Sri Lanka bans private arms deals

Updated on Oct 11, 2007 04:40 AM IST

The Govt gazettes a regulation banning Lankans from entering into any arms deals whether in the country or abroad, reports PK Balachandran.

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Hindustan Times | ByPK Balachandran, Colombo

The Sri Lankan government has gazetted a regulation banning Sri Lankans from entering into any arms deals whether in the country or abroad, Basil Rajapaksa, President Mahinda Rajapaksa's Advisor, told parliament on Tuesday.

The second most important man in Sri Lanka was quoted in the state-owned Daily News as saying that very soon this regulation would be brought to parliament to convert it into law. The regulation had made Sri Lankan middlemen in arms deals liable to legal action, Rajapaksa said.

Sri Lanka's arms purchases have been controversial ever since the armed forces began to expand in the early 1980s to face Tamil militancy in the North and East. Over time, Sri Lanka began to spend a greater percentage of its budget on defense than any other South Asian country. The defense expenditure in 2007 was SL Rs.139 billion ($ 1.2 bn) and the projected expenditure for 2008 is SL Rs.166 billion ($ 1.4 bn).

Arms purchases had allegedly become money spinners for many Sri Lankan middlemen and some in power. Journalists who had exposed shady defense deals were attacked. Iqbal Athas of The Sunday Times and the Jane's Defense Weekly who had exposed many corrupt deals in his 40 year career, was recently dubbed a "traitor" by a spokesman of the government for alleging high corruption in the purchase of MIG 29 aircraft.

“International human rights bodies would not investigate the killings and disappearances in Kashmir and Iraq but would make an issue of such occurrences in Sri Lanka because India and Iraq were big markets while Sri Lanka was not”, the Sri Lankan Minister for Engineering and Construction Services, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, said.

Speaking to the media as a member of the Presidential Committee on Disappearances and Abductions, Senaratne pointed out that 10,000 had disappeared in Kashmir and 600,000 in Iraq. But while Iraq and India were left off the hook by the international community, Sri Lanka was being probed though it had only 1,200 disappearances.

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