The Impact of Foreign Control on National Data Systems: A Case Study of Sri Lanka's National ID Card Decision

Author : Jihan Hameed is a Sri Lankan Nationalist & A political analyst known for her in-depth reporting on national security and sovereignty issues. She frequently addresses the implications of government policies on Sri Lanka's independence.
In a recent and contentious move, the Sri Lankan Cabinet, led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, has approved an Indian-funded system for the country’s national ID cards. This decision has ignited significant debate and concern over issues of national sovereignty and data security. The central question revolves around whether any country should permit another nation to access its most critical and sensitive data. This development is being closely examined in the context of international alliances and the associated risks.

Consider the alliance between the United States and India under the Quad Security Agreement. Despite their strong partnership, it is inconceivable that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, known for his patriotic stance, would agree to provide the US with access to India’s national ID data. If such an unprecedented action were taken, it would likely lead to severe political and legal repercussions in India, potentially including charges of treason against those responsible. This comparison underscores the significant risks and implications of Sri Lanka’s decision.

The approval of this Indian-funded system follows the Sri Lankan government’s earlier decision to grant two Indian companies, along with VFS, control over visa arrival and departure information. This previous decision was made at a substantial cost and bypassed an already effective and economical Sri Lankan software system. This pattern of decisions raises concerns about the government’s autonomy and the motivations behind these choices.

Critics argue that the policy direction of the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) coalition government, led by President Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, is systematically undermining Sri Lanka’s independence and integrity. They suggest that these actions reflect a broader strategy that prioritizes political expediency and personal gains over national sovereignty.

The silence from major opposition parties, such as the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), further complicates the issue. These parties, while positioning themselves as alternatives for the upcoming Presidential Election, seem reluctant to criticize the government’s actions robustly. Their muted response appears to be a strategic decision to avoid offending India, which they view as essential to their electoral success. This political calculus only deepens concerns about the erosion of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.

The current state of Sri Lanka is described as the weakest since gaining independence. The actions of the present leadership are seen as compromising the country’s core interests and jeopardizing its future. President Wickremesinghe, renowned for his deep knowledge of Sri Lankan history, including figures like Ehelepola, faces accusations of betraying the very principles he often lectures about. Similarly, Mahinda Rajapaksa, once celebrated for his leadership in the war against terrorism—a conflict in which thousands of young Sri Lankans sacrificed their lives—is now viewed as complicit in decisions that could reduce Sri Lanka to a vassal state of India.

The decision to implement an Indian-funded system for national ID cards extends beyond technology or efficiency concerns; it touches on issues of control and influence. National ID systems contain highly sensitive personal data, and control over this data is a significant aspect of national security. Allowing a foreign entity, even an ally, to control this data can have profound implications. It raises the specter of potential misuse of data, loss of privacy for citizens, and erosion of national sovereignty.

Moreover, this decision carries economic implications. Implementing an Indian-funded system, as opposed to a locally developed solution, might incur higher costs, adding financial strain to the country. Additionally, the economic argument includes the potential loss of opportunities for local technology firms that could have developed and managed the system, thereby contributing to the local economy and technological advancement.

The geopolitical implications are also significant. Sri Lanka’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean makes it a vital player in regional politics. Allowing India such deep access could alter the balance of power and influence in the region. It could also affect Sri Lanka’s relationships with other key players, such as China and the United States, who might view this move with suspicion.

In conclusion, the decision to approve an Indian-funded system for Sri Lanka’s national ID cards represents a critical juncture for the country. It raises profound questions about sovereignty, national security, and economic independence. The apparent lack of robust opposition and the strategic silence of political parties highlight the complexity of the situation. Sri Lanka’s leadership must reconsider this decision and prioritize the country’s sovereignty and the interests of its citizens. It is not too late to act if there is a genuine commitment to protecting the nation’s core values and independence. The future of Sri Lanka depends on the decisions made today, and it is imperative to safeguard the country’s sovereignty against any compromises.


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