Sri Lanka will provide security from its Special Task Force (STF) units for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit to be held in Addu City this November.
STF is an elite special forces unit of the Sri Lankan police which was formed in 1983, and focuses on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. It was the lead unit engaged with the Tamil Tigers during the Sri Lankan civil war.
The Foreign Ministry and the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) confirmed today that STF will be sending police dogs to support unidentified security matters.
“Previously, security dogs were allowed at the international airport, I’m not sure if they are still there but Maldivian law allows dogs to be used for security measures,” said MNDF Spokesperson Abdul Raheem.
“The dogs will clear the same areas as the event and other security forces, but I can’t say what they will be looking for,” he added.
Dogs are considered haram in Islam, and are prohibited as domestic pets in the Maldives. An exception was made for drug-sniffing and security dogs at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, however sources familiar with the issue say local staff were unable to provide proper care for the dogs and they fell ill.
Allegations of religious intervention were denied.
President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News that the STF dogs would not be an issue for the SAARC event. “We had dogs earlier for security without any trouble, I don’t see why anybody should object because the government has officially employed dogs before,” he said.
All countries participating in the SAARC convention are providing security forces. According to Zuhair, Bangladesh has donated trucks to the army, India is contributing police forces, and equipment with an estimated value of US$400,000 will be arriving from Pakistan in the next few days.
China will provide CCTV equipment for surveillance.
“It’s a well-integrated and cooperative effort with MNDF and all participating members,” said Zuhair, who pointed out that Addu was a unique site for an event of this magnitude.
“The last SAARC was held in Male’, but this time the event will be spread across several islands. Transportation logistics will be different,” said Zuhair.
Raheem said security preparations are under way for SAARC, and that MNDF “is sure that things will be to our satisfaction.”
Heads of state from the region will be attending SAARC, several of which are currently high-profile figures in the international community.
“We have to look at this as a high-risk event. Some heads of state are high-risk, but we are treating each and every head of state as high-risk to ensure their security,” said Raheem.
Local media reports that STF forces have been having special training programs in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo to prepare for the Addu event.
The previous version of this article stated that Pakistan would provide US$4,600-worth of equipment to the SAARC summit security measures.
It should have read, “equipment with an estimated value of US$400,000 will be arriving from Pakistan in the next few days.”