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Sri Lanka Army

Defenders of the Nation

29th August 2017 12:22:43 Hours

Day 2 Sessions on ‘Mechanisms to Counter Violent Extremism’ in Colombo Defence Seminar Begin

The ongoing ‘Colombo Defence Seminar 2017’ Day 2 sessions kicked off this morning (29) at the BMICH, focused on the session theme, ‘Mechanisms to Counter Violent Extremism’. Dr Mrs Sarala Fernando, Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN was in the chair for the morning session, flanked by three panelists, Major General Roger J. Noble, Deputy Commanding General - North, for the Headquarters, United States Army Pacific, Australia, Ms. Sabariah Binte Mohamed Hussin, Research Analyst at International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajarathnam School of International Studies (RSIC) in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, a specialist in CVE, Singapore and Prof. Nicholas J. Cull of UK, Professor, Centre for Public Diplomacy, University of Southern, California.

In her opening remarks, she remarked that the debate on definitions and root causes seemed to suggest that while terrorism and violent extremism are two sides of the same coin but in need of different counter measures and timing. The importance of legal mechanisms was emphasized that with globalization the traditional role of the military in defending national borders was no longer viable and that what was required was a collective approach involving the global, multilateral, the regional, national, right down to the community level.

In the comparison of regions, a question arose as to why oil rich West Asia plagued with so many conflicts when in East Asia dialogue and negotiation had produced good results on CVE? There were warnings against rising Islamaphobia which was aggravating the problem and reference to the negative impacts of climate change. Some regions like the EU appeared well advanced in policy making and implementation of joint programmes on CVE including sharing of information among practitioner networks whereas opinion was expressed that here in South Asia we needed to do more especially given the threat of the returning combatants from West Asia. At the same time, it was suggested that there was no magic formula or template to address violent radicalization and we should even be wary of terms like "lone wolf" since such attacks rarely occurred in isolation. Moreover de-radicalization efforts were difficult and had to be studied over the horizon to judge their success.

“So our distinguished panel faces the challenge of taking up all these thoughts from yesterday and broadening the discussion with something new. What could that be? I suggest that one theme from yesterday needs our focus today and that is the thought that we need to understand the narrative of the terrorist and set up alternative narratives, for example, it was suggested that the technology at our disposal could be better used to disrupt violent acts at their different stages of planning and execution. It is then not just about take down websites and on line magazines propagandizing violent extremism but also about presenting alternative ideas. It was suggested that egos may be more effective at this than governments,” she remarked.

Since Prof Cull mentioned a special role for international broadcasting and here I would like to add some local information for our foreign guests. Radio Ceylon dates back to year 1925, E31 when its first precursor, Colombo Radio, was launched using a Medium Wave radio transmitter built by engineers of the Telegraph Department using radio equipment from a captured German submarine just 3 years after the launch of BBC, Colombo radio was the first ever radio station in Asia and the second oldest radio station in the world. First playing gramophone music and then executing its own programmes, Radio Ceylon had a huge musical influence in South Asia at the time but today has been overtaken by Bollywood, television and the digital media.