28 January, 2022


Post-War Sri Lanka & The Arms Trade Treaty 

By Vidya Abhayagunawardena

Vidya Abhayagunawardena

Any legitimate government’s utmost responsibility will be to protect its own people from enemies, protect its territorial land, maintain law and order, improve its socioeconomic status, protect and safeguard its natural environment, historical and other nationally valued interests, and which is supportive of world peace. To have all these, no doubt, those governments need to have armies and police equipped with certain weapons. Such weapons need to produced or acquired from other countries in a transparent and responsible manner. Transparent and responsible arms trade will heal many wounds of nations without doubt. 

But the question is how many governments are legitimately engaged in a transparent and responsible arms trade?  In today’s context arms trade is the biggest business on the planet which involves mainly governments, politicians, the corporate sector, arms brokers, terrorists, armed groups and influential individuals.  According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in 2015 financial value of the global arms trade was at US $ 93.3billion. 

Governments’ failure to meet basic needs of people 

Today, most of the developing nations are facing severe economic, social, environmental or political crises which negates their socioeconomic development and safeguards the natural environment. Directly or indirectly this links to the ongoing armed conflicts or preparation for armed conflicts if they arise in the future. This led to governments not being able to meet the basic needs of people (human security-health, education etc) and tend to spend more and more resources on acquiring or producing arms and ammunitions. This tendency will not only be able to finding peaceful solutions for their issues but also profiting the arms producers and arms brokers.  

Terrorists and armed groups acquire conventional weapons 

Terrorists groups and armed groups around the world engage with various businesses such as fighting against the states, fighting among armed groups, anti-poaching activities which thrive on the illegal wildlife trade, human smuggling, drug dealings and business of killing humans etc. The illicit weapons trade which thrive in  the present day global arms trade. Sometimes governments may engage with illicit arms trade which the arms directly or indirectly falls into the hands of terrorist or armed groups. 

Importance of regulated arms industry for local development 

Unregulated and irresponsible conventional arms trade intensify and prolong conflicts, lead to increase sporadic levels of  human rights abuses, hinder socio-economic  development, regional instability and loss of natural resources, this includes increase in the illegal wildlife trade. 

Developing nations like Sri Lanka suffered heavily due to the 30 year long war between the Government security forces and LTTE until 2009. The LTTE had acquired weapons from various sources around the world to fight against the Government security forces. The LTTE had submarines which the Sri Lankan Navy was not equipped with. They had ships to transport weapons from around the world. Still no records are available about how much the LTTE spent on acquiring weapons. No doubt that it was a multi-billion dollar business. The Government of Sri Lanka has also acquired certain conventional weapons, which were not done in a transparent manner according to the media reports during the war. 

The 30 year war brought Sri Lanka to a standstill at various points. Sri Lanka is a one of countries in the world which suffered heavily due to the unregulated arms industry. The 30 year war in Sri Lanka tells the world of the importance of having a regulated arms industry. This will no doubt help developing nations to meet peoples’ expectations and the governments to be supportive of them.  

Illicit arms issue in Sri Lanka 

Due to illicit arms (small arms and light weapons) every year many civilians get killed in Sri Lanka. Most of small arms and light weapons used in Sri Lanka in automatic forms and bullets which are imported from other countries and none of them are produced in Sri Lanka. Still there is no record available about how many illicit arms are in the hands of armed underworld groups and individuals in Sri Lanka.  This directly hinders the socioeconomic development, political stability of the country and the security of the people. 

Some years prior to the ATT came into force in 2014 Sri Lanka had some impressive actions against proliferation of illicit arms. During the height of the war in 2005, the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunga has set up the National Commission Against Proliferation of Illicit Arms in All Its Aspect (NCAPISA). Not only in Sri Lanka was that the first commission but also in the world to set up in that nature.  The NCAPISA led many activities against illicit small arms and light weapons proliferation in Sri Lanka and has shown the world Sri Lanka’s commitment on the matter.  

In 2006 several important steps were taken in this regard. In 2006 July, Sri Lanka destroyed over 35,000 small arms to mark the “International Gun Destruction Day” at the Independence Square. The same year Sri Lanka’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN New York Prasad Kariyawasam presided over the UN Conference to Review Progress in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects which was held in New York. At the same conference on 26 June 2006 Sri Lanka’s then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa made a statement on Sri Lanka’s progress with regard to NCAPISA and country commitments on the subject.

 In 2008 March, the NCAPISA published a survey report with a foreword by then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse. On the 8th May 2008 a report was submitted to the UN Conference mentioned above.  In 2009, the war ended with the LTTE and during that time NCAPISA became defunct and post-war Sri Lanka started again to experience the proliferation of illicit weapons.  

What is the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)? 

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which was adopted in 2013 by 154 member states in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and which came into force in 2014.  The ATT offers a framework for establishing international norms for responsible trade in conventional arms. The ATT is not a disarmament Treaty. It’s an arms control Treaty which aims to achieve a “responsible trade.”  The ATT is designed to regulate arms transfers and to promote responsibility, transparency and accountability in the global arms trade. A core purpose of the Treaty is to “reduce human suffering.” 

The ATT is largely a normative treaty that seeks to promote appropriate governmental regulation of the cross-border trade of conventional weapons. The Treaty includes the activities of the international trade comprised of export, import, transit, trans-shipment, transfer and brokering. The Treaty seeks to prevent conventional military weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists or organized crime groups. 

The ATT is the only weapon related Treaty which talks about gender based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children due to armed conflict and armed violence. The ATT will positively impact the achievement of number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including Goal 5 on Gender Equity, Goal 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Goal 17 on Partnerships. 

Post-war Sri Lanka’s engagement with the ATT 

The ATT came into force in 2014, 5years after the war ended in Sri Lanka.  But Sri Lanka is still not a State Party to the ATT. During the negotiations of the ATT Sri Lanka was an active participant and voted in favor of adopting the Treaty at the UNGA in 2013. A prominent Sri Lankan Ambassador H.M.G.S. Palihakkara chaired the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters (Appointed by the UN Secretary General) of its annual two sessions (57th and 58th) of the year 2012 which focused on arms trade. The Advisory Board recommended continued efforts to promote awareness of circumstances in which there can be negative consequences of the arms trade to the UN Secretary General.   

Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), Sri Lanka’s Chapter Chairman Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva MP and Secretary Thilanga Sumathipala MP, had been supportive of promoting the ATT.  In 2017, President Mithripala Sirisena made some important statements with relation to the global arms industry. Among them, on the 11th May he said “In my opinion we will be able to build a conflict-free world if the manufacturers of firearms take up different lines of business to earn a living, it is the manufacturers of firearms that should be brought to the negotiating table.”  This May Harshana Rajakaruna MP actively participated at the South Asian Roundtable Discussion on “Promoting and Univerzerlisation of the ATT” in Nepal.   

The way forward 

Sri Lanka should immediately re-activate the National Commission Against Proliferation of Illicit Arms in All Its Aspect (NCAPISA).  As its first step recovered arms and ammunitions from the LTTE and underworld activities should be destroyed publicly at a place like the Independence Square or   Galle Face Green.  This could be organized in parallel to the next year 10th anniversary of ending the war between the LTTE and the Government Security Forces.  

Post-war Sri Lanka should engage with the international community to eradicate the illicit trade of arms which encompasses export, import, brokering and transfer. Rather it should be supportive of socioeconomic, political, environmental and other sectors development locally and globally. There are various opportunities for a post-war country like Sri Lanka to accede to the ATT. Since Sri Lanka does not produce or engage with illicit global arms trade which provides an opportunity be a State Party without a question.  Post-war Sri Lanka should be the first country to accede to the ATT in South Asia. This opportunity should not be missed by Sri Lanka. This shows that the country will not take any side and will act as a neutral nation in the region and maintain the Non-Aligned Foreign Policy. No doubt that this will help to make a  pathway to Sri Lanka becoming a “Soft Power” in the region and bring back the old glory of being a “Champion of Disarmament.”  

Sri Lanka will host the 18th Conference of Parties (CoP) of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) next year. The CITES CoP18 will be held for the first time in Sri Lanka which will be attended by 184 countries. This will be the first ever biggest international gathering in Sri Lanka. The CITES always talks about the direct link between illegal arms trade and illegal international wildlife trade. If the CITES CoP18 host country Sri Lanka becomes State Party to the ATT before next year it shows the country’s commitment and support for denouncing the international illegal wildlife trade. 

The Lord Buddha preached that lay people should not engage with 5 types of wrong livelihood and one of them is “business in weapons.”  Not only in Buddhism but also in other religions the arms trade will not be tolerated.  Sri Lanka as a predominantly Buddhist country with other religions (Hindu, Christian and Islam) is a multi-religious nation and should not be supportive of the illicit arms trade and should accede to the ATT without delay.  


[1] Abhayagunawardena, Vidya (2015), The need to apprehend illicit Small Arms

<http://www.dailymirror.lk/63103/the-need-to-apprehend-illicit-small-arms> [Accessed on 4th March 2018]

[2] Abhayagunawardena, Vidya (2013), Commonwealth State on Disarmament and Development A Socioeconomic Analysis, Sri Lanka: Sarvodaya Vishwa Lekha 

[3] Arms Treaty Monitor (2017), Goals not Guns 

<http://armstreatymonitor.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ATT-Monitor_Goals-not-Guns-Case-Study_ENG_final_ONLINE.pdf> [Accessed on 14th April 2018]

[4] Forum on Disarmament and Development (2018), Why Sri Lanka Should Accede to the Arms Trade Treaty, Sri Lanka: Forum on Disarmament and Development 

[5] Jayawardena, Sadun and Warakapitiya, Kasun (2017), Illegal Weapons: No smoking guns

<http://www.sundaytimes.lk/171029/news/illegal-weapons-no-smoking-guns-266063.html> [Accessed on 17th April 2018]

[6] LBO (2008), Sri Lanka illicit small arms threat to business: Survey

<http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/sri-lanka-illicit-small-arms-threat-to-business-survey/> [Accessed on 24th April 2018]

[7] National Commission Against Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms (2008), Survey report on the prevalence of illicit small arms in Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka, National Commission Against Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms, Ministry of Defence

[8] Parliamentarians for Global Action (2012), 1000 signatures for the Control Arms Global Parliamentary Declaration on the Arms Trade Treaty 

<http://www.pgaction.org/news/1000-signatures-for-the-att.html> [Accessed on 5th May 2018]

[9] South Asia Small Arms Network – Sri Lanka, Safer World UK (2005), Small arms and light weapons challenges in Sri Lanka and options for the way forward. 

<file:///C:/Users/Hp/Downloads/Sri%20Lanka%20challenges.pdf> [Accessed on 14th April 2018]

[10] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (2018), Financial value of global arms trade 

<https://www.sipri.org/databases/financial-value-global-arms-trade> [Accessed on 4th April 2018]

[11] The Sunday Times (2013), The smoking gun and the UN Arms Trade Treaty 

<http://www.sundaytimes.lk/130609/editorial/the-smoking-gun-and-the-un-arms-treaty-47926.html>  [Accessed on 4th April 2018]

[12] The Island (2004), Commission to deal with small arms proliferation 

<http://www.island.lk/2004/11/08/news8.html > [Accessed on 13th March 2018]

[13] United Nations (2013), The Treaty text of the Arms Trade Treaty 

<https://unoda-web.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/English7.pdf> [Accessed on 10th April 2018]

[14] United Nations General Assembly (2012), Work of the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, Report of the Secretary General 

<http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=a/67/203> [Accessed on 9th April 2018]

[15] United Nations (2006), A statement delivered by Gotabaya  Rajapakse at the UN Conference to Review Progress in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects. 

<http://www.un.org/events/smallarms2006/pdf/arms060626Sri-eng.pdf> [Accessed on 9th May 2018]

[16]  United Nations (2006), IANSA presentation to the UN Small Arms Review Conference 2006 by Kingsley Rodrigo, National Commission Against the Proliferation of Small Arms Sri Lanka

<http://www.un.org/events/smallarms2006/pdf/arms060630iansa-kingsley.pdf> [Accessed on 5th April 2018]

[17] United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (2008), Report submitted by the Government of Sri Lanka to the UN Conference to Review Progress in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects

<http://www.poa-iss.org/CASACountryProfile/PoANationalReports/2008@179@Sri%20Lanka.pdf> [Accessed on 25th May 2018]

[18] Wells, Michael (2017), The Arms Trade Treaty in the Asia Pacific

<https://thediplomat.com/2017/12/the-arms-trade-treaty-in-the-asia-pacific/> [Accessed on 4th April 2018] 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 4

    KP is the only person knowledgeable in LTTE arms purchases, bank accounts, and LTTE owned ships, and most probably divulged all what he knew to Gotabaya R who had him abducted from Thailand. Gota has not divulged any information.
    I do not think that LTTE had acquired submarines.
    That the Buddha “knew about business in weapons” is not said elsewhere.
    In His time, weapons available/used were mostly hand held/thrown weapons and bows & arrows
    How about arms taken home by the more than 50,000 army deserters – these are said to be used in crime.

    The most endangered animal in Sri Lanka is the elephant – Bhikkus take pride in sitting close to mounted elephant teeth (tusks) in sangavasas.

    • 6

      Former defence Secretary Gotapaya Rajapakse not only knew about LTTE arms dealer KP but also knew about the arms deal he has done jointly with Russian Srilankan envoy Uthayanka. Former President Mahinda Rajapakse regularly meets Uthayanka in various countries. It is a well known fact that there is close link to the Sunder Leader journalist (one time ally of Mahinda Rajapakse) and Gotapaya Rajapakse.

      The armed conflict between LTTE and Military was arose only because our politicians and religious leadership (Buddhist Monks) failed to follow the Lord Buddha’s preachings. If the Banda _Chelva pact was implemented Srilanka would have become a glorious paradise but today Sinhalese leadership compete each other in open corruption without any fear o f law and justice.

    • 0

      Mr, VA Lanka is a land of Fake Buddhism today.,
      Avant guard was gun running from Ukraine to Israel via Sri Lanka, after US citizen Gota Jarapassa, privatized the SL Navy;s Indian Ocean Marine Security arm to his US handlers.

      Avant Guard was a huge National National Security Scam by US citizen Gota Jarapassa.

      Pl. write about this too and the abuse of Buddhism by the Rajapaksas.

  • 4

    The Lord Buddha preached that lay people should not engage with 5 types of wrong livelihood and one of them is “business in weapons.” ………..

    Our Buddhism was modified a long time ago to allow the ‘State’ who fosters Our Unique type of Buddhism to acquire as many many weapons it needs to keep its OWN people quiet. Evidence: 1971, 1987-89, 2009, then Katunayake, Chilaw, Rathupaswela, etc etc. These things you cannot make up.

    The best is yet to come!

    • 4

      The Lord Buddha preached that lay people should not engage with 5 types of wrong livelihood and one of them is “business in weapons.”

      Spring Koha,

      I am not a Buddhist but this is one principle I closely follow. That, I do not engage in businesses that produce things that are designed to harm people.

      You may not know, but I am a Investment Fund Manager. And in my clients’ portfolios under me, I never invest or trade stocks in companies that produce either weapons, cigarettes, Cannabis etc.

      So companies like Northrop-Grumman, Raytheon, Phillip Morris are not favored and I tell my clients upfront why that is.

      Even a relatively harmless Diageo PLC (make of famous Vodkas, Gins and Whiskeys) are not part of our portfolio.

      • 3

        Retarded (Rtd) Lunatic (Lt) R S Perera

        You hypocrite what were you doing in the army – polishing boots ? Were you not handling arms and ammunition to kill people. If you are not a Buddhist I would presume you are a Christian – one of the commandments – thou shall not kill. Since you are now an Investment Fund Manager maybe you should invest in companies that produce Vaseline and Condoms.

        • 4

          Steve – hahahaha fantastic response to this retarded bugger (Retarded (Rtd) Lunatic (Lt) R S Perera). Please note, this bugger was never a soldier in the fighting core, he was in the barracks making pol sambol. Now he cleans toilets in an investment fund managing company. Who would ever hire this fool as an investment fund manager? Merely because one works in a medical building, does not mean he is a doctor. In the evenings, he works as a circus clown

          • 0

            A Dalit got a chance to speak.

            • 3

              Ado Dumba Jimba, I belong to the dreaded Vella rubbish the Jaffna Tamils unfortunately cooked up to feel superior to others. Having said that, you are a piece of human waste who has been given the freedom to write racist garbage, even the decent Sinhalese are ashamed of. You are a dog and filth. So go and f**k yourself bit*h.

        • 1

          And Steve what do you do and who are you. ?Name sounds like a half caste born out of wedlock. All those in the Us and British armies what do you think they do wiping each other’s arses when they have the runners? You are an absolute goose. If anyone said “thou shall not kill” well no was listening and never will. Get that into your thick half caste head.

          • 1


            For Steve the countryless it’s fine when the US and UK kill millions. But he’s a human rights “Champion” only inside SL forums.

            I can literally visualize this Savage’s Great Grand Father coming to Ceylon with the bible in one hand and a rifle in the other.

            • 3

              I can literally visualize the Retarded Lunatic’s Great Grand Father getting his arse played by the British.

          • 3

            Percy, you are attacking Steve? This is coming from a Sinhala racist who carries an English name? Oh well well, the whole world is laughing at you!!!!

          • 3

            Percy the pathetic imbecile, my genealogy is far superior to yours. Agree with you that no one is listening to “thou shall not kill ” when it is even done by those in saffron robes.

  • 5

    If people had guns, they could defend against tyranny. US has militias and guns; 500 million guns amongst 325.7 million people. Guns could have helped my people defend themselves against Sinhala Buddhist thugs in 1983.

    • 3

      Thanabala Modaya,

      What would your guns do when our Kfir jets fly over you? Shoot 30000 feet into the air? Perhaps, when you look up and shoot at the sky, the bullet is going to come back down and explode in your mouth.

      Haven’t you heard of the school shootings in the US versus the relative peace in other countries? Your children could get shot by a maniac right inside a school. Have you thought about that?
      If you haven’t read, go and read the chronology of events on the day of the Sandy Hook massacre.

      I can’t even imagine my little Grand son in that scenario. Men fighting men is usual stuff for me. But this is even beyond me.

      • 0

        SHAMAL: NExt time Sri lanka does not need weapons, It is All DRONES and bombs and may be missiles.

      • 3

        Retarded (Rtd) Lunatic (Lt) R S Perera bugger, shoot 30,000 feet into the air? Have you ever seen a close ground attack fighter plane such as a Kfir, dropping bombs from 30,000 feet? That is usually done by bombers such as the B-52, Rockwell B-1 Lancer, and great number of Russian bombers. The Kfir flies quite low, drops the bomb and sweeps upwards to fly away. What keeps them safe is the speed they fly at. Dumb fu*ker, you call yourself a military man? You don’t even know the basics of close ground attack jets.

        Also who hired you as a Fund Manager? You are so dumb, maybe the Fund Managing company hired you as a toilet cleaner.

    • 1

      This is an Advertisemwmtn for NAtional rifle Association of USA. these days, there is a mass killing by a gun slingers almost everyday I heard.

  • 0

    Vidya Abhayagunawardena feels that ‘The Arms Trade Treaty’ will save the world. He contends ~ “…….Transparent and responsible arms trade will heal many wounds of nations without doubt……”.
    If a government says “We got cluster bombs but will use it only if provoked”. Is this acceptable Vidya?
    In Lankan context, arms are imported to protect the ‘privileged’. The arms continue to go missing – you know where! We have got into a culture where a Mayor pulled out a revolver to chased some unarmed. Another PC member’s wife brought out a revolver to teach a frightened bus driver. The list is endless Vidya.
    The real real real reason for non-transparency in arms purchase was illustrated across the Strait through the Bofor scandal, and helicopter purchases and so on. In Lanka look at the MIG purchase, the Avant Gourde, the Russian frigate, the ‘spontaneous combustion of munition storage’, etc. etc. etc.
    Vidya’s history starts from the birth of LTTE – that says it all! Take a look at pre-LTTE days if you will. Did that bit of history create our present predicament?

  • 3

    “Sri Lanka should immediately re-activate the National Commission Against Proliferation of Illicit Arms in All Its Aspect (NCAPISA). As its first step recovered arms and ammunitions from the LTTE and underworld activities should be destroyed publicly at a place like the Independence Square or Galle Face Green.”

    Vidya – The war made many people rich and powerful. They can still smell the money in arms and ammunition left over.

  • 3

    Dude what a phony you are. The whole purpose of you writing this is nothing to do with arms trade. Unless some one is brain dead it is so so obvious of your purpose.You seems to be either naive or so lazy , did not even bother to make efforts to disguise or spin.But I thank you (though it is accidental) in exposing our pseudo patriot called Rtd. Lt Retarded Perera who now we know is a financial adviser and settled in U.S. If he was in services The Justice Dept personal would have visited by now. The guy talks about ethics and managing fund (like the Islamic funds) but writes demeaning racial slurs.Who ever his clients in US are not aware of his writings. And has the nerve to quote Buddhas teaching. I am sure he must be an ardent fan of Trump and following his teaching too. What is called “wheeling and dealing” Good Luck to his U.S. clients.

  • 0

    It looks Nationa RIfle Association is in Sri lanka.

  • 0

    First of the so called war was against the Indian trained, armed, financed. managed and branded Tamil Tigers by India.

    K P was and others were operating under India.

  • 0

    “Malle Pol” (coconut in the bag) comments about the article. It seems some of the not understood the subject matter of this article making comments. This is one of the reasons to becomes Sri Lanka a failed state even this year passed the 70th so called independence.

  • 0

    Any failed state loves arms trade. Which is obvious. Sri Lanka to flourish with arms and bluets. God bless Sri Lanka!

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.