Attention! Streamlining the Administration vs Covid: A Public Memo for Gotabaya Rajapaksa

An Anonymous Collective of Concerned Citizen Retirees**

)This Memorandum is meant to Assist the Sri Lanka Government to face the Economic, Fiscal Policy and Social impacts due to COVID-19. This is a PUBLIC SERVICE by us for the benefit of the entire Country & its People. We would like the widest possible public discussion & debate of this Memorandum. Please forward this Document to ANY and ALL the Email Addresses, FaceBook Accounts, News Websites that you have contact with.

(2) Those among you who can do so, please Translate this Memo into SINHALA and TAMIL and then fwd it to your friends, Sinhala & Tamil Newspapers & Websites. We are unable to operate the Sinhala or Tamil Keyboard.

(3) To the Editors of Newspapers, Websites, Blogs, etc, such as The Island; The Sunday Times; Daily FT;  Lankadeepa; Divainna; Colombotelegraph; etc. We have kept this document as brief as possible. PLEASE TRY AND PRINT THIS DOC IN ITS ENTIRETY IN YOUR NEWSPAPERS & WEBSITES. That would be a great Public Service.

(4) We know that Newspapers wish to be exclusive. And are reluctant to print Documents which may also appear in other ‘news outlets’. But please consider our Predicament because we have no Information as to which ‘news outlet’ will, or will not, print this Memo. Therefore we have to send it to everybody.

Memorandum to the Sri Lanka Government. Methods to Increase Govt Capacity to Deal with COVID-19 Consequences in the Years Ahead ….. June 14th, 2020

by The Association of Retired Government Civilian and Military Officials, Businessmen & Lawyers (ARGCMBL)


Your Excellency, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, we are the Association of Retired Government Civilian and Military Officers, Businessmen & Lawyers (ARGCMBL). We wish to remain anonymous due to the highly partisan polarisation of politics in Sri Lanka (we assume that all Sri Lanka  readers of this Memorandum are aware of this fact). Some of us live in the USA, UK, Australia and other countries. The majority of us live and work in Sri Lanka.

There may be 2nd and 3rd waves of COVID-19 in Europe, China, USA, India, Sri Lanka. More virulent genetic mutations of COVID-19 may evolve. COVID-19 is not the last virus that will infect humans. There may be COVID-23…COVID-25. The many ways in which COVID-19 will affect the World’s economy are being analysed by many hundreds of research organisations, Intelligence Agencies and ‘Think Tanks’ all over the World. We need not repeat these in this Memo. We assume that the Sri Lanka Government is making itself aware of these analyses.  Sri Lanka faces the prospect of mass unemployment, political instability many other economic problems.

This is a Public Memorandum to The President, the Cabinet, the Opposition, the Press and to all citizens and well-wishers of Sri Lanka. We support the Recommendations to the Government by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Pathfinder Foundation and the Government’s Tasks Forces. We have to be as concise as possible due to Newspapers and Websites’ reluctance to publish lengthy Memoranda. Concerned Citizens are invited to join the discussion.

Vital need to ‘Speak Truth to Power’

We began discussing this Memorandum in April 2020. Now, our suggestions are even more urgent. We see a vital need to ‘Speak Truth to Power’. Your Excellency, the subjects dealt-with in this Memo may have not been thought-of  by your Civilian & Military Advisors. Or considered too ‘controversial’ and potentially harmful to their careers. Therefore such subjects are deliberately avoided.

The Subjects dealt-with in this Memorandum are in three Parts. In Part-1 we advocate improving the productivity and efficiency of the approximately 1,500,000+ (1.5 Million) employees of the Government, a ‘human resource’ that the government already has at its disposal. The recurrent monthly salary cost alone for this Resource is Rupees 100 Billion as recently revealed by the Secretary to the President.

We are not advocating ‘militarizing’ government employees nor government service. We are also not suggesting that Project Implementation etc be handed over to the military. Doing so would (a) result in the rest of the government employees – approx. 1,300,000 – ‘passing the buck’ onto the military and becoming even less productive; (b) it is not healthy for the Country’s Democratic Institutions; (c) will lead to corruption in the military; (d) will result in all three armed forces becoming less professional and losing their focus of their primary roles.

In Part-2 we suggest that the Defence HQ (DHQ) Complex in Akuregoda, Pelawatta be re-tasked and become the Economic Development and Ministerial ‘Hub’ which brings together all Ministries and Departments that are strategically crucial for the major task of post-COVID-19 Economic development of Sri Lanka in the uncertain years ahead.

In Part-3, and associated to Part-2, we analyse the Military Vulnerabilities of the proposed DHQ Complex. We suggest that Part-3 be read before reading Parts 1 and 2.

Part-1: Recommendations to improve the productivity and efficiency of the approximately 1,500,000+ government employees

By ‘government employees’ we mean all people who get remuneration from any government institutions such as Ministries, Provincial Councils, ‘Authorities’, Corporations, Departments down to the Grama Niladaris and labourers working for Town Councils. This is a ‘human resource’ Asset that the Government already ‘owns’. Monthly recurrent expenditure (salaries alone) is  Rs.100 Billion. Does the government get, per month, Rs.100 Billion worth of Service / Work / ‘Return-on-Investment’ from this Rs.100 Billion? Definitely not. There is a great deal of absenteeism and low-performance in the hundreds of the above government institutions.  Increasing the productivity and efficiency of this Resource by 15%?…20%?… and if possible even 30% or higher will be a tremendous boost to the government’s efforts in the years ahead.

The low productivity and inefficiency that afflicts Sri Lanka’s government sector is a massive cluster of problems. We have no space to analyze these problems in this Memorandum. For our immediate purpose of assisting the government’s Post-COVID-19 Economic Development effort we draw your attention to the following vicious combination of: (a) the lack of proper Chain of Accountability and ‘monitoring of task completion’; (b) the lack of  clear and unambiguous allocation of Responsibility to individuals or Teams for the completion of tasks and projects. The duplication and sometimes triplication of Authority among different Ministries which immensely slows down the decision making and implementation process; (c) the senior and mid-level management’s inability to monitor in real time (or with a time-lag of a day or two or even a week) the phase up to which that Task or Project has been implemented.

Obtaining  ‘real time’ feedback is difficult, costly and not required for most Projects. For most Govt Projects a time-lag of a day up to one (01) week is  acceptable; (d) the inability of Ministers and/or Senior Officials to clearly demarcate ‘Project Completion Deadlines’ which have to be met by various levels of management and administration down the hierarchy. Responsibility for Task Progress and Completion needs to be specifically allocated; (e) the time consumed in many hundreds of meetings where officials from several Ministries and departments travel all abround Colombo’s traffic congestion.

All government officials from the highest levels to those at the village level know how to utilize the above weaknesses to their advantage. This is a culture and knowledge that has built-up over decades. It is ‘conveyed’ from generation to generation of government employees. These problems cannot be overcome in a matter of months or even years. But we suggest that specific measures (see below) that Your Excellency can take and implement immediately will be able to ‘leap-frog’ over this cluster of problems. Your Excellency, you can begin to rectify some of the above mentioned problems and improve the government sector’s ‘Timely achievement of Targets and Objectives’.

Your Excellency, over the previous several months we have seen on TV you addressing ministry secretaries, senior officials and other types of officials. We see you exhort them to ‘increase productivity’ of government establishments; to ‘serve the general public with dedication’, etc. We see these government officials in their smart ties and sarees solemnly nod their heads.

But have there been any noticeable increase in the productivity or efficiency of the Government? Maybe a 3% to 5% increase for a few days. Your Excellency, many of us have been present at similar Exhortations by Presidents Premadasa, Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sirisena, respectively. None of these exhortations resulted in any sustained or long-term increase in productivity and efficiency. Similarly, field visits by Your Excellency. Consider your field visit to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles. Has there been any increase in productivity? Any reduction in the corruption? Does the government have a scientific method of measuring such improvements, if any? Your Excellency what the government needs is a System that will result in a qualitative improvement.

1.1: Bring Together All the Important Economic Development Ministries, ‘Authorities’ and Departments in a ‘Hub’ Located in one Large Office Complex   

The above measure will not immediately and magically increase government productivity by 70% to 100%. But if implemented by Your Excellency it will begin the process of qualitative and quantitative improvement in the productivity of the Government. Your Excellency, we need to immediately mention at this point that there will be many Government Civilian and Military Officials, and even Ministers who will Oppose our Suggestion because it will compel them to be more productive. You and the PM will be in the same Complex and will be able to request these Officials to meet you at short notice (see specific instances mentioned later).

Our suggestion is that the following Ministries and Departments be brought together in to one large Office Complex / ‘Hub’: an Office for The President (this can be one of several Offices for The President); PM’s Office; the Ministries of Finance; Planning; Agriculture; Industrial Development; Defence; CDS’s Office; a small JOH (Joint Operations HQ); Export Promotion; BOI (Bureau of Investment); Department of Census & Statistics; Self-Employment Project Generation;  Environmental Protection (including the CEA); Electricity & Power Generation; Irrigation. Some office space should be kept vacant and made temporarily  available to Investors and Project proponents to work within with their own teams of Executives, analysts, Environmental Consultants, Project Engineers and such like.

We suggest that one entire Office Building be allocated for The President, Ministry of Defence, CDS,  JOH (Joint Operations HQ), ‘Project Monitoring Room’ and any other Offices as may be decided. This building should have a special security perimeter separating it from the rest of the buildings in the Complex. If possible, tunnels could be constructed which enable The President to move from his building to the adjacent buildings without having to come into the open. This Ministerial ‘Hub’ will make redundant many of The President’s, PM’s and Ministers’ movement by road and thereby reduce the security measures and stoppage of Colombo traffic.

Bringing together all these Ministries and Departments in to this ‘Hub’ will generate a Synergy that will, we estimate, generate at least 20% to 30% increase in Productivity because ‘Project Monitoring Teams’ working under The President will check on the progress of different sets of Projects. The ‘Hub’ will drastically reduce time being wasted by Officials travelling to meetings in traffic congested Colombo roads. A clear system of Project Supervision and Progress Monitoring will prevent officials from shuffling files around and deliberately delaying urgent official work (in some instances to obtain Bribes from an Investor). The ‘Hub’ will prevent the misuse of official vehicles and time travelling around Colombo and the rest of the country attending to personal matters while pretending to be on official work.

In the case of The President, PM and other Ministers this concentration of Ministries will enable meetings – of even a few Ministers and Officials and The President’s Staff – at very short notice. Reduce as much as possible the time consumed for Foreign and Local Investors to get Projects approved. As at present it is reliably reported that it takes a Foreign Investor at least two (02) years to get his Project approved. In the post-COVID-19 World, with many other countries competing for the same FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), allowing the above to continue to happen will amount to Sri Lanka committing Economic Suicide. We do not advocate violating Environmental and other Regulations as that is a very short-sighted policy. But, to set deadlines for the completion of distinct phases of any Project Approval or requests from the government to  modify the Project to adhere to Govt regulations. The ‘Monitoring Teams’ working from The President’s office can coordinate resolutions of  ‘bottlenecks’. The Reports of these ‘Presidential Monitoring Teams’ can be written-up on the White Boards of the ‘Project Implementation Monitoring Room’ (see (1.2) below).

This concentration into one ‘Hub’ will enable the President, PM and Ministers to quickly organise meetings, make decisions and to begin implementing the many hundreds of Projects – large and small – that need to begin, and be implemented, if Sri Lanka is to thrive in the post-COVID-19 World. It needs to be noted that COVID-22,…or COVID-24 are a very real possibility in the future.

1.2: ‘Project Implementation Monitoring Room’

We suggest the following concrete policy so that The President, PM and Ministries will be able to keep track of the implementation of the many hundreds of projects – large and small- which need to be implemented in the years ahead. One of the chronic weaknesses of the government sector is its inability to monitor the hundreds of projects that the government funds or is a part of. Govt employees at all levels know this and take advantage of this. Large mountains of project files is an inefficient way of proceeding.

We suggest ‘The Project Implementation Monitoring Room’. This should be a large room, for example 100 feet x 40 feet. This would provide approx 2,000 Square Feet of wall space. Even a larger room would be suitable. All four walls to be covered with large White Boards. Maps of Sri Lanka and / or Districts can be displayed at various locations on the Walls, as and when required. The details of all Government’s Projects, Public-Private Projects, and even large Private Sector Projects  should be displayed on these White Boards. When considered necessary right-down to the Grama Niladari level.

Specially trained team of personnel from different Ministries to enter the data, write the texts, draw diagrams on the White Boards. The President, and those that he authorises, could, if they wish to, write reminders, observations, criticisms on the White Boards. The President’s comments could be in a marker pen of a distinctive colour.

We strongly suggest that this ‘Implementation Monitoring Room’ should be implemented with existing simple technology of White Boards, marker pens and manual operators. If we assume a wall space of 2,000 square feet, such a Room – if it already exists – can be equipped and fully operational in two (02) weeks. We recommend White Board technology because: (1) it is user friendly for both the operating staff and The President, Ministers and Senior Officials; (2) the technology is robust and will work 24 hours & 365 days a year; (3) immune from lightning strikes and voltage fluctuations; (4) immune from cyber-attacks, computer viruses and Hacking; (5) immune to any Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) weapons; (6) immune to TV Screen failures; (7) immune to the need for a mass of wiring to link the many dozens of TV Screens together; (8) does not need thousands of watts of electricity; (9) does not need dozens of specially trained computer Data Entry Operators.

A record of each day’s White Board Displays can be kept by a small team of dedicated operators who will be tasked to take Digital Photographs of each White Board at the beginning and end of each day. These Photographs can be filed according to day-month-year in computers. Backups made and kept as a permanent record. Any of these photographs should be available to be shown on a large screen behind The President as and when he requires it, at Cabinet meetings, and Planning meetings. Thereby The President, Ministers and other authorised personnel will be able to see the ‘progression’ of Projects.

Your Excellency we strongly recommend not creating an Electronics & Computers-dependent system. Your Excellency’s deep knowledge of  IT may encourage you to move in that direction. Some Officials too may encourage you in that direction. But, covering the walls with large Flat-Screen TV Screens with a total of approx 2000+ Sq. Feet is vulnerable to dozens of electronic and technical breakdowns to which a White Board-system is immune. In many Hollywood films ‘Command Rooms’ filled wall-to-wall with TV screens can be seen. But nobody mentions the endless maintenance and repair work that has to be done to keep such systems functioning.

When visiting this Project Monitoring Room The President, PM, Ministers and Secretaries will be able to obtain a quick overview of all government Projects in 10 to 15 minutes. Or they could choose to quickly monitor the progress of one or two Projects which are crucial at that time. When The President decides he can request a ‘tag’ – a query, an addition, a suggestion – be attached to a White Board at a particular point. All these makes this system ‘user friendly’. The President could sometimes choose to hold Cabinet meetings in this Room. The Cabinet can be seated at a long table in the centre of the room and The President could draw the attention of one or more Ministers to various Government Projects. The Cabinet will be encircled by the government’s entire Program of Work and this itself will generate Synergy amongst them.

Through intercoms which operate within the building complex The President or PM will be able to summon any Ministry Secretary or Official to this Room at short notice (Note: Your Excellency, this is one of the many reasons why many government officials who will be required to work in this Office Complex, if so decided by you, will oppose the implementation of our suggestion. They want to be as far-away from you and your Staff’s supervision as possible. But, down the road, the Economic and Political consequences of the government’s Economic under-performance will come to rest on your shoulders). With telephones The President should be able to instantly communicate with Officials in Colombo or in distant Districts. The President, PM & Ministers need to be able to query the reasons for lack of progress of (some) projects. They can request information as to why (some) Projects are lagging. Then rectification measures can be adopted immediately in meetings summoned soon afterwards. The visual representation of all Government Projects on the White Boards will be a great asset to innovative thinking of the Cabinet as a whole and will contribute to further increasing the generation of Synergy within the government system.

Part-2: Our Suggestion for this large Office Complex ‘Hub’ is the DHQ Building Complex in Akuregoda, Pelawatte

The shifting of the Headquarters of the three (03) Armed forces and many other Govt Offices to the Sri Jayawardenepura-Battaramulla Area is the implementation of a Govt policy which dates back to the late-1990s. As of June 2020 many Govt Offices and Ministries –eg. Public Administration, Education, Environment, Forest Department, ID & Passport Office, Dept of Census & Statistics – have already been shifted and are working in separate buildings. We agree that this policy is needed to make Colombo the Commercial Capital.

The Question we raise regarding the DHQ Complex is the following (please see Part-3 for detailed analysis):

Is it wise, from a strictly Military Perspective, to concentrate all Sri Lanka’s Armed Forces Headquarters into an area approx. 500 x 500 metres? And just 20 Kilometres to the outer edge of Sri Lanka’s territorial waters?  Our considered Military Assessment is that it is not suitable to do so. We suggest that at least 800 to 1000 metres separate each Armed Forces HQ from the other (see Part-3, below, for detailed analysis & explanation)

Therefore we suggest that the Defence HQ Building Complex in Akuregoda, Pelawatte be re-tasked for the above Ministerial & Economic Development ‘Hub’.

Our suggestion will probably be met with strong opposition from numerous Ministers, military and civilian officials. And, if implemented, will initially consume a certain amount of time to re-organize the Offices. The officials will complain at the inconvenience. But we request you to take the ‘long-view’ and perceive the synergetic benefits that will accrue to the Govt. Thankfully, the Navy and the Air Force have not, as yet, moved into the DHQ Complex. But the SL Army has moved in and will prove to be the most difficult to persuade to move. As it is the Army ‘dominates’ the entirety of the Ministry of Defence Road. Trees have been planted for each Regiment. Artillery guns are on display. In the future too the Army can continue to ‘dominate’ the Ministry of Defence Road.

From all the Ministers, government officials and military officers who oppose our suggestion we request them to imagine the following: the ‘inconvenience’ If two, three or more 500 Kg or 750 Kg Drone-Bombs explode within the inner courtyard of the DHQ. Keep in mind that the DHQ is meant to last at least another 70 years. Note that the original buildings at Panagoda Cantonment were built in the 1950s. Now, 70 years later, they are in a very good repair.  The DHQ Buildings too have been built very solidly. They could last another 70 to 100 years, if not more. Can you guarantee that our analyses in Part-3 (below) is unrealistic? Yes, we agree that we too don’t know the future but is it not militarily prudent to at least separate the three HQs from one another with approx.1000 metres?

2.1: Many Alternative Buildings Available in the Sri Jyawardenepura-Battaramulla Area for the HQs of the three Armed Forces

We do not recommend the expenditure of scarce Government resources to build yet more Office Complexes in the Sri Jyawardenepura-Battaramulla area. There are many Government owned building that are suitable for the Headquaters of the three armed forces and other Offices planned to be located in the DHQ building complex.

We recommend that Army HQ, Navy HQ and AF HQ be located in separate buildings in the Sri Jayawardenepura – Battaramulla Area. These buildings can be existing buildings with modifications and additional buildings built nearby  required by that respective armed force. Some of these building will anyway become vacant if their Ministries are shifted to the ‘Hub’ as we suggest. The present occupants of some other buildings can be shifted elsewhere and that building given to a respective armed force. There may be other Ministry buildings which are due to be built and which can now be modified and built as  for one of the Armed Forces.

Some examples of existing buildings in the Area are: (i) Western Province Provincial Council building;  (ii) Ministry of Environment building; (iii) Central Environmet Agency (CEA) building;  (iv) Sethsiripaya building (Ministry of Public Administration); (v) Sausiripaya building(Ministry of Education); (vi) Forest Department building; (vii) Timber Corporation; (viii) Dept of Census & Statistics.  This is not a complete list.

2.2: A Very Brief Description of the DHQ Complex

Once completed this Office Complex will be the largest single Office Complex in Sri Lanka.  Information on the DHQ was obtained by us from The Sunday Reader, 8 Nov 2019, Wikipedia, and Lanka News Web 8 Nov 2019.  Readers can access this information which is in the Public Domain. Some specific details we mention below such as the number of storeys in the buildings; number of personnel who are to be based at the DHQ Complex; may differ from the actual figures. Such errors, however, that does not affect the accuracy of our overall analysis.

The Building Complex consists of eight building each with either 9 or 10 storeys. Total floor area is approx. 288,000 square meters. The following are earmarked to occupy most of the Complex: the Ministry of Defense, Office of the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), Headquarters of the Sri Lanka Army, Navy and Air Force, respectively.

The three separate Officers Messes for the three separate armed forces are reported as consisting of 7 floors. A total of 1,597 Officers are anticipated, of whom 545 will be resident and 1,052 will live outside the Complex. The Messes for the Other Ranks will consist of many floors and cater for 10,250 persons. Of this number 6,100 persons will be resident and 4,150 persons living outside the premises.

A separate building is allocated for the most modern Communications presently with the Sri Lanka government, and there is also a tall Communication tower. Two entire blocks have been allocated to the SL Army. Allegedly consisting of 26 Acres of office space. Is this what should get priority on scarce govt resources?

Your Excellency, is the allocation of a vital Asset like the DHQ to the military what Sri Lanka needs in this COVID-19 era? Economic growth in the future years is very uncertain.  Can Sri Lanka afford to lose this opportunity to build Synergy?

2.3: The Origins of the Concept for the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) Complex

Your Excellency, the concept for the DHQ Complex is attributed to when you were the Secretary MoD, in 2011. Your Excellency, according to newspaper reports the Pentagon in Washington DC was one of your inspirations. It is also mentioned in the Media that you had said  “if the three armed forces could fight together during the War, why cannot they work together in peacetime?”

With all due respect, Your Excellency, The Pentagon in Washington DC does not have all the important Headquarters of all of the USA’s Military and Intelligence Agencies within it. Although it has some, it is primarily the HQ of the DoD (Department of Defence, the equivalent of our Ministry of Defence). Yes, officers from all US armed forces and civilians work within it but it does not concentrate the USA’s main HQs in it. The Pentagon was built in the 1930s. After World War-2 dispersal of military assets has emerged as one key concept (it still is).  Duplicate HQs and Command Centres of the USA are located in known and secret locations in various parts throughout the USA (see Wikipedia). The USA’s system of HQs and Command and Control systems are based upon the (theoretical) possibility of a surprise Nuclear Attack. The Russians and China too have similar dispersed systems. So too Britain, France, Germany and Turkey. India and  Pakistan too have similar systems but on a smaller scale. No country that we are aware of concentrates the main HQs of its three Armed Forces into a 500 x 500 metres building Complex.

Regarding the armed forces working together in wartime and peacetime, the three armed forces have done so from the 1950s. They have always helped governments in times of disaster. As they did during the COVID-19 crisis. ‘Aid-to the–Civil Power’ are in the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts. Establishing a modest JOH (Joint Operations HQ) Office under The President and/or the CDS at the DHQ / ‘Hub’ would be appropriate. But having the main HQs of all three armed forces and other vital intelligence directorates at the DHQ is not advisable, Your Excellency.

Your Excellency, changing your military plan in the face of new information and analyses is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength, adaptability, quickness of mind and long-term strategic vision. Nine years ago, when the DHQ was originally conceived by you in 2011 there was no hint of COVID-19.

2.4: Journalists’ False Arguments For The DHQ

We have read some journalists writing that the DHQ will actually save more than Rs. 50 million per month for the government. This is the rent paid by various Army establishments in Colombo. The above is based on entirely false premises. Nobody advocated that the SL Army keep on renting Offices in Colombo. That happened due to the land on which the  Army HQ was built having to be allocated to the Shangri-La Hotel.

2.5: What are the Capital and Recurrent Costs of the DHQ?

The Capital Cost is said to be between Rs. 50 to 60 Billion. The final cost may be Rs.80+ Billion. It may be more depending on the luxuriousness of the finish that the Navy and Air Force want for their HQs. Sections of the Army’s HQ have been finished similar to a luxury Hotel. In newspapers we read that the DHQ will have state-of-the-art security systems, high standard restaurants, cafeterias, catering appliances, generators, water storage tanks, libraries accommodation facilities,  vehicle parks and two helicopter landing sites. Reminiscent of a luxury Hotel, all of the above are fine. But it assumes peace! All Armed Forces’ HQs must be alert to the possibility of War.

If the HQs of the Army, Navy and Air Force occupy this Building Complex what will be the Monthly Recurrent Costs? Cost of  Electricity for lighting; Electricity for Air-conditioning; Water; Sewage System; monthly maintenance; sleeping accommodation for approx 6,700 personnel? We estimate that the recurrent costs for the Building Complex (excluding salaries and vehicles etc which will anyway be incurred) as at least Rs.800 Million.

2.6: The Service Provided by the three Armed Forces is ‘National Security’

The production-sector of a country’s economy is composed of businesses –large, medium and small – which produce goods and services. The service ‘provided’ by the three Armed Forces is ‘National Security’. ‘National Security’ is a Public Good and produces ‘Peace’. Peace is vital for development. Therefore any country needs to make an investment on its armed forces. But that investment has to be carefully calibrated. If a country does not also generate actual goods and services that consumers need and are prepared to purchase, then that country quickly become unviable.

2.7: Utilize the DHQ a the Government’s central Economic Project Development, Project Implementation and Progress Monitoring Centre

Let us consider that the Capital Costs have already been spent. And that the Government now has at its disposal the largest Office Complex in Sri Lanka, which has cost the government Rs80/- Billion.

Accordingly, we suggest that the government use this Asset to facilitate the Economic Development of Sri Lanka (as already discussed earlier). The DHQ, used as a central Economic Project Development, Project Implementation and Progress Monitoring Centre can generate a huge amount of SYNERGY and Efficiency in the 1,500,000 government work force.

Part-3: The Security Vulnerabilities and Deficiencies of the ‘Defence HQ’ Complex’.

Our identification of the Critical Military Weaknesses of the DHQ are based upon our own collective knowledge, our experience and risk assessment capabilities.  Our Critical Evaluations do not require any ‘secret’ information about the DHQ Complex. We use information already in the Public Realm. The Military Vulnerabilities to the DHQ have to be assessed with the next 70-80 years in mind.

World politics is very volatile. Consider events during just the last 3 months. COVID-19 has ravaged the World’s economies. The political consequences will be seen in the future. Chinese and Indian armies have exchanged fire along their northern border. The USA is withdrawing army units from Germany. Islamic Fundamentalists are continuing with Jihad.

In 2020 can the Sri Lanka Govt be 100% certain that a Hostile State will not attack Sri Lanka in 5-10 years time? The General Staff of any country hostile to Sri Lanka will be able to make the analyses that we make below. Leaders of Non-State Actors such as ISIS are also able to make the Assessments that we make. We reveal no ‘Military Secrets’ in this Memorandum.

3.1: Lessons from the Eelam Wars

In this context we wish to first remind the government and officials that there are examples from the Eelam Wars 2 and 3 where the then governments and Army HQ of that time ignored warnings. All of the examples below are in the public realm in Sri Lankan newspaper Archives and websites.

(i) The vulnerability of the JOH (Joint Op HQ) at Flower Road was discussed in newspapers. No serious risk evaluation was done until the LTTE attacked it with a Suicide Truck-Bomb. (ii) After the LTTE’s attack on Pooneryn Base in 1993 the weaknesses of Mullaittivu Base were realized. These were brought to the attention of the then government and Army HQ for several years. According to newspaper reports at that time the Navy and the Army had different views regarding Mullaittivu Base’s removal. No decision was made. The LTTE attacked in July 1996 and 1,300 military personnel paid the ultimate prise. (iii) The government and Army HQ were warned about the dangerous vulnerability of the Mankulam-Oddusuddan-Nedunkerni FDL (Forward Defence Line). This FDL was attacked by the LTTE and collapsed back to Omantai in November 1999. (iv) Then the danger to Elephant Pass Base became clear. These dangers were discussed in many newspaper articles at that time. Made known to the then government and Army HQ. But no clear decisions were taken. EPS Base was overrun in April 2000.

3.2: DHQ’s Military Vulnerabilities

The Need to DISPERSE Armed Forces HQs and Assets

The DHQ is invulnerable to attacks like that on Mullaittivu Base in 1996. But it should not be assumed that IF an attack comes it will be similar to what the armed forces have experienced in the past. Our main worry is that the DHQ is concentrated into a (relatively) small area of 500 x 500 metres. Many important military HQs and assets are located within this area. After the end of World War-2 the dispersal of valuable command and control HQs was one of the lessons learned. In the case of the DHQ we see the opposite. We see an unprecedented concentration of valuable assets.

Our suggestion is to disperse the three Armed Forces HQs into 3 different government buildings in the general area. Each HQ should be at least 800 to 1000 meters away from the others.  We agree that dispersal alone will not guarantee that the separate HQs will not be simultaneously attacked by a hostile Country. But it will compel the attackers to attack four (or more) locations simultaneously.  This multiplies the difficulties for the attackers. And increases the possibility that at least one of the Directorates of Operations will remain undamaged.

Additional Advantages of Dispersal

Give the Navy and Air Force their Due place. Dispersal has several other advantages as well. It will allow each HQ to convey a distinct ‘identity’ of its own – Air, Ground, or Sea. It will allow each to display its own decommissioned weapons. As of now, in June 2020, the Army completely dominates all the foremost locations around the DHQ Complex. The Navy and the Air Force seem to have been given step motherly treatment. The ‘Ministry of Defence Road’ leading up to the DHQ is completely overshadowed by the Army. Artillery guns are on display. Roadside trees are allocated to various army regiments. Vehicles driving towards the DHQ see on the wall of the DHQ facing them a large notice board saying ‘Sri Lanka Army HQ’. Visually it is very easy to think that the huge DHQ buildings behind the notice board is the Army HQ.

Enables Avoiding Disruptions of Important Ceremonies specific to Each Armed Force. Another advantage of dispersal is that it will enable the three armed forces to avoid the very real possibility of important ceremonial occasions of one of them clashing with an event of another armed force. There is also the possibility of an important event planned many months in advance of any one of the armed forces having to be stopped at very short notice due to a Government Emergency or a MoD requirement.

Prevent Military Coups. Another advantage of dispersal of the three armed forces is that it will prevent Military Coups. At present about 10,000 personnel from all three armed forces are to work in the same DHQ Office Complex. This is not good for military discipline. It will facilitate conspiratorial activities.

3.3: Threat No.1: Drone attack by Non-State Actors

The attacks on the DHQ could be launched from the decks of ordinary-looking civilian cargo ships 20 Kms off Colombo’s coast.  Even as of now, in 2020, there are bomb-carrying Drones in the hands of Non-State Actors. Consider the attack by Houthi Rebels on a Saudi-Arabian Oil Refinery in 2019. While it was alleged that Iran helped the rebels in the future Non-State Actors will not need the technical support of another country to mount such attacks. The technologies involved are relatively simple, well known and are already freely available. In the next 5 to 10 years there will be significant improvements in bomb-load, drone guidance to the target, speed and range of drones. If suicide drone pilots operate these drones then complex guidance systems are completely excluded. An Attack on the DHQ by a Non-State Actor could be composed of 3 or 5 or 10 or more drone-bombs coming from different directions at night. The DHQs air-defence systems may destroy some. But some may get through. Each drone may carry one 200 kg or 500 kg Bomb. Some of them may be launched from sites on land. Others may be launched from the decks of civilian-type cargo ships outside Sri Lanka’s territorial waters West of Pelawatte.

3.4: Threat No.2: Guided MBRL-type Rockets by Non-State Actors

Non-State Actors will eventually obtain guided MBRL-type rockets. These rockets are very much more expensive than ordinary MBRL Rockets. But it is only a matter of time till non-state actors acquire them. As can be seen from the battlefields of the wars in the middle-east this technology is continuously improving. As of today many dozens of conventional armies have guided MBRLs which are accurate to within 10 metres and have a range of 30+ Kilometres. In due course these weapons will be replaced by newer and better Rockets. Then the ‘obsolete’ rockets may be available on the illegal weapons market.

3.5: Threat No.3: Aerial Attack by a Hostile State 

A country hostile to Sri Lanka would be able to carry-out attacks on the DHQ with all the methods mentioned above. We can provisionally estimate that these attacks will be 100% to 500%+ higher in lethality when compared with a Non-State Actor. A swarm of drone-bombs  plus guided MBRL rockets. A State hostile to Sri Lanka may carry-out these attacks pretending to be a Non-State Actor. Or assist a Non-State Actor. Here too the attacks on the DHQ could be launched from the decks of ordinary-looking civilian cargo ships 20 Kms off Colombo’s coast.

3.6: Threat No.4: The DHQ’s Office Buildings Concentrate Explosive Energy

Threat no.4 is a ‘self-inflicted’ threat. The DHQ’s ‘Fortress-like’ positioning of the 9 Office Buildings creates a central court-yard. This central space is partially encircled by the 9 Office Buildings. Some of the energy of any explosions that takes place within this central space will be concentrated by the buildings to some extent. While fortunately a significant amount of the energy will dissipate skywards and also escape through the spaces between the buildings a significant amount of the energy of the blasts will be concentrated due to the  ‘encircling’ effect of the buildings. Although 100 Kg to 200 Kg bombs cannot destroy the buildings they may have the energy to structurally weaken the columns of the buildings. They may damage and misalign Lift-Shafts. Electrical and Air-Conditioning systems of the Buildings could be damaged. If 5 to 6 Bombs of 500 Kg in weight and using modern Very High Explosives are used then the DHQ Buildings could be internally damaged to the extent that their Lifts cannot be repaired. Some of the buildings may be not safe to use.  It needs to be kept in mind that the DHQ is a static target and therefore can be attacked more than once.

3.7: State-of-the-Art’ security system to deal with Aerial Attacks?

Newspaper reports quote the MoD saying that the DHQ has a ‘State-of-the-Art’ security system. This may be correct in relation to checking the identity of visitors to the DHQ; checking vehicles; ensuring suicide vehicle bombs like the Central Bank Bomb are prevented. And aerial attacks such as carried out by the LTTE’s Light-Aircraft.

But the aerial attacks of the type mentioned in 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5 above are altogether entirely different threats. Especially if the threat travels fast. In the attack on Saudi-Arabian Oil Refinery both Drones and Rockets are said to have been used. Intercepting a fast-moving drone or rocket is not an easy task as the Israeli ‘Iron Dome’ system has illustrated. Of course ‘Iron Dome’ type systems will be developed and further improved in the future. But will any country sell Sri Lanka such a system? Can Sri Lanka afford to spend about 2 years of its total Government budget on such aerial defence systems? And even then what is sold to Sri Lanka would be 5-6 years obsolete. We suggest that a better defence strategy is to disperse our assets and manage with the resources we can afford.

Your Excellency, for your kind Consideration please.

1) This Memorandum is meant to Assist the Sri Lanka Government to face the Economic, Fiscal Policy and Social impacts due to COVID-19. This is a PUBLIC SERVICE by us for the benefit of the entire Country & its People. We would like the widest possible public discussion & debate of this Memorandum. Please forward this Document to ANY and ALL the Email Addresses, FaceBook Accounts, News Websites that you have contact with.

(2) Those among you who can do so, please Translate this Memo into SINHALA and TAMIL and then fwd it to your friends, Sinhala & Tamil Newspapers & Websites. We are unable to operate the Sinhala or Tamil Keyboard.

(3) To the Editors of Newspapers, Websites, Blogs, etc, such as The Island; The Sunday Times; Daily FT;  Lankadeepa; Divainna; Colombotelegraph; etc. We have kept this document as brief as possible. PLEASE TRY AND PRINT THIS DOC IN ITS ENTIRETY IN YOUR NEWSPAPERS & WEBSITES. That would be a great Public Service.

(4) We know that Newspapers wish to be exclusive. And are reluctant to print Documents which may also appear in other ‘news outlets’. But please consider our Predicament because we have no Information as to which ‘news outlet’ will, or will not, print this Memo. Therefore we have to send it to everybody.

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