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“Our nation has tossed its cap over the wall of research in security and we have no choice but to follow it”


Comments / 1298 Views / Thursday, 12 January 2017 00:00


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Following is the speech made by Institute of National Security Studies Sri (INSSSL) Lanka Director General Asanga Abeyagoonasekera at its opening recently

 

Our Chairman of INSSSL Eng. Karunasena Hettiarachchi, Commanders of the armed forces, Chief of Defence Staff, distinguished military officers, your excellencies, the Ambassadors, distinguished scholars, journalists and ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I welcome all our distinguished guests on behalf of the INSSSL, the premier national security think tank of Sri Lanka. A warm welcome to our Chief Guest who is our Chairman Eng. Karunasena Hettiarachchi and all of our Board members.

Today is a memorable day, the day Maithripala Sirisena, the President of Sri Lanka, launched the sustainable development program for Sri Lanka focusing to achieve the goals by 2030.

During one of my first interviews after joining the Government 10 years ago, I spoke about Frank O’Connor, the Irish writer who writes in one of his books ‘An Only Child’ about how he and his friends would make their way across the countryside and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall and then they had no choice but to follow them. Today our nation has tossed its cap over the wall of research in security and we have no choice but to follow it.

Today we open our research office and launch the institute’s first research journal ‘INSSSL Defence Review’ with contributions from eminent local and international scholars. Our contributors who are also part of our distinguished resource pool have come out with excellent research papers covering many parts of the world and critical issues that we face today. 

Some very important policy recommendations are also in this journal. To provide you one example, Dr. Nagao suggests, “Japan can be an important stabiliser for cordial Sri Lanka-India relations and the establishment of a Japan-Sri Lanka-India strategic dialogue.” I am not going to read from others since we need to sell the book. I thank all the contributors.

I would like to thank the President who is also the President of our institute for all his support and also our Chairman Eng. Karunasena Hettiarachchi and everyone else who has supported us since the inception.

The institute was established to conduct national security research for the Ministry of Defence. By understanding the security environment of the country to work with the Government to craft evidence based policy options and strategies for debate and discussion to ensure national security which is its primary task. For this we need to conduct high quality research on national and international security trends. The institute will also serve as a platform for the Government, private sector, and civil society to collaborate, debate and discuss issues affecting Sri Lanka’s security and stability to synergise and draw from a spectrum of thinkers and planners.

Today we have kept a small step but it will create a huge impact in the near future with much benefit for the security research of our nation. I don’t need to explain the importance of a security think tank to a nation given today’s global volatile security environment, as almost every day we hear of violent attacks killing innocent civilians. Last year, much more than $14 trillion was spent on international conflicts, which was the figure in 2015 and 13% of the global GDP.

We can’t isolate incidents and find solutions today, we need to work as one human community to find solutions in collaboration. Yesterday’s security threat in one particular nation could also be of influence in another nation in a completely different part of the world. In this equation, a think tank will be of immense value.

A think tank is a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to gain knowledge, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see and clearly point in the direction of valuable research produced by a scientific methodology. A national think tank is clearly a place owned by the public and INSSSL belongs to the people of Sri Lanka. The institute doors are open from today for scholars, intellectuals, young researchers and those who wish to learn and contribute to develop our nation. 

Most newspaper headlines and television screens usually give us a short view. This short view gives us as a nation, the impression of being hurried everywhere on the defensive. We require the long term view. For this, a think tank is the most important instrument that could develop foresight analysis to steer a nation into the future.

There is not a single country on this planet that has achieved greatness without investment in research. There was an article recently published by Prof. Ajith de Alwis which states that we spend more on elephants than research. It was a Sri Lankan scholar Kumarathunga Munidasa in the 1920s who clearly stated: “A nation not innovative cannot prosper.” Therefore, to be innovative we need to invest in research. As a nation we have failed in this after independence.

We have started something new which will eventually be of enormous benefit to our nation. The institute will be developed not only by this administration but many administrations to come in the future. I am certain the researchers at INSSSL who carry the honour of working in this institute will continue to give from their lives, from their talents a high measure of public service.

At this moment I am reminded of the story of the great French Marshal who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for many years. The Marshal replied in that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon. The success of our initiatives may be years away but we have no time to lose and that’s why we have planted this tree today, this afternoon, to succeed and for our future generations to be proud of the highest quality research that will come out from this institute.

I wish you all a prosperous and happy new year!


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