Statement by H.E Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona, Ambassador and Permanent
Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations,
UN Security Council Open Debate on Reports of the UN Security Council
Resolutions 1267 (1999), 1373(2001), and 1540 (2004)

Countering Terrorism

The scourge of terrorism poses a suffocating threat to our common values of decency and humanity and to our democratic way of life.  The United Nations and, in particular, this Council should act with common purpose to assist with and respect the right of every sovereign State to free its territory from the abomination of terrorism, and to protect its people's right to life, peace, security and democracy.

Mr. President,

At the outset, may I offer my congratulations to you, on your assumption of the Presidency of the Council and for initiating this timely discussion. I thank the Permanent Representatives of Mexico, Austria and Turkey for their briefings on the implementation of the three crucial Council resolutions on terrorism, so central to maintaining international peace and security.

Mr. President,

Much had been said within the United Nations and, in particular, in
this Council, on countering terrorism. Yet, the world continues to be rocked regularly by senseless acts of terror or attempts to unleash death and destruction in our midst. The scourge of terrorism poses a suffocating threat to our common values of decency and humanity and to our democratic way of life. Constant fear induced by terrorism, insecurity, anxiety and never ending tragic losses – both human and material, and economic stagnation, were a common experience of life in Sri Lanka for nearly three decades.  Fortunately, this vile menace was comprehensively eradicated from our soil last year, after repeated efforts to talk the perpetrators back into the democratic fold had been rebuffed. We, for our part will take every measure to ensure that our lives will never again be allowed to be tortured by warped minds wantonly sowing death and destruction. The agony imposed by terrorism does not respect any boundaries. It is a menace that has affected countries, their attitudes, their economies and their daily lives, across the globe. Hence, our response to terrorism, cannot and should not be viewed or judged by looking through different prisms. The United Nations and, in particular, this Council should act with common purpose to assist with and respect the right of every sovereign State to free its territory from the abomination of terrorism, and to protect its people's right to life, peace, security and democracy.

Mr. President,

The presentations we just heard from the Chairs of the three committees are comprehensive. We recognize the efforts of the committees in assisting with capacity building and knowledge sharing and bridging gaps in implementing counter-terrorism measures. We see enormous benefits in all Member States closing ranks in implementing the UN Security Council resolutions on countering terrorism. In this context, we emphasize the need to prevent the use of their territories as safe havens by terrorist groups and front organizations, including for raising funds, acquiring financial assets and economic resources and other related activities that fuel and sustain terrorism and pose threats to peace and security elsewhere. The continuing danger is of seemingly innocent front organisations exploiting the democratic freedoms of our societies to perpetuate evil. Enhanced cooperation among intelligence and defence establishments across borders, active intelligence sharing and constant vigilance are vital in our efforts to counter terrorism. Sri Lanka is grateful to our network of friends with whom we have effectively developed intelligence links.  The value of intelligence sharing was so lucidly illustrated in recent days when multiple tragedies were avoided due to the vigilance of and the willingness to share information among intelligence agencies. Similarly such cooperation is vital in preventing the acquisition of arms and other destructive material by groups bent on sowing death and destruction. Cross border cooperation in thwarting the ever present link between international terrorism and trans-national organized crime becomes critical. Terrorism's tentacles have spread to such areas as the illicit trade in arms, the multi billion dollar narcotics trade, money laundering, trafficking in persons - a phenomenon that my own country is now confronting. Collective action becomes all the more vital due to the ease with which terrorists establish cross-border linkages and exploit the advancements in technology and communications, leading to formidable and destructive innovations. In parallel, it is also necessary to address underlying social, economic and political factors that may contribute to breeding terrorism.

Mr. President,

Against this background, it becomes incumbent on all countries to
reexamine their policies on granting asylum and refugee status, especially to prevent the abuse of well intentioned, generous and humane policies by terrorists, front organizations or facilitators of terror. It would become imperative to streamline and enhance domestic law enforcement and security mechanisms to close any loopholes. Cooperation across borders also becomes an absolute necessity if this hydra head is to be placed back in the box. Arrangements for mutual legal assistance and extradition of terrorists, a requirement under a number of conventions concluded under the auspices of the UN, helping countries to develop national capacity in areas of investigating, prosecution, intelligence gathering, border protection, customs and immigration surveillance as well as in forensic science are vital tools that can add to  global
efforts in countering terrorism. In this regard, we thank the CTED and the Governments of Canada and Australia for facilitating the second workshop in South Asia, which was hosted by Sri Lanka in August this year, for the police and prosecutors on effectively countering terrorism. Collective regional efforts could significantly boost the efforts in deterring terrorist activity. It was in this spirit of cooperation and understanding that the Members of the South Asian Region adopted the SAARC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and the Ministerial declaration on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism, during the 15th SARRC Meeting held in Colombo in 2009, to which Sri Lanka gave firm leadership.

Also, we co-organized a regional workshop on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004), in June last year in Sri Lanka with the assistance of the Government of United States, and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. We fully subscribe to the efforts of the UNSC Committee established under Resolution 1540 and its unenviable task in forging a nexus between the non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and combating terrorism. Sri Lanka has made concerted efforts in enacting a number of legislative measures to counter-terrorism, consistent with UN conventions and Security Council decisions. We note that there are thirteen UN conventions on various aspects of terrorism. As a strategic hub in the South Asian sea route in the middle of the Indian Ocean, we have participated in the “mega port initiative’ and container detection facilities have been established to monitor the transport of nuclear and radio active material. The project launched with the Assistance of the Government of USA was a first in the region.

Mr. President,

The three counter-terrorism committees over these years have made a remarkable contribution to our common endeavours to combat terrorism. We encourage greater coordination among the three committees and transparency and inclusiveness in conducting business. In this context, we appreciate open debates of this nature and the other open briefings organized in the past. We hope that the Council will make a unanimous decision on the mandate renewal of the CTED. Sri Lanka earnestly hopes that all the Members of the UN will demonstrate necessary political will, by concluding negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), which has been on the table for almost a decade. It is time to send an unequivocal message of our commitment to eradicate the menace of terrorism by taking the appropriate political decisions now.

My country remains committed to cooperating with the UNSC Committees under 1540, 1612 and 1373 as well as other related intergovernmental bodies working on countering terrorism, such as the UNODC, INTERPOL International Civil Aviation Organization (ICCAO) and International Maritime Organization, at international and regional level and in sharing its experience and expertise in this regard.

I thank you Mr. President.

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