Addressing a Security Council meeting on Small Arms, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN Prasad Kariayawasam said that Sri Lanka, like several other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, suffers from violence and terrorism perpetrated by a non-state actor using ill-gotten small arms and light weapons, as well as ammunition. This terrorist group wreaks havoc in some parts of the country and their campaign of terror has continued unabated, despite all efforts by the Government to seek a solution to the conflict by political means of dialogue and democratic accommodation.
Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Security Council Debate on Small Arms
New York, 30 April, 2008
Let me thank you for convening this debate on this important issue that begs the attention of the international community due to its impact not only on peace and security, but also on the wellbeing of societies in several parts of the world. In this regard, the Secretary-General’s Report on Small Arms contained in Document 2008/258 is a stark reminder of the adverse impact of small arms and light weapons, and contains valuable information, as well as several worthy recommendations.
As stated in the Report of the Secretary-General, most of the present day conflicts are fought primarily with small arms and light weapons. Though weapons may be small, they cause mass destruction in terms of its effects in many parts of the world. Such weapons are the weapons of choice in several intra-state conflicts, and are used by terrorists and criminal gangs who gain easy access to these weapons and connected ammunition.
In most situations, unbridled violence unleashed by the use of these weapons affect civilians as well. And it has become evident that one primary cause that engenders and sustains conflicts resulting in violence affecting civilians, stems from uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons. In recognition of this fact, we recall that in 2001, the members of the United Nations launched by consensus, a Programme of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects. However, even this programme failed to recognize the one major cause driving conflicts and spreading terrorism worldwide. That is the reality of easy availability and access as well as illicit possession of small arms and light weapons by non-state actors. The involvement of non-state actors who often thrive on the power of the bullet to settle political scores, ostensibly fighting for political aspirations, is yet to receive adequate attention in most international fora. For instance, this issue of non-state actors was not adequately addressed by the UN at the time the Programme of Action on illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was adopted in 2001. Therefore, the 2006 Review Conference of this Programme of Action was seen by a very large number of States as an opportunity to strengthen the Programme of Action through further agreements that would expand its scope on important issues such as action against non-state actors that were left unresolved in 2001. However, regrettably, the Review Conference neither made progress in this direction, nor was able to agree on adequate global measures for its full implementation, simply due to the intransigence of a few, defying an emerging global consensus.
In this context, the Secretary-General’s Report once again provides useful information to enable us to address several issues that could help the international community come to terms with the scourge of illicit trafficking and trade in small arms and light weapons. This is the core issue to achieve success in any endeavour to cope with and to mitigate the adverse impact of the proliferation of small arms. And illegal possession of small arms and light weapons by non-state actors is an attendant issue that cannot be left out in any meaningful discussion of this issue.
Sri Lanka, like several other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, suffers from violence and terrorism perpetrated by a non-state actor using ill-gotten small arms and light weapons, as well as ammunition. This terrorist group wreaks havoc in some parts of the country and their campaign of terror has continued unabated, despite all efforts by the Government to seek a solution to the conflict by political means of dialogue and democratic accommodation. Nevertheless, all such efforts have failed primarily as a result of the phenomenon of illicit trafficking and trade in small arms and light weapons, making it easy for this misguided terrorist group to sustain their campaign of violence, and keep faith in the bullet rather than the ballot.
In this context, Sri Lanka joins other concerned parties in appealing to the international community to take urgent action with all available means, to stem the flow of weapons into the hands of non-state actors like terrorist groups who do not respect internationally-accepted civilized norms and conduct. Unbridled violence and abominable terrorist acts can be stopped only if supply and access to such weapons can be halted immediately. Weapons and ammunition should only be held by legal entities and States who are responsible to the international community for their conduct under international law and other treaty regimes that govern good conduct and respect for human rights and humanitarian law. It is important, therefore, to ensure that any measure taken by the UN and its Member States to curb proliferation of small arms and light weapons do not affect the rights of a State to procure and hold arms to ensure the safety of its citizens.
In this regard, while commending the Secretary-General and office of High Representative on Disarmament for their efforts so far, we urge further action by all States, together with the UN, to fully implement the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate Illicit Trafficking and Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. However, we are convinced that to make a difference on the ground in terms of preventing or mitigating conflicts and violence as well as for combating terrorism, much more needs to be done in terms of eradicating illicit trafficking and trade in small arms by non-state actors. Therefore, the time has come for this Council and the United Nations to expand its scope of action towards preventing small arms and ammunition ending up in the wrong hands. If we fail, violence and terrorism will continue to affect several vulnerable regions and societies worldwide. Our choice is simple. Either we act meaningfully now, or continue business as usual to our own peril.