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Government should connect to the world on seven issues; will improve country’s future peace and stability 

ince President Maithripala Sirisena assumed office on January 9 Sri Lanka was able to renew new diplomatic relationships with such important nations as well as the UN and other international organisations. 
In this respect, it must positively engage the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and with other countries on the post-war reconciliation process. The new government should be able to carry out certain important tasks in the immediate future.  This will help Sri Lanka to engage the world community and get world attention. It would also directly and indirectly help in impacting domestically in the areas such as the ongoing reconciliation process, socio-economic and political development and nature-related issues. 
The President Maithripala Sirisena as the Chair of the Commonwealth and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should be able to address seven issues in a short period of time as a high priority.

There are:

i) Destroy  Blood Ivory    

Sri Lanka Customs confiscated a container of African blood ivory in 2012. This was the largest blood ivories (356 ivories) haul confiscated by the Customs. At the time the UPFA government tried to steal them in the guise of distributing ivories among Buddhist temples. (But they were unable to do so due to a public outcry.) This was completely in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which Sri Lanka is a signatory to, since 1979.
With the arrival of President Maithripala Sirisena, his government was granted permission in June to destroy them using the same methods followed by the other countries. 
Due to the General Elections, the government was unable to carry out the task. Destroying blood ivory will immensely benefit Sri Lanka for important reasons. Among them, it would show that the country supports the combatting of the illicit wildlife trade.  The country will also be able regain the lost Europeans Union’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus concessions. The CITES is one of the conventions which comes under the considering GSP Plus for a country. The Secretary General of CITES already shown his interest in destroying blood ivory in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka will be the first country in South Asia to destroy confiscated blood ivory.

ii) Passing the Disability Rights Bill (DRB)

Sri Lanka is a signatory to the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) since 2007. But the country has still not ratified the CRPD and is the only country in the South Asian region not to do so. 
Before the ratification of CRPD, it is necessary that the domestic law is passed in Parliament by following the accepted due process and incorporating CRPD norms and principles, which the Government of Sri Lanka has principally agreed. 
The draft DRB 2014 needs to go through agreed consultative and participatory processes and then sent to the Attorney-General’s Department with the approval of the Social Services Minister. This process needs to be expedited as early as possible with the new minister appointed to the ministry.

iii) Ratify CRPD

The sooner the DRB is passed in Parliament Sri Lanka would work on to ratify the CRPD. The ratification of the CRPD immensely benefits for post-war Sri Lanka’s socio-economic and political development in particular empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) into the mainstream development process through participation and inclusion.

iv) Accede to the Protocol V of the CCW

Sri Lanka is a signatory for Protocol I to IV of the CCW since 2004 but not a signatory for Protocol V on “Explosive Remnants of War” (ERW). 
Becoming signatory to Protocol V is important for post-war Sri Lanka. This November the Chairperson-designate will be Sri Lanka for the Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the CCW. 
It is advisable for Sri Lanka to become a signatory to Protocol V before chairing such a high level meeting this year at the UN.

v) Accede to the CCM

Since Sri Lanka did not use and rejected the allegation of using cluster bombs at the last stage of the battle with the LTTE in 2009, and also did not intend to use them in the future, the country should become a signatory to the CCM without any delay.

vi)  Accede to the  APMBC

Post-war Sri Lanka will have to struggle in many years to clear the landmine-infested lands to be cleared in the war-affected regions in the North and the East. 
Unless Sri Lanka becomes a State party for the APMBC there is no way of guaranteeing that the country is committed to the clearance of landmines and that country will not use such weapons in the future.

vii) Accede to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

The ATT regulates the international trade in conventional weapons. The ATT is not an arms control or disarmament treaty, but rather its aim is to achieve a “responsible arms trade.”  Post-war Sri Lanka should engage with the world community to crack down on the illegal arms trade, particularly around the Asian region and also become transparent in the arms acquiring process.
The National Unity Government (NUG) should give high priority to connect Sri Lanka with the world, which should be able to carry out those seven activities. 
There seems to be no reason for delay in carrying out these seven issues of work by the NUG.  If Sri Lanka became State party for APMBC, CCM, CCW Protocol V and ATT it would help improve not only country’s future peace and stability but also that of the region. 
Being the current Chair of the Commonwealth, Sri Lanka can set an example and can be on par with developed Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK by carrying out such acts.
 

Vidya Abhayagunawardena is a researcher in Socioeconomic Development and Disarmament.
atvidyampa@hotmail.com

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