Is Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Sri Lanka’s Version of the USA’s Blackwater?
At the time that Rakna Arakshaka Lanka was set up, there was some mention in the mainstream media of its establishment with the attendant speculation as to its nature and purpose.
However, since that original recognition there has been virtually no reference to it in the English media except for mention in connection with the military training program at the country’s universities for which it was allegedly responsible.
Various internet websites, not all of which are reputed for the absolute accuracy of their reporting, have made mention of its existence and the purposes it could serve, none of them of a particularly acceptable or attractive nature if one was to believe what was reported! What does appear to be the case is that the Defence Secretary has established a security company with a comprehensive range of operations that is very clearly para-military in its complexion and intended operation. The company’s very extensive website, which includes photographs of professional quality of its plant and equipment, names its Objectives as follows:
• To provide security to vital public and private institutions, installations, localities of economic interest inclusive of those connected with provision of national security enabling to maintain uninterrupted economy of the country.
• To assist the Security Forces and the Police by minimising their engagements in security duties at vital public and private institutions, installations, localities of economic interest outside operational areas enabling them to be engaged in active duties in operational areas.
• To assist in the development process of the country.
• To assist disaster management activities at times of national calamities.
• To assist the government in meeting the problem of unemployment.
• To be of assistance in the future welfare of ex-service and Police personnel.
• To assist the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order by training male and female security personnel employed by private security services.
What is apparent is that, while this is a wholly state-owned entity, it does not answer to the legislature or its Committee On Public Enterprises (COPE) and, through it to the people of this country in any shape, form or fashion.
This should be a matter of singular importance in a situation where there are very few oversight bodies or checks and balances in our system of government to begin with and which, for lack of a more specific term, can be described as some kind of ‘dictatorial democracy.’ While this might be wholly in keeping with ‘governing arrangements’ post-18th Amendment, it is neither healthy nor acceptable in a country that still pays lip-service to democratic practice.
In fact, the Objectives of the company can be interpreted in such a manner as to permit it to engage in a very wide range of activities, inclusive of providing what amounts to activities duplicating many of those which a conventional democratically-elected government or its more formal security services would normally perform.
If you don’t believe me, I leave it to your powers of comprehension to enable you, the reader, to arrive at your own conclusions particularly if you are able to check out the Rakna website which is listed in the post-script to this column. Recent accusations that this security company was playing a mercenary role in the seas off Somalia, while they might not be of immediate concern in the matter of the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka’s waters, have implications in the area of international relations that transcend those of some outfit playing at ‘Sinbad the Sailor’ on the high seas, allegedly providing security to some ship owner in the farthest reaches of the Arabian Sea or Indian Ocean.
Since the company operating this para-military organization is wholly owned by the Sri Lankan state, any repercussions that are generated by the actions of any Rambos they might cut loose on the ocean wave, would, undoubtedly, come home to roost with the Sri Lankan nation. What is most disturbing in the context of the Sri Lankan reality is the fact that the government, in keeping with the ‘very valuable thinking’ of the President, to quote the organization’s website, has chosen to set up this private, paramilitary organization which has an intelligence wing and an armed wing, among others, while we still have not demobilized our security forces approximating half a million men and women (as described by Mr. Keheliya Rambukwelle before the end of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam/ LTTE/ ‘Tigers’).
If this is not the Sri Lankan equivalent of the Blackwater mercenary organization that played (continues to play?) a truly infamous role in Iraq and Afghanistan, I don’t know what is! In fact, the catering and other commercial enterprises that it claims to be embarking upon more recently suggest that it is seeking to expand horizontally and vertically into a very comprehensive business with the patronage of the President and government and with an avowed intent of providing elite military and intelligence services, to boot.
Blackwater has been subject to investigation and exposure by the media in the US and elsewhere, something which has not occurred in Sri Lanka and most unlikely to occur given the abject servility of its Fourth Estate to those that are in absolute control of Rakna Arakshaka Lanka. Of course, despite white van abductions, extra-judicial executions, shadowy entities operating seemingly above the law in the matter of illegal treasure-hunting, etc. etc. the opposition parties do not appear to have any great interest in examining, leave alone protesting, the establishment of an armed force that is under the complete control of the Defence Secretary and his brother, the President, outside the scrutiny of the citizens of this country.
In keeping with current trends in the country and the behaviour of our government, should we start thinking seriously of trading-in our national anthem, ‘Namo, Namo, Matha’ for that Broadway classic, ‘Anything Goes?’
For those with access to the internet, let me suggest that they ‘Google’ the Wikipedia entry on ‘Blackwater’ which is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackwater_Security_Consulting as well as other websites such as http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=8353942004369311258, In addition, Rakna Arakshaka Lanka’s website is at http://www.rakna.lk/pgs/watwe.htm.