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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2614

Sri Lanka to fight the small arms war.

Sunil C. Perera - Reporting from Sri Lanka

Colombo, 06 June, (Asiantribune.com): Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN, Prasad Kariyawasam, will chair in June the first Review Conference for the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (UN PoA). The PoA is an agreement reached in 2001 amongst member states to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. It is estimated that nearly 5,000,000 small arms are circulating throughout the world. These small arms are used by individuals or groups fighting their private wars.

Like most other nations Sri Lanka has not monitored successfully of the free flow of arms. Easy access to small arms has created a culture of impunity. It was also revealed that arming the politicians in Sri Lanka began prior to the 1989 elections, at the height of the JVP insurrection. It is estimated that 15,000 arms were distributed to politicians for their protection. It is now revealed that most of these weapons were never returned.

The National Commission against Proliferation of Small Arms (NCAPISA) was set up in 2005 in Sri Lanka to assist the government in curbing the uncontrolled proliferation of illicit arms. The Commission is now planning to introduce new initiatives to combat gang violence through buy back programmes, and trade weapons for jobs programmes.

Victims of light weapons organized a million faces petition representing the million killed due to fire arms since 2001. These are not victims of major weapons, artilleries and bombings, but victims of small weapons that are easily available at cheap prices.

Ten year old Naduni who is from Galle, lost her sister Upamali three years ago. Now scarred and traumatized she related her story: “My father was riding the bicycle to school with me and my sister. When passing a neighbor’s house we saw a lot of people outside, and my father decided to stop. Just then we heard a sound, and realized it was a grenade”.

Naduni’s father is now unable to move his right-hand due to injuries caused by the grenade. He was caught in a personal dispute between a husband and wife which ended up in throwing a grenade which killed and injured bystanders and passers-by. Rasika another bystander ( 21) lost an eye and her womb was removed to save her life. P.S Ajantha has lost all movement in her right leg.

Nirmanushan Balasunderam from Jaffna stated that, although the situation is different in Jaffna the issue of small arms is intertwined with the war, but in the east there is more usage of small arms due to the operations of various groups. He added: “During elections the usage of arms is always high in the east. Legal arms are used for illegal activities as well, we live in fear, and don’t go out after 2 pm.”

Speaking at a ceremony to present the million faces petition representing the million killed due to small arms, to the Ministry of Defense which was organized by South Asia Small Arms Network (SASA NET) recently, Chandrasiri a Prison Officer from the Matara district said: “In 2001 after court proceedings in Tangalle, when prison officials were transporting a gang member, a rival gang intercepted the prison vehicle and killed the gang member and a prison officer, while injuring many others.”

It has been reported that there are more than 35,000 illegal arms, 20 recognised underworld gangs, and more than 70,000 army deserters in the country.

P.B Athukorale a farmer from the Anuradhapura district says there are small arms factories that manufacture illegal axes, knifes and other weapons in Anuradhapura.

The National Commission against Proliferation of Small Arms (NCAPISA) is now headed by the Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse. The CEO of the Commission Brigadier Ranjan de Silva, told the media that the commission is looking at various aspects of the legal framework to close the loopholes.

A survey is now being carried out to trace the illicit trafficking of arms. “We will also look at border controls and storage issues,” he emphasized.

- Asian Tribune -

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