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Combatting violent extremism, main theme of Defence Seminar 2017

President Maithripala Sirisena inaugurated the Colombo Defence Seminar 2017 themed ‘Countering Violent Extremism: Global Trends’ at the BMICH yesterday. Picture shows the President being conducted to the venue. State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene, Secretary to the President Austin Fernando, Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyarathna, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Army Commander Lt.General Mahesh Senanayake were also present. Picture by Sudath Silva

The Defence Seminar 2017 called for greater cooperation between nations to counter violent extremism and to look at what radicalises an individual to commit an act of terrorism.

The two day seminar which was inaugurated at the BMICH yesterday had Army Commander Lt.Gen. Mahesh Senanayake encourage regional security ties to help fight terrorism.

Defence Ministry Kapila Waidyaratne called for a “collective defence strategy to come up with pragmatic solutions to address the highly volatile global security environment and anticipated operations of violence”.

The seventh annual seminar declared open by President Maithripala Sirisena thus focused on the theme of “Countering Violent Extremism: Global Trends”.

Key note speaker, former United States Navy four-star Admiral William J.Fallon, stressed that if countries are to counter terrorism, governments needed to take responsibility and ensure ‘good governance’.

He explained that whilst Sri Lanka was a good example of how terrorism was defeated, the Armed Forces alone cannot take responsibility for ensuring a ‘secure environment’.

“If people are to continue to enjoy security,live and work, they need a responsible government to be bold and step up and take the responsibility to continue to pull people together,”he said.

As experts argue over the right definition of a ‘terrorist,’Admiral Fallon pointed out that it is generally agreed that insecure and unstable governments, poverty and social ills, economic inequality and a desire to change the status quo made fertile breeding ground for radicalization.

“We need to reduce the fear factor among people and restore their confidence in the ability of the government to provide adequate security and give people the resilience they need”, Admiral Fallon said.

The influence of family,community and religious institutions, he added were also a factor.

“But as individuals with well-off economic backgrounds and education too take to terrorism, it has become more and more difficult to decide on a template of what creates a terrorist,” he said.

In this context he asked that all institutions band together to change our current policy of dealing with terrorism from a more reactive to a proactive strategy.

“Instead of hunting down terrorists, let’s think and act before incidents occur through collaboration,”he said.

“People don’t start out as bad actors with evil intentions, but they get there somehow so we all need to take responsibility; from families, religious institutions and volunteer organisations for the common good, said the Admiral.