The Nation State of Sri Lanka

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 Sri Lanka has a long military history going back many thousands of years. The Army has most often been deployed in rescue operations, relief from floods and of course two insurrections.


by Victor Cherubim 

( November 18, 2017, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) To dare to write about the state of affairs in Sri Lanka would be a fool’s paradise.

Sri Lanka is not Zimbabwe; neither would we ever contemplate a military coup in our fair isle. We are conditioned to battle out our democratic but socialist values until the end of time and why not?

Sri Lanka has a long military history going back many thousands of years. The Army has most often been deployed in rescue operations, relief from floods and of course two insurrections. There was an attempted coup by Reservists in June 1962 against Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. It failed. There was also the accusation which was denied that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa sought army help after the poll defeat on January 8, 2015. Both these incidents were really the turning points in the civil-military relations, with the military being essentially reconstituted afterwards?

Our nation and our military 

Military dictatorships have been a common phenomenon in post colonial States of Asia and Africa. It is not impossibility. In fact it is more an impracticability. The reason being our forces are really very disciplined, highly professional, well trained, more so steeped in proud traditions, partly inherited, but more by virtue of our Buddhist way of life.

Our Army, our “hammaudaa” has literally earned a great deal of respect among our people for its service to the nation during the 30 odd year war. Irrespective of what Lord Naseby, a longstanding ally of Sri Lanka has said disputing the number of war crimes committed by both the army and the LTTE, the Sri Lankan forces has enjoyed a very prestigious position in Sri Lankan life.

This is because the Forces have always been subordinated to civilian authority. We know that the Army was used often for internal security but when their job was done as in the case of Maj.Gen. G.A.Chandrasiri who was Governor, Northern Province he was removed and replaced by a civilian Governor Reginald Cooray.

It is no exaggeration to say that it is not because India will not tolerate a military takeover in her backyard in Sri Lanka, but mainly because we have and maintained constitutional checks and balances and other factors which would not be necessary for me to elaborate.

What exactly is our notion of our Nation State 

The Army’s main function is to defend the State. The history and origins of our notion of our Nation State may be defined as “a type of State that joins the political entity of a State to the cultural entity of a nation, from which it aims to derive its political legitimacy to rule and potentially its status as a sovereign State.” A difficult to comprehend definition?

It is very well to throw definitions of a Nation State, but in Sri Lanka it is not Parliament, it is not the President or the Prime Minister or the Judiciary which is sovereign. It is the People of Sri Lanka which is Sovereign. This is the main difference between Sri Lanka and other nation States around the world.

What does sovereignty entail? 

Our Nation State is not the boundaries of our land mass, it is as someone recently commented, (and which has not been challenged). It is the Territorial Waters or the Territorial Sea as defined in the “1982 UN Convention on the Adjustment of these boundaries”.

In International Maritime Law, the Territorial Sea extends up to 12 nautical miles (22.2km. 13.8,).

“An Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a sea zone prescribed by the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea over which a State has special rights regarding the exploration and use of maritime resources, including energy products from water and wind.”

This EE Zone stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles from the coast of Sri Lanka, which is its Continental Shelf.

The Difference between the Territorial Sea and the Exclusive Economic Zone? 

TS confer full sovereignty over the waters whereas the EEZ is merely “a sovereign right” of the Coastal State’s rights below the surface of the sea.

“Our Sri Lanka Navy has a tough task of not only protecting our Island Nation State with a territorial sea of 21,500 km and an Exclusive Economic Zone of up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the Coastal Line, an extent of 517,700 Km2 facing many island spots at sea”.

“Sovereignty over the Ocean” 

How many of us have looked at an Ocean Map to know that there is no landmass below Island of Sri Lanka right down to the Antarctic?

How many of us know that the Nation State of Sri Lanka stretches right down to the

Antarctic? Our Mind boggles? Think again? I am a Sri Lankan.

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Source URL: Sri Lanka Guardian

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