Colombo, August 27 (DailyFT): The Sri Lankan Army will seek to enhance its intelligence apparatus in the future, the newly-appointed Commander Lieutenant General Shavendra de Silva said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since his appointment the Army Commander acknowledged the importance of enhancing Army intelligence to meet new national security challenges.
“Intelligence is vital, we deploy our troops and conduct missions based on actionable intelligence,” he said, outlining plans to improve the efficiency of the military intelligence arm and ensure there is better synergy between intelligence stakeholders.
“Our intelligence capabilities have always been good but we can improve,” he told the Daily FT, explaining that special attention needs to be paid to filling gaps in technology.
The Commander was addressing a press conference on the upcoming Colombo Defence Seminar 2019 and the Joint Military Training exercise Cormorant Strike which was held yesterday.
Concerns Over His Appointment
On the concerns expressed by human rights groups , the US and UN over his appointment, Gen.Silva said: “There can be concerns, countries and individuals can have concerns. However, the President as the Commander-in-Chief appointed me as the Commander of the Army and I am sure he took into consideration all matters related to the appointment.”
Some members of the diplomatic community and UN had referred to alleged human rights violations that took place when he commanded troops during the last phase of the war in April-May 2019 .
“Yes, there are allegations (of war crimes). Anyone can make allegations but we will go forward,” he said, pointing out there had been significant allegations regarding the Mannar mass graves but it was later proven beyond a doubt that there was no armed forces involvement.
Responding to a question about his role as the Commander of the Army and perceptions of the Army with regard to the Tamil community, Lt. Gen. Silva denied any bias for or against any community and emphasised that he leads the Army in the national interest.
“As the Commander I am entrusted with the security of every community in Sri Lanka,” he said. He claimed that he treated all civilians equally and recalled his upbringing in the multi-ethnic township of Matale.
Declining to comment on the controversial US-Sri Lankan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that could lead to foreign forces being deployed on Sri Lankan territory, the Army Commander noted it isa policy matter and therefore the decision lay with the Government.
Colombo Defence Seminar 2019 this week
The Colombo Defence Seminar 2019 will be held in Colombo for the ninth consecutive year at the end of this month.
The seminar will be held on 29-30 August. This year 27 foreign and local speakers will address the apex defence conference on the topic of ‘Evolving Military Excellence in the Contemporary Security Landscape’.
The two-day gathering of military and academic experts will see sessions on topics such as Asia-Pacific Security Landscape, New Faces of Global Terrorism, Impact of Autonomous Weapon Systems, Military Readiness and Disaster Management among others.
The Defence Seminar will be closely followed by the annual military training exercises next month.
Cormorant Strike – X 2019 Tri-forces military exercises will kick off on 3 September with the participation of 300 officers and over 2,400 soldiers, sailors and airmen. Held for the 10th consecutive year the exercise is planned to showcase Sri Lanka military experience and to act as a catalyst for capacity building of Special Operations Forces (SOF) of the three armed forces and to aid in formulating a framework for the employment of the Sri Lankan SOFs.
The exercise will mainly include Army Special Forces, Commandos, and members from the elite 53rd Airmobile Brigade, Navy Special Boat Squadron, Marines and Air Force Regiment Special Forces and other support formations.
Most of the operational exercises will take place on the East coast near Trincomalee and Minneriya. Some specialised segment of the exercises will take place around the island. 23 countries have been invited to be observers for this exercise.
Cormorant Strike – X 2019 will come to an end on 24 September at Kachchativu in Trincomalee.