Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has emphasised the paramount need for Sri Lanka to adopt a national strategy for maritime security, given her geo-strategic location in the Indian Ocean straddling the vital sea route linking the Orient and the West.
He made this observation at a meeting held at the Foreign Ministry on June 27, when a Concept Paper on "National Strategy for Maritime Security of Sri Lanka" was presented to him.
The in-depth study and analysis on this subject was commissioned by the Minister and conducted by a committee appointed by him under the auspices of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS).
Minister Bogollagama highlighted the increasing importance of maritime security and maritime related activities, particularly to an island nation such as Sri Lanka. He further stated that after addressing the Shangri-La Summit in Singapore in June 2007 on regional maritime security, he became convinced of the urgent need to conduct an in-depth study on this subject.
The Foreign Minister said that Sri Lanka could play a crucial role in this area, since a significant percentage of maritime traffic movement takes place in the southern sea of the country. It is stated that almost 90 per cent of cargo and material are transported by sea in the world and this clearly reflects the indispensable need to secure this vital mode of transport.
Maritime security can significantly enhance commercial and economic opportunities as well. The proposed off-shore oil and gas exploration would be facilitated by having a maritime security plan in place.
Minister Bogollagama said that since satellite communication is a key element in maritime security, Sri Lanka could benefit from such facilities not only in this field but also in the spheres of economic and commercial activity and education.
The concept paper on maritime security, which was the first such comprehension study conducted in Sri Lanka, covered a wide range of aspects of maritime security.
Having researched and identified the threats, objectives and the strategic plan of action, the paper has suggested that Sri Lanka should formulate a well defined national maritime security strategy for the protection of marine resources from unlawful exploitation, prevention of damage or harm to vital assets from acts of subversion, terrorism or sabotage.
The Committee has proposed a number of plans including maritime domain awareness, maritime intelligence integration, an integrated maritime threat response, a regional and global co-ordinated strategy, maritime infrastructure recovery, maritime transportation and commercial security.
The paper has also proposed the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Council at national level and a National Maritime Co-ordinating Authority through the enactment of legislation, where the Ministry of Defence would play a leading role in conjunction with civilian agencies.
The establishment of a Net-Centric Communication Network linking the various units, has also been suggested, which would facilitate real time information, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The Foreign Minister said that today, terrorism which has become an omnipresent threat, poses many challenges to nations in various forms, including through the trade of illicit arms and narcotics as well as human smuggling. He said that action would be taken shortly to present the concept paper to President Mahinda Rajapaksa for consideration.
The Committee which undertook the study comprised Air Chief Marshal Donald Perera, Chief of Defence Staff, C.A.N. Perera, Executive Director of LKIIRSS, Brigadier (Retired) Vipul Boteju, Deputy Director of LKIIRSS, Major General (Retired) Kamal Fernando, Communications Consultant, Rear Admiral (Retired) Terence Sundaram, Maritime Affairs Advisor, SLPA, Rear Admiral (Retired) D.K. Dassanayake and Dr. Hiran Jayewardene, Secretary General Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Co-operation (IOMAC).
Courtesy: Daily News