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 Post subject: Deserters number 70,000, illegal arms over 35,000
 Post Posted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 3:51 am 
Deserters number 70,000, illegal arms over 35,000
Over 20 underworld gangs on the loose

by Shyamalee Murugesu
@ The Island / 18MAR2006


There are 20 recognized underworld gangs, 70,000 deserters and the interior ministry records 35,000 illegal arms in the country. The LTTE, paramilitary groups and various other groups are all unaccounted for and are growing concerns as well, this was revealed by South Asian Movement Against Small Arms (SAMASA) Chairman Kingsley Rodrigo yesterday.

Speaking to the media he said this issue should be taken seriously and a control on the use of arms was necessary..

SAMASA and its partners will launch a 100-day count down campaign leading up to the June 26 UN review conference, which will be chaired by Sri Lanka.

Rodrigo emphasized that since Sri Lanka harbors an atmosphere with various unaccounted groups and the free flow of arms, it was of great importance to chair the conference and influence other countries. He added that arming of politicians began prior to the 1989 elections, by providing 15,000 arms to politicians and these were never returned. Annually 500,000 are said to be dying world wide due to small arms. He commended Former president Chandrika Kumaratunga on her initiative to set up a national commission to combat the proliferation of illicit small arms. Sri Lanka is said to be the first country in South Asia to establish a national commission. Last year an arms cleaning drive saw the destruction of 30,000 fire arms at the Independence square.


The 100-day count down will launch a million faces photo petition and create awareness on the issue of small arms even at school level and pressure the governments in the region to support the Arms Trade Treaty. Over 900,000 people have already given their photographs for the million faces petition, representing the million killed due to fire arms since 2001 and calling the leaders to have stricter laws on arms trade which will be presented at the June conference.


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