Developing Soft infrastructure, a priority of Govt, says Eran Wickramaratne at EU Cybercrime Conference

April 7, 2015

Highways and Investment Promotion Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne says that the new Governement’s emphasis is on soft infrastructure in preference to hard infrastructure. One of the advantages Sri Lanka has is its educated population, one of the best in the region. If soft infrastructure is developed, the country could achieve great progress, given its rich human resources and its unique geographic positioning in the world.

The Deputy Minister said so while delivering his keynote address as joint Chief Guest, along with Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Ajith P. Perera, at the opening of the two-day European Union funded International Conference on “Assessing the Threat of Cybercrime” , held in Colombo recently.

Organised by the Council of Europe (CoE), the conference was funded by the European Union (EU) under the joint EU/ CoE Project “Global Action on Cybercrime (GLACY)”.The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka(ICTA) and the Sri Lanka Computer Readiness Team (SLCERT) were the Sri Lankan hosts.

Addressing nearly 100 Criminal Justice experts from 17 countries, who had gathered in Colombo to share their expertise with each other the Deputy Minister said:

“Sri Lanka is an ancient society with an unbroken written history of 2500 years or more. So whatever your preferences are with its history,architecture or its features or wildlife wherever it might be, this country,very small in extent as it is, is truly unique in the world.Therefore we invite you, please go and enjoy the natural beauty of this country”.

“This country has two advantages.As the Deputy Minister of Investment Promotion, I often think about it. These two advantages make this country unique. One of these advantages is the fact that our natural location is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. As you move from East to West,Sri Lanka is really uniquely positioned.If you have to move goods particularly from the South Asia region to Europe, Sri Lanka gives you definite advantage of three to five days moving vertically to any European port. So Sri Lanka clearly has some natural advantages.

“Our next huge advantage is our human resources.We are really a small Asian village.Asia has cities with 20 million people which is approximately our total population.India and China have these large cities.So we are really, in that sense, an ancient village.But as you already know, we have one of the most educated populations in the region. Our emphasis, particularly, of our new Government, is to build the soft infrastructure of our country and to prioritise soft infrastructure over the hard infrastructure”, the Deputy Minister said.


Referring to the much-talked about current topic of good governance,the Deputy Minister went on to elaborate:

“January 8th was the Presidential election and it was a turning point in the direction that this country will take over the next decade. Our Government led by President Sirisena was elected on the platform of good governance”. “What do we actually mean by good governance? It has so many different components and I would like to mention just a few of them. One is we need to tell the society that this is a meritocracy, if we are going actually to have good governance. That is a long way off.But certainly it is a firm goal of ours. The next thing is we need to have the leadership, the top leadership of the country, actually committed to clean up the country. We need a leadership that is zero tolerant for corruption”.

Thirdly, I would say, we need supremacy of the rule of law.We are certainly moving in that direction”.

The Cybercrime Conference in the current perspective

Placing the conference in its current perspective, the Deputy Minister said:

“This Government presented the 100-day programme which is largely putting the legal and constitutional framework for good governance. After we have completed that, we will basically be going to the country in a general election asking the voters of this country to decide whether they want the Government to continue or they would like another leadership team”.

“So,good governance is in the environment.Your conference on cybercrime fits in very well in the framework that we have defined. We want to create an environment of work standards for our people.Therefore Sri Lanka is really privileged to have been invited to join this Council of Europe Convention on fighting cybercrime.I know that with our accessionto the Convention, certain benefits will accrue to this Country,including the benefit of creating a centre of excellence to train Criminal Justice and law enforcement officials in this region”.

Scope of Cybercrime

Explaining to the largest ever international gathering of Cyber Crime enforcement officials about the scope of Cybercrime the Deputy Minister said:

“His Excellency the Japanese Ambassador mentioned that one of the things in fighting cybercrime is also to fight against terrorism. We have had a long history in it. Our history is now well known and well documented. I would say that our new frontier is also to fight financial crime. It is significant that the Financial Crime Investigation Division Head is also participating. A priority of our government is also to fight financial crime, where computers and Computer networks are widely used”.

Underlining the need to eradicate the trend to politicize Government institutions, the Minister observed:

“Often people come up to me after the January election and they say “why aren’t you arresting these people and putting them behind bars?…. I always wondered why people actually were asking a politician that question. This is not the role of the politician but the role of law enforcement and then subsequently the role of the judiciary. The reason why they walk up to us and ask us that question is the long history of politicization of institutions of government in this country. That is precisely what we have got to de-poliitcise so that law enforcement authorities are free to act and also so that the judiciary may be free to act in a way they see fit”.

Role of ICTA

Paying a tribute to an institution with which the Deputy Minister had been associated in the past, Deputy Minister Wickramaratne paid a tribute to ICTA’s leadership in helping to formulate the required legal framework for ICT development. “I wish to particularly mention here the role of ICTA in formulating policies and the required legal framework. I have had association with ICTA from its inception and would like to particularly mention Jayantha Fernando who used to be a colleague of mine when I was the Chairman of ICTA.

Computer Crimes Legal and Policy framework

Addressing the Conference the Secretary Justice, Ms Kamalini De Silva said

I understand that during this Conference the delegates would make proposals on how to strengthen Cyber Crime policies and strategies in your respective countries, based on the best practices shared by experts gathered here. Sri Lanka has made some progress in this area and delegates would get an opportunity to hear our perspectives”.

Speaking further, the Secretary Justice said: “the Computer Crimes Act No.24 of 2007 is modelled on this important Convention. Therefore Sri Lanka’s accession to this Convention can be achieved relatively quickly because we have the required domestic legislation in place. In addition to recommending legislation on all aspects of Information Technology, the Ministry of Justice recognizes the work of ICTA in safeguarding and protecting our critical information infrastructure, with the establishment of Sri Lanka CERT. ICTA has also taken the lead initiative to train judges and law enforcement officials in Cyber Crime enforcement. The Digital Forensic Lab at the CID and its working procedures were also established by ICTA”.

Delivering the Welcome Address ICTA Chairperson Chitranganie Mubarak explained the role of ICTA and its contribution to e-development in Sri Lanka. “ICTA is the apex ICT institution of the Govt. and was established in 2003 under the stewardship of our Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe, who was the Prime Minister at the time. In terms of the Information and Communication Technology Act No. 27 of 2003 ICTA has been mandated to take all necessary measures to implement the Government’s Policy and Action Plan in relation to ICT.

“A key mandate of the ICTA was the implementation of the e-Sri Lanka Development Programme which leveraged on ICT for the social and economic development of the country. It sought to re-engineer government processes making it more accessible to people, empower rural communities, develop the IT/ BPO industry and create an enabling environment through ICT Policy and legal reforms” explained Ms. Mubarak.

Delivering the concluding remarks ICTA Programme Director / Legal Advisor Jayantha Fernando, said: “We have reached a significant milestone today.”

“The primary motivation factor to host this event was the decision by the Council of Europe to invite Sri Lanka to accede to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. Joining this important Convention was a long felt dream for many of us, both at the Council of Europe side and on the Sri Lankan side. The process that led to Council of Europe inviting Sri Lanka to join this Convention was no easy task. It had many challenges on all fronts. But the will commitment and dedication of many people across the globe eventually made it possible. Therefore, it is our duty to remember those who contributed to that process”.

The team at the Cyber Crime Division of the Council of Europe is very small. But its effectiveness to cut across geographical boundaries to reach out to far and distant countries is perhaps the singular reason why the Budapest Cybercrime Convention has become such an effective tool in the global fight against Cybercrime”.

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