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 Post subject: Sri Lanka illicit small arms threat to business: survey
 Post Posted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 12:29 pm 
The proliferation of illicit small arms in Sri Lanka

"I saw a man standing in front ofmy son and I went in between them and told my son ‘let’s go in’. I did not have time to finish what I said; this man put his arm over my shoulder and shot my son in his chest with a galkata (home made firearm). I was holding him when he got shot and we both fell on the ground.My daughter-in-law jumped out of the car carrying the baby and the two men took the car and went off… This is what happens when unscrupulous people have access to weapons of war." - K Kumaranayake – Mother of a victim of armed crime in Sri Lanka

A grave crime is committed every eight minutes in Sri Lanka while one of those three grave crimes is committed using illicit firearms. 9mm pistols were sold in the underworld for 15,000 rupees and T-56 automatic assault rifles for 50,000 – 75,000 rupees while ammunition is also easily available, according to information from criminals and prisoners. The main source appears to be weapons captured during operations against Tamil Tigers which are smuggled out of the battlefront and sold to the underworld by troops going on leave. During 1999 to 2005 ten armed crimes were reported daily including murders and robberies.

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@ LBO / June 28, 2008

June 28, 2008 (LBO) – The proliferation of illicit small arms in Sri Lanka not only fuels crime but has indirect costs on business as well as the environment, a new survey says.

It said 9mm pistols were sold in the underworld for 15,000 rupees and T-56 automatic assault rifles for 50,000 – 75,000 rupees while ammunition is also easily available, according to information from criminals and prisoners.

Crimes using small arms can impact the local economy as it is usually the main breadwinner that is injured or killed, affecting the ability of the family to sustain itself economically and exacerbating poverty.

Small arms crime can have indirect costs, said the survey report on the prevalence of illicit small arms in Sri Lanka by the National Commission Against Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms (NCAPISA).

" . . .it can undermine the capacity of forestry and wildlife departments to fulfil their roles with a devastating impact on wild life, including elephants. Another indirect cost is the impact that small arms have in supporting illicit economic activities such as illicit logging and gem mining."

Illicit small arms are being used to exploit natural resources that could otherwise be used in the legal economy and produce revenues that are not likely to be taxed.

"Small arms misuse appears to be integral to illicit gemming. Political patronage is believed to provide impunity to those involved," said the study meant to create greater awareness of the problem.

Other organised criminal activities supported by the availability of small arms include extortion, kidnapping and protection racketeering.
"Perceptions of insecurity also affect livelihoods by dissuading (foreign) investment, for example in the tourism industry," it said.

"Likewise, the cost of security provision is increasing for Sri Lankan businesses as a result of the threat of armed crime."

The report said some of the illicit small arms are believed to be either stolen from military stocks by deserters or servicemen going on leave
But it said the main source appears to be weapons captured during operations against Tamil Tigers which are smuggled out of the battlefront and sold to the underworld by troops going on leave.

There is also some suspicion that soldiers could be hiring their weapons for short periods, it said.

The government commission that put out the study is recommending tighter controls on military and police weapons stockpiles.

During 1999 to 2005 ten armed crimes were reported daily including murders and robberies.

Police have seized 13,000 illegal small arms during the last decade.

Survey respondents said that criminal gangs, army deserters and politicians were the most likely to possess illegal firearms.

The survey found overwhelming public support for small arms legislation, amnesties, tighter border control, search operations and tougher sanctions for illegal possession.


Read the full report in PDF:
:arrow: Small arms and light weapons: Challenges in Sri Lanka and options for the future


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 Post subject: Over a million illegal arms in Sri Lanka: watchdog
 Post Posted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 12:31 pm 
Over a million illegal arms in Sri Lanka: watchdog

Source: Xinhua
October 29, 2007


There are over 1.3 million illegal weapons in use in Sri Lanka, a South Asian watch group on the use of small arms said here Sunday.

"According to the Small Arms Survey conducted since 2003 it has been found that there are over 2.3 million small arms in the country. 1.3 million of them are illegal weapons," Ranjith Srilal Piyaratna, the local program co-ordinator of the South Asia Small Arms Network said.

Piyaratna said that the availability of illegal small arms has led to the escalation of the rate of crime in the island.

"It is possible that most of these illegal small arms have come into the country via the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) rebels. The 1988-89 insurrection was another reason," Piyaratna said.

The 1988-89 insurrection is blamed on the JVP or the People's Liberation Front who waged an armed campaign against the then government.

Piyaratna said that the Small Arms Network has organized pilot projects in different districts of the country to try and help authorities combat the problem of illegal weapons.


Source: Xinhua


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 Post subject: Small arms begin to look like weapons of mass destruction
 Post Posted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 12:45 pm 
Small arms begin to look like weapons of mass destruction

In the 1990s, a decade of horrendous little wars, 47 of the 49 biggest conflicts were fought not with high-tech weaponry but with small arms, yet the casualties were measured in the millions. The United Nations reckons that small arms still kill about 300,000 people a year in conflict, most of them civilians. Add to that the 200,000 more gun deaths from homicides and suicides, and small arms begin to look like weapons of mass destruction. - UN

"The proliferation of small arms in Sri Lanka is a cumulative result of the terrorism of the Tamil Tigers and the two insurgencies of the People's Liberation Front," Dhanapala wrote in an exchange of e-mails from his home in Sri Lanka. "This armed violence has not only brutalized a country which was once a model of parliamentary democracy, with impressive social and economic indicators, but has also insidiously crept into the political life of the country, linking criminal gangs with politicians," - Jayantha Dhanapala

Around the world, almost any region has a grim story to tell about the destructiveness of small arms and light weapons, such as shoulder-fired grenades or small mortars, which can be handled by a few gunmen and transported by carts or on the backs of donkeys. From Colombia to Liberia to Indonesia, such guns and light weapons have been rebels' armaments of choice. The wars they cause rarely get the attention of the Security Council.

Last week, however, the council held a daylong debate on small arms, culminating in a statement encouraging arms-exporting countries "to exercise the highest degree of responsibility in small arms and light weapons transactions," encouraging regional and international cooperation, particularly concerning al-Qaeda, and reiterating its call to U.N. member states to effectively implement arms embargoes.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan issued a report earlier this month—the topic of the council session—noting progress on implementation of his recommendations to the council on how to curb the problem. But nevertheless, the United Nations calculates that there are probably 600 million small arms in circulation worldwide, about half of them acquired illegally. In the heightened climate of fear over more spectacular strikes by international terrorists, it is difficult to convince nations that the threat of ordinary guns should not be overlooked amid preoccupations with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Sri Lanka is a case in point, both for the neglect it was subjected to for decades and for the opportunity the outside world now has to demonstrate a will to end this kind of conflict prolonged by the international trade in illegal small arms and explosives.

Sri Lanka suffered for more than two decades from an ethnic civil war—in fact, two parallel wars for part of that period. There is now an uneasy cease-fire in the longer-running conflict, between a Tamil guerrilla army claiming the island's northeast and an ethnic Sinhalese-dominated central government. But 65,000 people have already died and there is widespread concern that the ruthless group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, has been using the truce to re-arm and eliminate any remaining moderate Tamils willing to work with the government in return for peace and development.

"The LTTE has proved extremely adept at trawling the international black market for illegal small arms and light weapons and even more proficient at moving equipment from distant locales into the northeast of the island," a study by the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, concluded in October. The study, In the Shadow of a Cease-fire: The Impacts of Small Arms Availability and Misuse in Sri Lanka, reinforces the fears of many that despite the naming of the LTTE to terrorism lists in important countries including the United States and United Kingdom, the Tamils now have such a sophisticated weapons-procurement network and the money to pay for it that they cannot easily be disarmed.

Moreover, the LTTE, whose suicide bombers murdered nearly a generation of national political leaders as well as democratic Tamil opponents, has moved beyond small arms. Astonishingly, Thailand recently uncovered and shut down a submarine project along its southwestern coast that Thai authorities said was building a small craft for the LTTE. The Small Arms Survey study, written by Chris Smith, director of the Center for South Asia Studies at King's College, London, says that countries pledging to help Sri Lanka rebuild if peace holds should insist on the control of small arms. "Without such controls, Sri Lanka will be unable to unlock the considerable economic potential that exists and make up the many lost years of development," the report concluded.

Jayantha Dhanapala, who was U.N. undersecretary general for disarmament until last year, knows well how a prolonged civil war does more than kill people. He is a Sri Lankan and has seen his own nation, South Asia's most developed country, dehumanized by the Tamil rebellion, which was initially trained by Indian intelligence agencies, and by the violence of the Sinhalese leftist-nationalist People's Liberation Front in the country's south, fueled at one stage by a wave of anti-Indian anger. Meanwhile, a gun culture entered politics, and renegade soldiers were deserting with military weapons.

"The proliferation of small arms in Sri Lanka is a cumulative result of the terrorism of the Tamil Tigers and the two insurgencies of the People's Liberation Front," Dhanapala wrote in an exchange of e-mails from his home in Sri Lanka. "This armed violence has not only brutalized a country which was once a model of parliamentary democracy, with impressive social and economic indicators, but has also insidiously crept into the political life of the country, linking criminal gangs with politicians," he said.

"The lesson of Sri Lanka is that security cannot be bought by having more arms distributed to your armed forces and to civilians and that there is no substitute for political measures required to remedy grievances," Dhanapala added. "Army deserters have left the battleground with their arms to engage in crime or become contract killers for the underworld in gang wars and in political assassinations. Arms supplied to politicians, ostensibly for their own protection, are being used for political thuggery. As a result, despite the obvious solution of recovering guns through amnesties and stringent regulations, there has been little political will on the part of the major parties, who see short-term benefits in the status quo until durable political solutions are worked out."

As undersecretary general for disarmament, Dhanapala had begun to work on innovative projects to reduce small arms stocks. In the absence of an overarching arms control treaty for these weapons—a global gun-control law—most efforts to deal with the proliferation of small arms have been narrowly focused, case by case. But they can serve as models.

More than six years ago, for example, Albania turned to the United Nations for help in rounding up huge stocks of weapons that had been looted from government armories in the chaos that followed the fall of communism in eastern Europe. Led by Dhanapala, the United Nations and Albania devised a program that offered Albanian communities development aid in exchange for arms turned in for destruction.

Zef Mazi, an Albanian diplomat, told a conference on small arms last March in Slovenia that within little more than a year, about 6,000 guns and 140 tons of ammunition were collected. The program has not ended armed crime in Albania or recovered the untold numbers of looted arms trafficked out of the country. But it did, Mazi said, "develop among the people a sense of returning to normalcy and regaining of confidence in their communities and in their future."

Sri Lanka is not there yet. Dhanapala says that "the Sri Lankan political leadership has to realize the long-term damage of weaponizing society and take determined and united action to rid the country of this scourge."


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 Post subject: Sharp rise in illegal small arms usage in Sri Lanka
 Post Posted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 12:51 pm 
Govt, perturbed by sharp rise in illegal small arms usage

An estimated 35,000 small arms are said to be in circulation illegally within Sri Lanka. Trap guns, home made guns( galkatas), and shot guns are among the most commonly used. One of the districts with the highest illegal usage of small arms is Hambantota...

By Ayesha Wijeratne
@ The Nation /29 June, 2008


The two decades of the protracted North East war, and the illicit proliferation of small arms in Sri Lanka has become a cause for concern for the government. The small arms that are in circulation within the country, have led to increasing violence in the society. According to a survey conducted by the South Asian Small Arms Network (Sri Lanka) (SASA Net), an estimated 35,000 small arms are in circulation within Sri Lanka.

The weapons that are mostly home made, known as trap guns, are being used increasingly by the youth for various acts of violence, and the civil society has urged the government to immediately take action against this growing menace in the country.

SASA - Net Sri Lanka Chairman, Kingsley Rodrigo has pointed out that the rapidly growing arms culture in Sri Lanka, has prompted his organisation to demand for fresh reforms to the Firearms Act.

Rodrigo told The Nation, a new reform to the Firearms Act will be enacted soon. He said this matter has already been proposed to the cabinet for quick action by the National Commission to Combat illicit Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons ( SLAW). He also said the SALW was finding ways and means of pressurising the Cabinet for its approval, to be tabled in Parliament subsequently for necessary reforms.

Misuse

In Sri Lanka trap guns have traditionally been used by farmers for protection of crop and against poaching. The government granted licence to use trap guns exclusively to farmers to protect their agriculture and crops. But most of the times the trap guns have been misused by the farmers to take revenge on their rivals. This resulted in an increase in violence even in the rural areas.

Subsequently, the trap guns were used extensively by various terrorist outfits in the country, and according to highly placed officials from the Defence sector, there has not been proper laws governing the small arms.
“The enforcement of laws controlling illicit small arms is weak in Sri Lanka. This situation is adding to the already prevailing insecurity in the country. Significantly, the majority of those who possess these illegal firearms are youth,” Rodrigo said. A survey conducted by the National Commission to Combat illicit Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons, has indicated the high level of usage of such small arms in Hambantota.

The survey identifies a number of concerns including evidence of a widespread illegal possession of home made guns (galkatas), muzzle-loading guns and shot guns in the district. Additionally, there are small but growing numbers of ‘T-56s’ in criminal hands, which also contribute significantly to a high level of armed violence. Illicit hand grenades are also increasingly in circulation in the district.

Politicos fail to return weapons

Around 15, 000 weapons had been given to the politicians and to their supporters during the Elections by the then government in 1998, to overcome threats by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). But records show that since 1998 those who were given weapons have yet not returned them to the respective authorities, Rodrigo pointed out.

He said there are some 70, 000 army deserters in the country had left their weapons in their camps at Mullativu, Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass, paving the way not only to the civilians but even the LTTE to easily acquire them. SASA Net has estimated that there were more than 20,000 illegal firearms circulating in the country in 2006, and more than 1000 civilians had died annually due to incidents related to illegal fire arms in the country.

The most number of deaths have been due to the use of trap guns in the Anuradhapura district. Approximately, 250 people have sustained injuries annually due to trap gun related incidents. In addition some 22 elephants have also died due to trap gun related incidents annually.

Weapons in the wrong hands

Meanwhile Professor Ravindra Fernando Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, and Director, Centre for the Study of Human Rights, University of Colombo, had done a study on the subject of fire arms.
The Nation learns that when millions of people live in fear of armed violence, another hundreds of thousands of people die due to the same fact annually around the world. The small arms are sold or transferred into the countries legally, but many of them later infiltrate into the illegal market and approach the criminals also.

Professor Fernando was of the opinion that the business of manufacturing and selling small arms takes place universally. He said it is estimated the annual production of commercial hand guns and long guns is nearly seven millions. USA or the European Union produces around 75 percent of the world’s guns and are the major manufacturers of guns in the world. Brazil, China, Canada, Japan, and Russian Federation come only second to them, he said. Annually another million military small arms are produced. Small arms and ammunitions are produced by 1,250 companies in 92 countries.

Global stockpile

According to Prof. Fernando, the estimated stockpile of global small arms is 640 million guns. Eight million new guns are produced every year and nearly 60 percent of them (over 377 million guns) are circulated among the civilians. The rest of about 40 percent are possessed by government armed forces, police insurgents and other non government forces in the world, he explained.

200,000 persons killed annually

“The researchers had revealed that 200,000 persons are killed by small arms each year in the way of homicides, suicides, unexpected shooting and shooting by police. “It is very significant in countries such as Brazil, USA and South Africa, most deaths among youngsters occur due to gun violence. Small arms have killed two million children worldwide since 1990.Annually another 1.5 million people are sustained small arms injuries”, Professor Fernando said

According to him three decades of civil war had aggravated the small arms problem in Sri Lanka. He had studied the relationship of firearms and civilians’ access to them, along with the trends of crimes such as homicide and suicides. “The last three decades of violence seemed to be the norm in Sri Lanka and the citizens have become accustomed to its consequences. The large accessibility of fire arms by the civilians through illegal ways, is one of the hazards of war. No effort has yet been made to assess the full extent of the problem of fire arm availability”, he stated

The details outlined by Prof. Fernando was based on a research from the Annual Publication of the Inspector General of Police, statistics of the Registrar General’s Department and published articles from international journals. The research was designed to ascertain the extent and the gravity of the problem and the final report of the research are expected to be out for public consumption in a few months.

The research is considered to be a good initiative for formulating strategies for future research and to policy making. The research is aimed at making some recommendations on how to lessen the use of firearms, and the effects of their increase, while reducing the total amount of firearms. The study is confined to civilians including the Fire Arms Offence Committees and the victims who died of fire arm injuries, Prof. Fernando said.

According to the research, the fire arm usage has been declared sensitive to the normal political climate of Sri Lanka. According to an analysis the lowest record of crimes has been recorded in 1979. The percentage had increased from five percent recorded in 1980 to 44% and 47% in 1988 and 1989 respectively. The percentage had decreased to 14 percent in 1994 and 1995.

“It was 35 percent in 2001 while it was reduced to 15 percent in 2002 and 2003. But in 2005 it showed an increase of 25 percent. A sudden increase of 80 percent in firearms related crimes was shown in 1983.
“Again there was a considerable increase in 1988 to 1989 era which corresponding to 1983 black July and 1988 JVP insurgency,” Prof. Fernando said.

“It is interesting to note that the reduction of the percentage of firearm related crimes in 1994/95 and 2003/2004. In 1994 and 2002, as a result of the changes in the governments, the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, promised negotiations with the LTTE. The new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe signed a Ceasefire Agreement with the L TTE in 2002. Both these changes coincided with the reduction of firearm related crimes,” Prof. Fernando explained.

Gun amnesty

The Sri Lankan government declared a gun amnesty in order to decrease the circulation of firearms in the country from October 1, 2004 to November 30, 2004. Some people were offered the opportunity to obtain a payment for the firearm depending on its type, while others were offered the chance of obtaining permanent licences for unlicensed firearms.

No legal action was taken against any persons who surrendered their firearms during the amnesty period. The firearms were handed over to Divisional Secretariats, District Secretariats or the Police Stations.
According to Prof. Fernando, over 27 000 illegal weapons were handed over to the Government, but the authorities had not given a detailed breakdown of items collected.

The recovered weapons were mostly old firearms and very few automatic weapons were surrendered. The collected weapons were publicly destroyed at Independence Square on July 2005 on the International Day against Firearms.

Hard Facts

A grave crime is committed every eight minutes in Sri Lanka while one of those three grave crimes is committed using illicit firearms.
One of every serious robberies and killings are done with an illegal weapon. There are 7.1 killings per one hundred thousand population. According to the Annual Administration report of the Inspector General of Police (2002-2005), the crimes committed using firearms had increased by 11 percent from 2002 to 2005.

In 2002 the number of crimes committed using firearms is 1,906 which increased up to 2,999 by 2005. Firearms are not the main cause for violence, but they compound the social conflicts. Violence is caused for many reasons identified as poverty, unemployment, injustice, lack of legal dominance, disgust, fear, jealousy, stress.

What is gun violence?
Gun violence is defined as the deliberate use of an illegal power to threaten a person or a group or a community, a mass, or the government, and cause harm to the public security and stable development.


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