The NTS-Asia Consortium’s 5th Annual Conference was held between 13th April to 15th April, 2021 on virtual platform. The programme staff of the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) Shavini De Silva and Nimmi Jayathilake presented at the “Panel Session 2: Cybersecurity and Transnational Crimes” while Ayodhya Krishani Amarajeewa made a presentation at the “Panel Session 3 of the conference, themed “Crisis Response and Sustainable Future”. This year’s annual conference theme was “Asian Security in Post-COVID 19 Environment”.

Human trafficking and Drug trade: A Foremost Non-traditional Security Threat in Sri Lanka

Shavini De Silva
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies

The human trafficking and the drug trade have become a foremost non-traditional security threat in post-war Sri Lanka. The phenomenal increase in busting human trafficking attempts and unremittin

g discovery of large haul of drugs in Sri Lanka point to the fact that Sri Lanka has become a transshipment hub for human trafficking and drug trade in the Indian Ocean. The strategic location of Sri Lanka at the center of the Indian Ocean makes it a convenient operational center for international crime networks with local accomplices to collect people and drugs before trafficking them to identified destinations. As crime networks behind these clandestine operations are inter-linked, the both threats are often interwoven. So far, there is no evidence to manufacturing illicit drugs in Sri Lanka. They are smuggled to Sri Lanka for local consumption and transshipment. It is estimated that there are currently about 45,000 regular users of heroin and about 600,000 users of cannabis in Sri Lanka. As an island state, the sealing the sea border of Sri Lanka is near impossible and regular patrolling is the only possible option. There are three types of human trafficking in Sri Lanka: first, human traffickers trick Sri Lankan, mainly women, and transport them to the Middle East and Europe for forced labour; second, trafficking girls from other countries to Sri Lanka for commercial sex; and third, trafficking people, Sri Lanka and other nationals, in a hazardous boat journey, promising to take them to their dream destinations in Australia or Italy. Sri Lankan government is struggling hard to address these twin threats but its success is hampered due to institutional and statutory shortcomings. There is a limit to what nationally can do and Sri Lanka is confronting only the tip of the iceberg. To effectively meet the challenge, coordinated regional approach is needed.

 

Dual role of Social Media and Social Harmony in a Plural Society: Sri Lankan Case

 

 

Nimmi Jayathilake
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies

 In information society, social media is a double-edged weapon. It is a handy tool in promoting social harmony but also a convenient mode of promoting prejudices and hatred in a plural social fabric. Sri Lanka is a case to study its dual role. Access to social media in Sri Lanka is high. At present 6.2 million Sri Lankans are on social media. More than 50% Sri Lankans access breaking news from social media. As anyone can post anything without being accountable for fact-checking on this public platform, misinformation spreads faster online. Hence, it is not always a trusted news source and people are more likely to encounter false and misleading information on a daily basis. For the past few years, Sri Lanka has encountered several cases where individuals or groups of individuals used social media to incite emotional responses and distract social harmony. This is a matter of serious concern as it has posed a grave impact on the fragile ethnic and religious harmony in post-war Sri Lanka. This study explores how social media manipulates public opinion in Sri Lanka with vested interests, with special attention to anti-Muslim campaign. It traces the motivations behind the spread of misinformation, the psychology of fake news, i.e, the way these campaigns work and how they convince people. By analyzing identified cases in post-war Sri Lanka that were instigated by the forces who are active in social media, the paper analyses the causes, outcomes and the many implications that had been left behind until today. It also offers suggestions to combat the spread of fake news and misinformation by strengthening relevant institutions and tools through invigorating democratic practices such as the rule of law and building social forces and social resilience in post-conflict Sri Lanka.

 

Environment and Sustainable Growth: Balancing Competing Interests in Post-COVID Sri Lanka

 

Ayodhya Krishani Amarajeewa
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies

Balancing objectives and concerns relating to environment and sustainable growth has become key issues in Sri Lanka. Both environment and sustainable growth are equally important. It is not possible to achieve one at the expense of the other. There are many interest and pressure groups promoting environmental sustainability. In the meantime, other interest groups and those who are more focused on faster economic growth promote sustainable growth. In these contrasting interests, policymakers are faced with a delicate issue whether to adhere to fast-paced growth or to prioritize environment or how to balance the two. In the historical context, in the post-war era, the environmental degradation has been a point of contest in the development forums. Far-reaching implications of fast economic growth are evident in the post-war development, as the need is to meet the targeted development in a given timeframe. This created a scenario where deforestation is rampant and development that jeopardized the environmental balance. Similarly, the post-COVID Sri Lanka is at the risk of jeopardy if post-COVID recovery and development to take place out-smarting the environmental sustainability. If Sri Lanka is going to be far too fast and impatient in reversing socio-economic implications of COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible that Sri Lanka might stumble on its way to post-COVID recovery. In this context, this paper is an attempt to analyse the competing interests of environmental sustainability, sustainable growth and fast-paced growth in post-COVID Sri Lanka. This paper defines environmental sustainability on the following three aspects: management of renewable resources; pollution control (sustainable waste management); and management of non-renewable resources (development of substitutes). Based on this definition, this paper will explore how post-COVID Sri Lanka will ensure environmental sustainability and how Sri Lanka will balance it with its socio-economic growth prospects.