Director, Operations of the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Miwa Kato paid a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on 28 November 2019 at the Ministry.
The Minister appreciated the increasing engagement between Sri Lanka and UNODC, especially in maritime crime prevention. He emphasized that at a time that Sri Lanka is emerging after a 30 year long separatist terrorist conflict that ravaged the country for nearly three decades, violent extremism and other forms of illegal crimes hamper Sri Lanka’s economic trajectory. It is in this context that Sri Lanka is looking forward to engaging with UNODC to find appropriate systems and procedures to address issues in the long term.
The main focus of the discussion was on drug trafficking in Sri Lankan waters and beyond and how the cooperation between Sri Lanka and UNODC has been able to intercept many attempts of drug trafficking. UNODC praised Sri Lanka’s efforts and achievements in combating illegal drug trafficking. Further, both sides affirmed their commitment to find a practical way to address nefarious operations inside prisons that contribute to expand drug trafficking; including capacity building for prison staff to bring the inappropriate situations under control.
UNODC also commended the excellent cooperation received from Sri Lankan authorities especially from the Ministry of Foreign Relations and the Sri Lanka Navy and briefed on the support extended by the UNODC to the Sri Lanka Navy to provide Visit, Board, Search and Seizure(VBSS) training to countries in the region.
Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha stressed that Sri Lanka is in need of comprehensive long term support to build local capacity in combating drug trafficking and other maritime crime together with transfer of appropriate technology backed by state-of-the-art equipment which would bring tangible benefits to the country. The Secretary further noted that UNODC’s support has augmented Sri Lanka’s existing strength in the maritime safety and security domain, especially in the Indian Ocean through the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Working Group on Maritime Safety and Security, which is led by Sri Lanka.
The Minister also drew attention to the Government’s foreign policy focusing on neutrality and working with all nations and that Sri Lanka is poised to continue a robust ocean policy, as reiterated by the President.
Director General of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change of the Ministry, Hasanthi Dissanayake appreciated the assistance that UNODC extended for the Track 1.5 Conference on “The Indian Ocean: Defining Our Future” held in October 2018 and the First Meeting of the IORA Working Group on Maritime Safety and Security in August 2019 and welcomed the pledged support for the Track 1 Conference to be held in the near future.
Head of UNODC Maritime Crime Programme Allen Cole, and two other staff from UNODC Sri Lanka office accompanied Director Kato, while the Foreign Secretary and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Relations were present at the discussion.
Ministry of Foreign Relations
29 November 2019