Daily Archives: September 29, 2014

Lessons for Lanka from Jayalaithaa conviction

Sri Lanka, Sept. 29 — For political leaders, who seek power, prestige and popularity, personal gain or glory, by plundering the people’s wealth and resources, someday and in a devastating way, a great fall will come. That is a golden principle of life. So it was for Tamil Nadu’s popular and powerful three-term Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jeyaram who on Saturday was convicted of colossal acts of corruption and stripped of her post as Chief Minister.

According to the 1,000-page judgment in the case which had dragged on for 18 years, Ms. Jayalalithaa was found guilty of having assets valued at 6.67 billion Sri Lankan rupees. Among other assets disproportionate with her earning capacity were scores of companies set up to launder billions in black money, two estates to the extent of some 2,000 acres, 28 kilos of personal gold, more than 10,000 saris and 750 pairs of shoes. This reminds us of notorious figures like the Philippines’ President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda who were ousted in the famous people-power revolution led by Cardinal Jaime Sin.

Though the Jayalalithaa trial went on for 18 years and had to be shifted from Chennai to Bangalore for security reasons, it shows the vibrancy of India’s judicial process where all people, whatever their position, are equal before the law. This was a case where justice may have been delayed, but justice was not denied. When it came, the once pretty or petty empress was cast from her throne. All the popularity and prestige of her film-star career as the romantic partner of the former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran ended with a thunder bolt of justice and she now lies behind the bars of a VIP jail.

During Ms. Jayalalithaa’s third and last term as Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister -though some political analysts close to her say she could make a comeback – Sri Lanka’s relationship with Tamil Nadu plunged into the deepest end of the Palk Strait.

Independent political analysts believe the Rajapaksa government also contributed to the breakdown in the relationship by not appointing top professional diplomats to the Deputy High Commission in Chennai. As a result, there are major disputes between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Nadu in particular if not the whole of India over the ethnic crisis here and the allegations of Tamil Nadu fishermen doing large-scale bottom trawling in the Palk Strait.

What happens in Tamil Nadu next is still uncertain though India’s ruling BJP adviser Subramaniam Swamy says he has advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to impose direct presidential rule for about two months.

Whatever the political factors, the more important lesson for Sri Lanka is to restore the independence of the judicial service so that it will be able to curb the rampant corruption, the abuse and plunder of public funds and other vices that are going on here unchecked. Instead of a vibrant judicial service as in India where even the Supreme Court is powerfully proactive on social justice issues, what we see in Sri Lanka is a culture of impunity, where the

vulture prevails.

Ruling party politicians, their supporters and stooges, thugs and hooligans are often able or allowed to do what they want because they know they can eventually get away. In Sri Lanka’s crisis of the breakdown of the rule of law, if not lawlessness and anarchy, it is not likely that we will find any of our Jayalalithaas, female or male, in jail.

But history also shows us that the wheels of justice, though grinding slowly will grind surely and Uva’s political Waterloo was a clear sign that the time is coming when the mighty shall be cast from their thrones of nepotism and cultism. Then they will realise that with nothing they came and with nothing shall they go.


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Sri Lanka highly vulnerable to cyber attacks: CERT|CC

Sri Lanka, Sept. 29 — Sri Lanka will experience a massive wave of cyber attacks in the near future due to inadequate prevention methods and privacy laws as well as non-compliance, according to the state’s Computer Emergency Response Team Co-ordination Centre. (CERT|CC).

“In Sri Lanka, major attacks have not made the headlines yet, but in my view it will happen in the near future,” CERT|CC CEO Lal Dias said at a seminar held at the National Chamber of Commerce.

He was of the opinion that inadequate and ineffectively implemented cyber security will leave entities and individuals open to attack by hackers.

Poorly developed applications and websites are a major vulnerability, and Dias said that organizations developing their own applications should adhere to secure coding practices.

He said that despite 2007’s Computer Crimes Act being enforced, very few crimes have been reported.

“Banks would rather hush up attacks than report them due to publicity. But if the banks reported to CERT, we won’t publicize and help them investigate,” he noted.

CERT|CC Senior Information Security Engineer Roshan Chandraguptha also confirmed the comment, saying banks value reputation above all else in fear of losing public confidence. Dias however said banks do conduct security drills which other organizations should adopt while also stressing the need to implement easily understood cyber security policies and educate staff on it. He went on to say that untrustworthy employees also contribute towards a weak cyber security system, as evident in past scandals concerning Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, and that entering into Non-Disclosure Agreements are not adequate in light of such incidences.

According to him, part of the problem is also the advancement of technology, along with which cyber attacks also evolve and CERT|CC has been playing a game of catch-up.

“I’m not sure how well we are doing but we are trying, the fraudsters are always one step ahead of us,” Dias stressed.

However, he said his organization is prepared to help others develop much needed well-documented security policies according to the national standards. It can provide consultation with security reviews, vulnerability assessment and penetration testing, and advise on information security policies. CERT|CC is also able to help victims with after attack response; conducting digital forensics and incident handling, while proactively increasing awareness with workshops, seminars and conferences, alerts, and a knowledge base.

Chandraguptha meanwhile mentioned that CERT|CC only acts in such capacities and does not police, which is the responsibility of the CID’s Computer Crimes Division.

CERT|CC has already established the computer security incident response team (CSIRT) to help the sensitive banking sector share information on cyber crime anonymously among each other and hopes to extend CSIRT services to military bodies, ICT and standards institutions. Government Universities and Banks, as well as banks, financial institutions and corporates from the private sector are partnering up with CERT|CC to reduce cyber crime while departments, agencies and e-Sri Lanka, and SMEs and start-ups respectively are not part of it. CERT|CC will kick off its National Cyber Security Week 2014 on October 1 with the 7th National Conference on Cyber Security which will be held at BMICH, to be followed by multiple workshops during the course of the week.


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Facebook can steer young minds into politics

Sydney: The Social networking site Facebook can encourage more young people to get engaged in politics, a new research shows.

“We need to take Facebook much more seriously as a space where young people – purposefully or incidentally – engage with politics, with their networks of friends and family,” said Ariadne Vromen, associate professor from University of Sydney.

The survey of 3,600 young people in the age group 16-29 across Australia, the UK and the US revealed that they first hear about news and major events on Facebook rather than print and TV programmes.

Researchers found that increasing use of social media leads to more political participation by young people.

“Especially for those young people that have an issue-based approach to why political participation matters, rather than a traditional orientation that only focuses on formal, electoral politics,” Vromen added.

Pressing the “like” button is the key to show support for political issues, many participants responded, adding that they avoid commenting because they do not want to irk family members or friends on social media.

Most of the young people said they think politicians should use social media more.

“They think politicians should be asked questions publicly more often to show they are responsive to people’s views,” Vromen noted.

The study was part of The Civic Network, a two-year research project funded by the Spencer Foundation based in America.


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