancing bilateral relations or fostering technological cooperation, it also raises concerns regarding data privacy and sovereignty for Sri Lanka. India could utilise the biodata from Sri Lanka’s ID cards to influence the Sri Lankan economy, potentially crafting programs to facilitate Indian trade and expand technology initiatives.

First and foremost, the issue of data security looms large. Entrusting the collection and management of sensitive biometric and personal information to an external agency, particularly one based in another country, introduces significant risks. The use of national ID data of the Sri Lankan population by a foreign country like India raises significant concerns about data privacy, security, and national sovereignty. While it’s essential to acknowledge that any speculation about specific intentions should be approached cautiously, it’s crucial to understand the potential risks and implications associated with such scenarios:

Data Access and Control: If India has access to the national ID data of the Sri Lankan population, there is a risk that it could be used for various purposes, including surveillance, intelligence gathering, or profiling. This could infringe upon the privacy and civil liberties of Sri Lankan citizens, as their personal information may be subject to monitoring or exploitation without their consent.

Political Influence: Access to sensitive data about the Sri Lankan population could provide India with leverage or influence over Sri Lanka’s political decisions or policies. By leveraging this information, India could potentially exert pressure or manipulate decision-making processes to align with its interests, compromising Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and autonomy.

Cybersecurity Risks: Storing or transmitting national ID data across international borders introduces cybersecurity risks, as it increases the potential attack surface for malicious actors, including hackers, cybercriminals, or hostile state actors. Any breach or compromise of the data could have severe consequences, including identity theft, fraud, or espionage.

Geopolitical Considerations: The collection and control of national ID data by a foreign country like India could have broader geopolitical implications, particularly in the context of regional power dynamics and strategic competition. It may exacerbate tensions or mistrust between countries and undermine efforts to foster cooperation and trust.

Economic Exploitation: Access to national ID data could also enable economic exploitation, such as targeted marketing or commercial profiling, by Indian companies or entities with vested interests. This could disadvantage Sri Lankan businesses and consumers, as their personal information may be used for commercial gain without adequate safeguards or consent.

Diplomatic Fallout: Revelations of foreign interference or exploitation of national ID data could strain diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and India, leading to diplomatic tensions, public outcry, or calls for accountability. It could undermine trust and cooperation between the two countries on other bilateral or regional issues.

Sri Lanka must carefully consider the implications of sharing its citizens’ data with a foreign entity and ensure that robust safeguards are in place to protect against data breaches, unauthorised access, or misuse.

Furthermore, the reliance on foreign aid for such a critical project raises questions about national sovereignty and self-reliance. While external support can be beneficial, Sri Lanka needs to maintain control over its identity management infrastructure and ensure that decisions regarding data collection, storage, and usage align with its national interests and values.

Additionally, there may be concerns about the long-term implications of dependence on foreign assistance for essential infrastructure projects. Sri Lanka must weigh the short-term benefits of financial aid against the potential risks and dependencies created by outsourcing critical functions to external entities.

“ID card projects” typically refer to initiatives or programmes aimed at issuing identification cards to individuals within a certain population. These cards serve as official documents that verify a person’s identity and may contain information such as their name, photograph, date of birth, and sometimes biometric data like fingerprints or iris scans. Usually, National ID Cards are issued by Governments that may implement national ID card projects to provide citizens with a standardised form of identification for various purposes, such as voting, accessing government services, and proving eligibility for employment or benefits.

Outsourcing an ID card project to an outside agency can raise several security concerns, including:

Data Privacy and Protection: Providing personal information to an external organisation raises the risk of data breaches or unauthorised access. The outside agency must adhere to strict data protection regulations and implement robust security measures to safeguard sensitive information.

Identity Theft: If the external agency does not adequately secure the data collected for the ID card project, it could be vulnerable to identity theft or fraud. Criminals could exploit weaknesses in the system to obtain and misuse individuals’ personal information.

Counterfeiting and Fraud: Outsourcing the production of ID cards increases the risk of counterfeit cards entering circulation. Without stringent controls and security features, criminals may replicate or alter the cards for fraudulent purposes, such as gaining unauthorised access or committing identity theft.

Vendor Reliability: Depending on an external agency for the implementation of the project introduces dependencies and risks associated with the reliability and integrity of the vendor. Issues such as delays, miscommunication, or vendor misconduct could compromise the project’s security and effectiveness.

Lack of Oversight and Control: Entrusting the entire ID card project to an outside agency may result in reduced visibility and control over the process. Government agencies or organisations must maintain sufficient oversight to ensure compliance with security standards and regulatory requirements.

Supply Chain Risks: The supply chain involved in producing ID cards, including materials, equipment, and personnel, may introduce vulnerabilities if not properly managed. External vendors and subcontractors should be vetted thoroughly to mitigate supply chain risks.

To address these security issues, organisations should conduct thorough risk assessments, establish clear contractual agreements with the external agency, implement robust security controls, regularly monitor compliance, and ensure transparency and accountability throughout the project lifecycle. Additionally, ongoing communication and collaboration between the outsourcing organisation and the external agency are essential to address security concerns effectively.

In light of the risks associated with accepting external assistance for Sri Lanka’s digital ID project, the protection of citizens’ data sovereignty, privacy, and security must be paramount. This necessitates the implementation of robust safeguards, regulatory frameworks, and oversight mechanisms to mitigate the potential for unauthorised access or misuse of national ID data by foreign entities.

Furthermore, fostering greater transparency, accountability, and public awareness regarding the collection, storage, and use of personal information is imperative. By engaging in open dialogue and providing clear information to the public, trust can be built, and responsible governance in the digital age can be ensured.

In summary, while India’s offer of financial support presents opportunities for expediting the project’s implementation, careful consideration of concerns surrounding data security, national sovereignty, and long-term sustainability is essential. Sri Lanka must conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to weigh the potential benefits against the risks associated with external assistance. Proactive measures should be taken to safeguard citizens’ privacy and uphold the integrity of identity management systems through transparent decision-making and robust oversight. Ultimately, prioritising the interests of the Sri Lankan population is paramount in navigating the complexities of such partnerships.

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Midweek Review

Climbing to a High

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By Lynn Ockersz

There it gawkily stands,

First among skyscrapers,

Rising over teeming slums,

Inspiring not a sense of awe,

But speaking volumes,

Of the Arrogance of Power,

And giving thwarted humans,

An opening to an opiate,

That injects a fleeting sense,

Of rising above mortal wants.

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