President wants forces to get ready to face a possible cyber war

0
175

Amidst growing criticism against the government for allegedly attempting to suppress anti-government movements by enforcing provisions under Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), President Ranil Wickremesinghe indicated the need for Sri Lanka to be well equipped to face a cyber-war.

He was participating in a ceremony held on Thursday (25), to present the Presidential Colours and University Colours to the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University.

He emphasised that in the future war may occur not only on land, air and sea, but also in cyberspace, adding that Sri Lanka’s military should be equipped with the necessary knowledge to face such technological warfare.

Pointing out that discipline, training and knowledge are needed to create a successful Army, the President said that Sir John Kotelawala Defence University is already fulfilling all these requirements.

A military salute was accorded to the President who arrived at the Kotelawala Defence University and an interfaith blessing was also held for the President’s colours and the university’s flags.

Thereafter, President Ranil Wickremesinghe made a special statement and presented the Presidential Colours and University Colours to the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University.

Later, the Vice-Chancellor of the Kotelawala Defence University, Major General Milinda Peiris, made a special statement and presented the university flag and colours.

The President also visited the Sir John Kotelawala Museum and made a note in the commemorative book of special guests. A special commemorative gift was also presented to the President.

Expressing his views at this ceremony, President Wickremesinghe said, “Today, Sir John Kotelawala Defence University has gained great fame at home and abroad. Your potential as a defence university has been proved. This university holds significant importance. If an Army is led by its Commander, that Army depends on his leadership. And that Army needs discipline. An Army cannot advance without discipline. An Army can advance only with proper discipline.

However, an Army cannot be led by discipline alone. Training is required along with discipline. An Army is not successful just because it has discipline and training. That Army must have knowledge. It must have military knowledge and local knowledge.

Success comes with that knowledge. The leaders here are given discipline, training and knowledge. From there, the Army gives leadership to its own battalions and other divisions. Some become military commanders. Others go and work in different sectors equipped with this degree.”

 The President said, it was because of General Sir John Kotelawala that it was possible to establish the KDU.

“At the time some questioned as to why we need such a university as there was no war. However, few years later we had to face a war. Hence, this university has developed from the start thanks to Sir John Kotelawala who donated this premises and to General Derrick Perera the founder member of this university. This university has gained local and international acclaim. Many of the valiant servicemen were products of the KDU. Therefore, we must protect this university. I also urge you to produce more capable officers to our Security Forces from this university.”

The President said, such universities are needed for a country, adding that at the time the KDU was established there weren’t many defence universities around the world. “I have looked into the subjects that are taught at this university and they are very good subjects. There are also many excellent lecturers at this university. This is a hidden university. Many people do not know the value of this. But this university is not restricted only to the forces. Civilian students are recruited here. That is very good. Many have been given the opportunity to further their education.

Therefore, I do not agree with the criticisms made about this university.”

The President also noted that the KDU is not the only university that caters to the development of military officers. “Not only this university, but also a Staff College been established to provide training to military officers. All these institutions are necessary for our defence education. We must protect all these institutions. The world is changing and in the future we won’t see the sort of war that we have experienced in the past. New technology, new knowledge is developing.

Especially the war is not limited to land, air and sea. Cyber technology is also developing. Also, climate change should be taken into consideration when you engage in your duties. This knowledge is what you need. So, I wish all of you who are receiving these colours today, the very best,” President Wickremesinghe said.

Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha, Chief of Staff to the President and Senior Adviser to the President on National Security Sagala Ratnayake, Secretary of Defence Ministry  General (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne, Chief of Defence Staff General Shavendra Silva, Tri-Forces Commanders, Inspector General of Police and Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Prof. Sampath Amaratunga and special guests including university Vice Chancellors attended the event.

PTA, CTA and now NSA

The Diplomatic community, among other individuals and organisations, raised their voice against the decision to deny the democratic right of citizens to protest, under the guise of the PTA.

This was after IGP Chandana Wickramaratne ordered the CID to take over the questioning of Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) convener Wasantha Mudalige and two others to probe whether the suspects have been involved in a conspiracy against the State.

It was resquested from the Ministry of Defence to issue a detention order, for 90 days, on the three suspects who are currently detained for 72 hours.

Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma Thera and Hashantha Jawantha Gunathilake were also arrested along with Mudalige and detained on 18 August, after a protest march in Colombo.  Mudalige was arrested as there is a pending arrest warrant against him.

The IGP had also instructed to hand over the investigations to the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) if necessary.

Meanwhile, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor Tweeted that she is “deeply concerned” about Mudalige and two others has been arrested under the PTA.

She urged President Ranil Wickremesinghe not to sign their Detention Orders for 90 days. Doing so would be a dark day for Sri Lanka, she added.

However, on Monday, President Wickremesinghe, as the Defence Minister, issued the Detention Order to detain and interrogate Mudalige, Hashantha Jeewantha Gunathilake and Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma Thera for 90 days under the draconian PTA.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) Delegation in Sri Lanka said, it is concerned about the reports on the use of the PTA in recent arrests as they refer to information given by the Government to the international community about the de-facto moratorium of the use of the PTA.

The IUSF and several civil society and human rights organisations filed complaints at the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) against the detention of Mudalige and others.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) called upon the President and the law enforcement authorities to refrain from using the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to arrest and detain persons who have been involved in anti-Government protests and to immediately rescind the Detention Orders.

The BASL, citing a statement issued by the Sri Lanka Police that certain suspects are currently detained in relation to incidents which occurred during the protests from 9 April 2022, noted that since then Detention Orders for 90 days, have been issued, signed by the President in his capacity as the Minister of Defence, detaining three protesters under Section 9 of the PTA.

They observed that detention may result in the detainee being subject to torture and inhuman treatment.

“The PTA is a draconian piece of legislation, which gives wide powers to the Executive to arrest and detain persons for a lengthy period of time. Although Detention Orders are amenable to the Fundamental Rights and Writ Jurisdictions of the Apex Courts, they are not subject to regular judicial supervision unlike instances of arrests and detention under the general law,” the BASL noted.

It was stated that administrative detention confers the Executive with wide powers over the freedom of physical liberty of a person and lengthy detention periods without judicial supervision go against internationally accepted standards of protections of human rights.

The provisions of the PTA must be resorted to only in very exceptional circumstances where there is manifest evidence indicative of a terrorist dimension that would make resort to its use justifiable, BASL noted.

The PTA was intended to address situations of terrorism and never to address offences which may have occurred during the expression of dissent against the Government such as protests for which there exist the ordinary law of the land including the Penal Code, they said.

BASL noted that the PTA is now being used despite assurances by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) that it was implementing a moratorium on the use of the PTA.

The BASL added that the use of the PTA has been seen as a matter of concern in granting to Sri Lanka an extension of the GSP+ by the European Union adding that abuse of the PTA has also been raised time and again at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“In these circumstances and in the absence of a clear definition of terrorism in the PTA, there is a grave danger of it being abused to stifle legitimate expressions of dissent and to target persons who exercise their democratic rights including the freedoms of speech and expression, peaceful assembly, and association,” the BASL emphasised.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has informed the IGP, in writing, to submit to them evidence justifying the use of the contents in the PTA against those who cannot be categorically identified as terrorists.

The HRCSL has officially informed the IGP that if the Police intend to use the Provisions contained in PTA against any citizen, then the Police Department is bound by law to reveal evidence to that effect. The head of the HRCSL, retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe and member Anusiya Shammuganathan have informed the IGP that those who could be identified as terrorists are only those who had violated Section 2 of the Provisions of the PTA.

Hence the HRCSL has stressed that enforcing the PTA against any citizen as the Police deem fit cannot be condoned as it violates the fundamental Rights of the public.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to ward-off  the rising criticism Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena said a new National Security Act will be drafted to replace the PTA and that the Cabinet has been informed about the new Act.

He said at the weekly-Cabinet media briefing that Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe is in the process of drafting the National Security Act.

Speaking further, he noted that the PTA has been in existence since the 1970s, and that a new act is in the pipeline to weaken the PTA, and that the Cabinet has been informed about it. He said Rajapakshe is working on it.

The Ministry of Defence approved a 90-day Detention Order (DO) under the PTA on Wasantha Mudalige, Convenor of the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF).

When asked if any investigation revealed that Mudalige was involved in terrorism, he highlighted that what they believe is that there is a coup underway to destabilise the Government, and the Security Forces have requested time to conduct investigations.

“It is not enough to have only 24 hours to reveal the information of conspiracies. That time span is insufficient to reveal accurate information, and the relevant time was given to the forces,” he said. Gunawardena said the recent arrests of protesters using the PTA had also been discussed in Cabinet.

According to the Constitution, people have complete freedom to form trade unions, picket, and protest peacefully, however, during the recent violence, 72 members of the public were systematically targeted and evicted from their homes.

Police explain arrests made under PTA

On the arrest of Wasantha Mudalige, Hashan Jeewantha Gunathilaka and Galwewa Siridamma Thera in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979, the Police explain the following:

On 18.08.2022, Mudalige Wasantha Kumara of Ulpatha Niwasa, Dambana, Mahiyanganaya and Gunathilaka Siriwardanalage Hashan Jeewantha Gunathilaka of Mathupola, Pallama were arrested at New Chetty Street, Colombo by the Divisional Crimes Detective Bureau of Kelaniya Police Division, on the grounds that these suspects who while being the members of an unlawful assembly committing offences into which the investigations may be conducted under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979, who were escaping by a motor bicycle.

On 18.08.2022, Ven. Galwewa Siridamma Thera of Kodikanda Aranya Senasanaya, Thunmodara, Hanwella, was arrested at Narahenpita by the Borella Police for being the suspect of a case bearing the number of Fort Magistrate’s courts B 22362/22 (being a member of the unlawful assembly formed on 09.06.2022 in front of the Police Headquarters) and of a case bearing the number of Fort Magistrate’s Court’s B 22236/22 (being a member of an unlawful assembly formed on 28.05.2022) and kept under custody of the Fort Police Station on the same day. Thereafter, this suspect was transferred to the custody of the Thalangama Police Station in connection with a case bearing number B 50948 in the Kaduwela Magistrate’s Court.

Grounds warranted the investigations into these suspects to be conducted in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) No. 48 of 1979 (PTA) with the view of accomplishing the object of overthrowing the constitutionally elected government by resorting to the means of illegal force and continuing to further jeopardize the public peace by assassinating a Member of Parliament, who is a specified person in terms of the PTA, by assaulting police officers while inflicting injuries during committing criminal intimidation against those police officers which might have caused the death of those police officers who are specified persons in terms of the PTA, by damaging the private and public properties, by collecting weapons with the view of using them against security forces and police, by committing acts of violence or making among the general public the feelings of ill-will towards the Members of Parliament and the public officers through words either spoken or intended to be read, by conspiring, abetting and inciting the general public to commit such acts of violence on a particular highway, road, path or any other public place, these three suspects have acted in a manner which is more fully described below may warrant the investigations against them be conducted in terms of the PTA.

Mudalige Wasantha Kumara Mudalige

– To investigate whether Wasantha Kumara Mudalige has acted in a manner which caused the general public to be incited and endeavoured for the commission of acts of violence during the period starting from 09.05.2022 to date within Colombo and other vulnerable places in the Western Province and if such violent behaviour incited general public and ensued the assassination of Member of Parliament, Amarakeerthi Athukorala on 09.05.2022 which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

– To investigate whether Wasantha Kumara Mudalige, on the same transaction, has incited and provoked the gathered general public to forcibly enter into the private residence of then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and commit the offence of mischief by setting fire to the private residence while damaging the private and public properties with the ultimate view of overthrowing the lawfully elected government, which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

– To investigate whether Wasantha Kumara Mudalige, on the same transaction, has been leading and directing the so gathered general public to assault thereby inflicting injuries to the police officers and armed force personnel who were deployed for ensuring the safety of the Parliament on 09.07.2022 and to rob the two official weapons from the possession of so deployed security personnel, which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

– To investigate whether Wasantha Kumara Mudalige with the general public incited by him disobeyed and violated the lawful orders, mentioned below, issued by the Courts directing Wasantha Kumara Mudalige and the incited general public to make no movements as prescribed in such orders for the purpose of establishing the public order, which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

– By damaging public properties through the acts of violence committed after entering to the Fort Banku Mawatha and Fort Railway Station on 19.05.2022 where the court had issued orders requiring them not to enter into such places, the suspect has violated such order of the court. The case is being proceeded with under reference no. B 22091/22 before the Colombo Magistrate’s Court.

– By damaging public properties through the acts of violence committed near the Police Headquarters, Colombo on 24.05.2022 where the court had issued orders requiring them not to commit such acts of violence, the suspect has violated so issued court orders. The case is being proceeded with under reference No. B 22362/22 before the Colombo Magistrate’s court.

– By damaging the main gate of the Ministry of Education through committing acts of violence on 10.06.2022 where the court had been violated.

– By breaking into the official residence of the President and damaging the public properties on 09.07.2022, this suspect has violated the orders issued by the court. The case is being preceded under reference no. B 22516/22 before Fort Magistrate’s court.

– By entering forcibly into the Presidential Secretariat on 09.07.2022 and damaging its public properties, this suspect has violated the orders issued by the court. The case is being proceeded under reference No. B 22517/22 before the Fort Magistrate’s Court.

Gunathilaka Siriwardanalage Hashan Jeewantha Gunathilaka

– To investigate whether Hashan Jeewantha Gunathilaka has acted in a manner which caused the general public to be incited and endeavoured for the commission of acts of violence during the period starting from 09.05.2022 to date within Colombo and other vulnerable places in the Western Province and such violent behaviour of so incited general public ensued the assassination of the Member of Parliament, Amarakeerthi Athukorala on 09.05.2022 which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

– To investigate whether Hashan Jeewantha Gunathilaka, on the same transaction, has incited and provoked so gathered general public to forcibly enter into the private residence of the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and commit the offence of mischief by setting fire to the private residence while damaging the private and public properties with the ultimate view of overthrowing the lawfully elected government, which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

– To investigate whether Hashan Jeewantha Gunathilaka, on the same transaction, has been leading and directing the so gathered general public to assault and thereby inflicting injuries to the police officers and armed force personnel who were deployed for ensuring the safety of the Parliament on 09.07.2022 and to rob the two official weapons from the possession of so deployed security personnel, which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

– To investigate whether Hashan Jeewantha Gunathilaka, on the same transaction, by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, caused or intended to cause the commission of acts of violence or feelings of ill-will by himself or by the general public incited by himself with the view of overthrowing the lawfully elected government which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

– To identify other persons and gather evidence against them who joined Hashan Jeewantha Gunathilaka to commit such terrorist acts and engage in illegal activities and to reveal further acts of terrorism. Hashan Jeewantha Gunathilaka with the general public incited by him may commit any act of violent to overthrow the lawfully elected government.

Galwewa Siridamma Thera

– To investigate whether Galwewa Siridamma Thero has acted in a manner which caused the general public to be incited and endeavoured for the commission of acts of violent during the period starting from 09.05.2022 to date within Colombo and other vulnerable places in the Western Province and such violent behaviour of so incited general public ensued the assassination of the Member of Parliament, Amarakeerthi Athukorala on 09.05.2022 which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

– To investigate whether Galwewa Siridamma Thera, on the same transaction, has incited and provoked so gathered general public to forcibly enter into the private residence of the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and commit the offence of mischief by setting fire to the private residence while damaging the private and public properties with the ultimate view of overthrowing the lawfully elected government, which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

– To investigate whether Galwewa Siridamma Thera on the same transaction, has been leading and directing the so gathered general public to assault thereby inflicting injuries to the police officers and armed force personnel who were deployed for ensuring the safety of the Parliament on 09.07.2022 and to rob the two official weapons from the possession of so deployed security personnel, which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

– To investigate whether Galwewa Siridamma Thera with the general public incited by him disobeyed and violated the lawful orders issued by the Courts directing Wasantha Mudalige and the incited general public to make no movements as prescribed in such orders for the purpose of establishing the public order, which may be investigated in terms of the PTA.

Accordingly, against Wasantha Kumara Mudalige and Hashan Jeewantha Gunathilaka, the Senior Superintendent of Police of Kelaniya Division directed these suspects to be detained at the Peliyagoda Police Station, for a period of 72 hours with the view of conducting further investigation in terms of the Section 6(1) of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979.

And also, since it has been raised the necessity of conducting a full-scale investigation into these two suspects detention orders for a period of 90 days had been obtained.

As well, against Galwewa Siridamma Thera, the Senior Superintendent of Police of Nugegoda Division directed him to be detained at Thalangama Police Station, for a period of 72 hours with the view of conducting further investigation in terms of the Section 6(1) of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979.

And also, since it has been raised by the ongoing investigation against this suspect the necessity of conducting a full-scale investigation, and the detention order for a period of 90 days against this suspect had been obtained.

The Criminal Investigation Department, as directed by the Inspector General of Police has undertaken further investigations to proceed under the provisions of the prevention of terrorism (Temporary provisions) (amendment) act no 12 of 2022 and currently all three suspects are held at Tangalle old prison complex.

In addition to above mentioned justification for the investigations which are being conducted by the Sri Lanka Police referring to the PTA, it can be highlighted the relevancy of the definition made by the United Nations Security Council in its resolution 1566 of October 2004 to these investigations. This definition elaborates that the terrorists’ acts are ‘criminal acts including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act’.

New Alliance

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) Leader MP Udaya Gammanpila said the new alliance of the independent political party collective, will be unveiled on 4 September will stand on behalf of the people who voted for former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

He claimed that Rajapaksa’s mandate is now rendered ineffective as a result of the events of the last three months.

He said they are forming the new alliance for a number of reasons.

“One is that the Opposition is currently criticising the issues and informing the country about the people’s problems. We are aware of the issues we face. The issue for the people is that they do not know how to solve the problem. The Government is also clueless about the answers. People are also unsure of the answer to the question. The Opposition presents the issue but does not offer a solution,” he said.

However, a group in the independent MPs’ collective is likely to disassociate from the planned alliance and will back the government.