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Statement by Hon. Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka, Minister of Public Management Reforms of Sri Lanka at the Third Meeting of SAARC Ministers for Interior/Home, Islamabad,   26 June 2010

 Your Excellency, Mr. Rehman Malik, Distinguished delegates,

It gives me great pleasure to be in this beautiful city of Islamabad for this important meeting for our Region. My delegation and I are deeply touched by the warm hospitality accorded to us since our arrival. I take this opportunity to thank the Government of Pakistan for the excellent arrangements made for the series of meetings culminating in today’s ministerial meeting.

Your Excellency, on behalf of my delegation, I convey to you our warmest congratulations on your election to the Chair of this meeting and assure you of our fullest support.

I wish to thank the Secretary General of SAARC, His Excellency Dr. Sheel Kant Sharma, and his staff, for the excellent preparatory work including the preparation of documents for our meeting.

Mr. Chairman,

When the SAARC Ministers for Interior/Home met last in 2007, Sri Lanka was engaged in a struggle against terrorism which spanned nearly three decades. The defeat of separatism and terrorism last year has given us an opportunity not only to focus on reconciliation and development but also to assume greater responsibility in the effort to strengthen the regional mechanisms against terrorism. In this regard, we thank the Member States for the opportunity afforded to us to host the SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk (STOMD) and the SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk (SDOMD). With the generous assistance of the Government of India, and based on the decisions taken at the Meetings of the Focal Points on 23 June and the Secretaries of Interior/Home yesterday, the Desks will now be strengthened to be better equipped to carry out their functions of sharing and dissemination of information that is vital in interdicting the trans-border networks of terrorist groups and the inter-related issues of drug trafficking. I take this opportunity to thank the Government of Pakistan for the offer to further strengthen the SDOMD by providing a one time financial and material assistance.

Mr. Chairman,

Sri Lanka supports the draft ‘Islamabad Ministerial Statement on Co-operation against Terrorism’ proposed by Pakistan. Our eight countries rising with one voice against the scourge of terrorism in this beautiful City that has too often been an unfortunate victim of terror will be an important indication of our united commitment to combat terrorism. The decision by the Council of Ministers to develop and adopt a Symbol representing unity among SAARC Member States in the fight against terrorism is indeed an important one and will complement the Statement to be issued by us today.

We thank the Government of India for its offer to host the High Level Group of Eminent Experts to review and make proposals to further strengthen the SAARC Anti-Terrorism Mechanism, including for pragmatic cooperation, as recommended in the SAARC Ministerial Declaration on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism adopted by the 31st Session of the Council of Ministers in Colombo in February last year.

Mr. Chairman,

Sri Lanka has ratified the SAARC Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol, the SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children and the SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. Details of enabling legislation enacted locally to give effect to the provisions of these Instruments have been circulated to all Member States through the SAARC Secretariat.

During the State Visit to India by His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier this month, Sri Lanka signed a bilateral Agreement with India on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters which complements the SAARC Convention.

Mr. Chairman,

Sri Lanka welcomes the progress made so far by the Regional Task Force to implement the SAARC Conventions relating to trafficking in women and children and promotion of child welfare including the initiative to undertake a project to set up Uniform Toll Free Helplines for Women and Children to be funded under the Social Window of the SAARC Development Fund.

Mr. Chairman,

It is imperative for our Region to unite to combat terrorism as well as the social evils of trafficking in women and children, and narcotic drugs. In order to succeed, these efforts must be complemented by initiatives to instil, especially in our younger generations, a sense of respect for the other, appreciation for life, values, virtue and peace which are qualities that are essential for the achievement of socio-economic development of our Region as a whole. We welcome in this regard the decision of the SAARC Council of Ministers to celebrate the 2nd of October each year as the SAARC Day of Non-violence, which is a basic teaching of all faiths practised by the people of our region. Sri Lanka will take necessary steps to mark this important Day in a fitting manner.

My delegation strongly supports the suggestion made by Pakistan that a ‘SAARC Maritime Security Forum’ be established at the SAARC Secretariat for generation of debate and exchange of ideas among Member states and for conducting seminar in collaboration with regional maritime police centres and foundations.

Thank you.

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