National Security Think Tank of Sri Lanka ranked in the Global Think Tank Index

To mark the global release of the ‘Global Think Tank Report 2018’, TTCSP requested the major cities around the world including Paris, Beijing, Washington DC, New York and 150 other cities to conduct a discussion on ‘Why Facts and Think Tanks Matter in 2019’. The INSSSL was invited to conduct this discussion from Colombo on 31 January with the participation of scholars and representatives of other think tanks.  

Director General Asanga Abeyagoonasekera of INSSSL chaired the discussion. The panellist who shared their inputs were INSSSL Distinguished Fellow Prof Chandra Embuldeniya, journalist and Senior Fellow Dr. Ranga Jayasuriya, Research Analyst Kasuni Ranasinghe and Research Assistant Natasha Fernando who highlighted the importance of the role of think tanks play in governments and civil societies around the world. 

In the introductory remarks, Director General Abeyagoonasekera spoke of the value of think tanks that have been appreciated by many societies in today’s volatile geopolitical environment, especially that think tanks could assist to design better policy and for predicting future trends. As such, he stressed the importance of think tanks in providing reliable, well-researched information to make appropriate decisions on complex and challenging issues. 

To this effect, he highlighted how Sri Lanka’s think tanks are underfunded; primarily the lack of attractive wages to researchers is a key challenge. He compared Sri Lanka to countries like India and Singapore, whose policymakers both invest and consult more extensively with think tanks. He said that with his experience working at foreign policy think tanks and security think tanks, the Sri Lankan Government has miserably failed to recognise and invest in research and in think tanks.

Natasha Fernando emphasised that think tanks should act as a bridge between academic and policymaking communities, serving in public interest as independent voices and disseminating knowledge to wide audiences. In order to enhance the quality of research outcomes, Fernando accentuated the importance of facts and the fact tank approach for more informed decision making. 

Kasuni Ranasinghe highlighted the importance of factual based evidence in decision making and the role of think tanks as shadow leaders providing guidance to the political leaders. Leaders should utilise think tanks to identify the priority needs of a country and then to convince the public about the priorities. For these developments, Ranasinghe emphasised that think tank should come out from its traditional role of ‘researcher’ to the position of ‘strategic advisors’, having potentials to predate future circumstances. 

Dr. Ranga Jayasuriya spoke about the vital roles which think tanks play in predicting future political events, and providing the expertise for governments to achieve their objectives. Regarding the latter, from a Sri Lankan context, Dr. Ranga spoke of how think tanks could have played a role in helping the Government come up with an effective strategy in order to counter baseless allegations of war crimes levelled against the Sri Lankan military. In order to achieve these objectives, Dr. Ranga explained that think tanks needed to be depoliticised and provided more autonomy. He argued that this would increase the possibilities of policymakers receiving objective related high quality advice. 

Finally, Prof Chandra Embuldeniya spoke about how think tanks can help solve problems and serve as an asset to state resources. Addressing the issue of think tank proposals largely not being adopted by policymakers, Prof Embuldeniya suggested establishing a committee that can convey the proposals presented by think tanks to policymakers who can then implement it. He introduced a performance evaluation framework for think tanks and requested INSSSL to work with other local think tanks to develop the proposed framework.