|Tuesday, 12 October 2004|
President to appoint National Commission on Firearms
by Rajmi Manatunga
A National Commission on Firearms entrusted with the task of formulating a national policy on the regulation of small firearms in the country will be appointed by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga this week.
Public Order and Internal Security Ministry Secretary Tilak Ranaviraja told the media yesterday that the Commission will carry out a study of firearms in circulation and look into all aspects of the management of firearms in Sri Lanka.
The Commission to be established following a proposal by former UN Under Secretary on Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala will have a permanent secretariat and will be funded by the United Nations Organisation.
"A special feature of the proposed Commission is the inclusion of representatives of citizens groups. This measure was taken to ensure active public participation in the firearms management process," Ranaviraja said.
The Commission which will comprise 15 members will be chaired by the Secretary while eight representatives of the Defence Ministry, three others appointed by the Minister and three citizens will also be included.
The Secretary admitted that a large number of weapons issued to civilians and security personnel especially during the 80s have been discovered recently in the possession of criminals and underworld gangs.
"The Commission will have power to issue regulations regarding such arms and to ensure that firearms issued to both civilians and security personnel are not misused," he added.
According to Ministry sources, around 33,000 illegal firearms are in circulation today. The licensing of firearms was halted from 1989 to 1996 until it was resumed in 1997. Since then over 1,000 firearms have been forwarded for licensing, sources said; Meanwhile, the Ministry has given two months amnesty for the surrendering of illegal weapons and explosives with increased cash rewards for those who surrender them.
Ranaviraja said even army deserters in possession of weapons could surrender them to the District or Divisional Secretariat of the area without having to face any inquiries.
"We will take stern action against those who fail to surrender illegal weapons within the given amnesty," he added.
Produced by Lake House