Sri Lanka has a proud record of unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, and has long championed multilateralism in the fields of arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation. It has been among the first States to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996, the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993 and the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972. Over the last few decades Sri Lanka has worked to prevent future weapons threats, notably an arms race in outer space, and has been a steadfast supporter of the work of the United Nations in disarmament. It has also joined, and often led, efforts in the Non-Aligned Movement to advance disarmament. In addition, Sri Lankans have served as UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, as Director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research, on the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, and as an eloquent voice for nuclear disarmament in the International Court of Justice.
Sri Lanka’s principled stance in voting for the resolution adopting this very same Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on July 7th this year was a logical continuation of its stand against all weapons of mass destruction, and was a source of pride for all of us. The failure to sign the Treaty at this point of time is a serious setback for our country’s international image and its contribution to disarmament and world peace. The Treaty is fully consistent with Sri Lanka’s existing obligations under both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. This new treaty goes farther in de-legitimizing the very possession of such weapons, which will be essential if we are to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons and ensure peace and security for present and future generations. This Treaty emphasizes in particular the applicability of international humanitarian law and the laws of war in governing both the use and existence of nuclear weapons – it seeks to establish a universal norm that is non-discriminatory, it is a light illuminating the way to achieve global nuclear disarmament.
There have been no multilateral disarmament negotiations for over two decades, and there have never been any nuclear disarmament negotiations since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968, despite the commitment of its parties to negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament. While the current Treaty is not itself a disarmament treaty since it does not require the elimination of weapons, it nevertheless helps to set the stage for one to come. Sri Lanka should join with other committed nations in leading the way toward a more comprehensive nuclear weapons convention, as well as new progress in achieving the agreed goals of general and complete disarmament.
Investments in nuclear weapons jeopardize human civilization—not only through their use, but also through the outrageous expenses incurred in manufacturing and modernizing them. These investments drain resources away from meeting sustainable development goals and reducing poverty and deprivation throughout the world, including in our own country. Nuclear weapons are inherently immoral, both in their manufacture and their potential use. It is inconceivable that Sri Lanka should take a position that indicates otherwise.
The Friday Forum strongly believes that Sri Lanka should continue to show solidarity with its friends in the Non-Aligned Movement who support the Treaty, including countries in the South Asian region, and support the future negotiation of a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention. There is no possibility that any use of any nuclear weapon, anywhere, would serve either the ideals or self- interests of Sri Lanka or any other nation. Sri Lanka voted for the resolution adopting this very same Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on July 7th, when we had a different Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary. Has there now been a change of policy after a new minister assumed office?
The Friday Forum urges the Sri Lankan government to review its position and sign the Treaty without further delay. This is an issue of concern for all the people, on which there can be no compromise.
Professor Arjuna Aluwihare and Prof. Camena Guneratne
For and on behalf of
Ms. Manouri Muttetuwegama, Dr. A. C Visvalingam, Ms. Suriya Wickremasinghe, Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe, Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Mr. Chandra Jayaratne, Mr. S.C.C. Elankovan, Dr. Geedreck Usvatte-Aratchi, Prof. Ranjini Obeyesekere, Mr. Priyantha Gamage, Mr. Javid Yusuf, Ms. Shanthi Dias, Prof. Gananath Obeyesekere, Mr. Ananda Galappatti, Bishop Duleep de Chickera and Mr. Pulasthi Hewamanna.