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Heal those who bear the scars of war: Foreign Ministry Secretary

Foreign Ministry Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam yesterday stressed the need to “heal our own who bear the scars of war both mental and physical” as a preventive measure to counter violent extremism.

Kariyawasam who delivered the concluding remarks at the final day of the 2017 Defence Seminar at the BMICH added that while the bombs were silent, societies were fragile and communities were vulnerable to external influences.

“The government alone cannot undertake this task and there needs to be dedication from each individual from every level of society," he said speaking on the Seminar’s theme of ‘Countering Violent Extremism: Global Trends”.

As he lent prominence to methods of preventing extremism, the secretary stressed the need to “take a fresh look at education”. As a result, the government is expected to roll out a new education programme called ‘Think Equal’ for preschools in the country to change “Mindsets and attitudes through value based education and emphasis on social learning”.

As the seminar touched on ways in which individuals become radialised, the Foreign Secretary said it was important that those who have given up violence be treated with sensitivity and without intimidation.

He said there should be capacity building measures for civil society groups so that the citizens are offered an alternative to voice for their concerns rather than resorting to violence.

Kariyawasam said women should be empowered with special assistance extended to women-headed households as women play an important role in preventing violent extremism.

“There needs to be trust built at all levels of the government and in law enforcement, including security forces which are meant to protect the people. Political grievances must be addressed as these are breeding grounds for extremists. We need a functioning and credible democracy with an independent judiciary, law enforcement officers who respect human rights and freedom of speech and religion," he said.

“Security forces are often called upon to counter when societies fail to prevent terrorism casting a big burden on security forces. They have to be mindful in carrying out their duty. They have the burden of making sure that their actions don’t exacerbate the situation," he said.