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Speech by the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Lakshman Kadirgamar,
during the United Nations General Assembly Debate on International Terrorism, October 2, 2001

The following is the speech made by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar during the UN addressed debate on international terrorism. Kadurgamar reiterated Sri Lanka’s commitment to the global endeavour in the fight against terrorism and called upon the comity of nations to make as its primary objective the elimination of the supportive financial systems on which terrorism depends.

Mr. President,

On behalf of the Delegation of Sri Lanka, I convey to you the warmest congratulation on your election to the Presidency of the General Assembly.

To your predecessor, Mr. Harri Holkeri, I would also convey Sri Lanka's appreciation for the careful and devoted manner in which he presided over the affairs, and the extremely busy schedule, of the fifty-fifth session of the Assembly.


The horrors of the morning of Tuesday the eleventh of September, the spectacle of International terrorism in action viewed 'live' on television screens the world over, has cast a heavy pall on all of us and on humanity as a whole.

We are all still deeply moved by what happened in the United States that tragic morning. We will always be affected by the memories we shall carry with us for as long as we live.

The President, the Government and the people of Sri Lanka have conveyed to the President, the Government and the people of the United States, and all those bereaved, Sri Lanka's profound condolences. On behalf of the Delegation of Sri Lanka, I would also, today, convey to the Delegation of the United States the very deepest of sympathies.


The Terrorism of the eleventh of September, so shocking as it was, gave rise to a "coming-together" of the people of the great city of New York in the finest traditions of humanity.

On the twelfth of September, the Security Council and the General Assembly convened to express: their collective condolences; an unqualified condemnation of the terrorism: a determination that those responsible should not go unpunished; and firm concurrence that terrorism threatened the foundations of human society and order and would need to be, and must be, globally removed.

Let us hope that such a deep sense of the "togetherness" of all of humanity at times of great crises will continue to be pervasive.


To ensure that those responsible for the terror of the eleventh of September are brought to justice and that those responsible are deprived of their support and their resources, whatever and wherever that may be, has the immediate urgency.

Sri Lanka has assured the Government of the United States of every possible assistance Sri Lanka could provide.

Terrorism is, sadly, no stranger to Sri Lanka. We, in Sri Lanka know terrorism, unfortunately, only too well.

We know the horrific direct consequences of an act of terrorism: the carnage; the horror; the thousands of unsuspecting innocent lives lost or maimed, in the flash of an explosion; the thousands of families then left bereaved; the countless personal tragedies that terrorism leaves in its wake.

There are also the larger disruptions of national stability and order as well: of the economy, of infrastructures, of the customary ways of life.

Yet we must not forget the elaborate funding, support and preparation - in a word the "logistics" that lie behind a single act of terrorism: the extensive secret collection organizations, their associates, their collectors, their enforcers, their many other supporters misguided or otherwise; the ability to transfer millions perhaps just by word of mouth; the numerous connections to the underworld of crime; the deliberate fanning of the flames of difference or discord in societies into the fanatical hatred from which crucible a suicide mission is born; and, above it all, there looms the reclusive leader who attracts and directs the misguided and the impressionable.

The elimination of the supportive financial systems on which terrorism depends must, in Sri Lanka's view, be a principal objective and that will require a global undertaking: complex difficult, multi-faceted long term.

However, because of the eleventh of September, important beginnings are now being made for that purpose - which, hopefully, will be of assistance, as well, to those of us who have known the heavy hand of terrorism for many years past.

May I recall here the words I spoke from this podium, almost exactly a year ago, to the Millennium Assembly, of Sri Lanka's experience with terrorism.

My words were these:

A criminal organization - whether involved in rebellion against a State or not - must depend for its sustenance outside the law. For its massive operations and massive weaponry, massive collections of funds are continually required. As funds available for criminal activities within a State, especially a developing State, are Invitably small, and the monitoring of their collection and disbursement relatively simple, fund collection for such activities is carried out abroad - through international criminal networks, of course - and also, as in all criminal enterprises, through knowing or unknowing front organizations or other entities that now proliferate in many forms, in many countries - often in the guise, sadly, of charitable groups or groups ostensibly concerned with human rights, ethnic cultural or social matters'.

'The magnitude of the collections of funds from abroad, and the extensiveness of the reach of the international networks developed for the purpose, boggle the mind. Their receipts seem to exceed the receipts of many transnational conglomerates - and all free of tax, Revenues come, of course, from the customary illegal trade in drugs or arms or other merchandise including the smuggling of humans'.

'Yet, there also exists a far more abundant and seemingly limitless reservoir of funds - namely, expatriates of similar ethnicity settled abroad. As the western median has reported over the last few years from time to time, collection from expatriates abroad for the armed group. Known as the Tamil Tigers, battling the Government of Sri Lanka are staggering in their magnitude; for example US $ 400,000 a month from one country; US$ 600,000 a month from another; US$ 2.7 million a month from yet another, and large additional funds from expatriates in still other countries'.

'In 1988 an excellent study was published on 'Financial Havens, Banking Secrecy and Money-Laundering'. It was a study commissioned, to experts in the field, by the United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention'.

'In order to implement adequately the provisions of the recently adopted Convention on the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism, a study, of a similar nature, on the collection of external funds for massive continuous internal armed rebellion against a State, such as occurs in Sri Lanka, should surely be undertaken also by the appropriate United Nations bodies. It seems to me that such a study is especially necessary when the armed group battling a State is in blatant violation of human rights and humanitarian norms and standards (including those relating to children and children in armed conflict) that this Organization and its Councils, Commissions, Committees and officials, including the Secretary - General and his Special Representatives, so correctly and so diligently espouse as the minimal contemporary requirements in human society.

'I proposed such a study at the fourth Round Table of the Millennium Summit, and that proposal was endorsed by our Chairman, President Bouteflika of Algeria, in his summation to the General Assembly of the proceedings of our Round Table. I urge that favourable consideration be given to that proposal by the international community".

Let me recall too, the following sentences in a Report submitted by the Secretary-General in 1998 which comes often to our minds in Sri Lanka.

"Government authority and civil society are increasingly threatened by transnational networks of crime, narcotics, money-laundering and terrorism. Access by underworld groups to sophisticated information technologies and weaponry as well as to the various instrumentalities through which the global market economy functions are vastly increasing the potential power of and influence of these groups, posing a threat to law and order and to legitimate economic and political institutions."


The many disparate forces for international terrorism do not come together in one monolithic whole. They are variously interconnected in numerous ways and their international networks are extensive. They are mutually supportive and communicate through the global underworld of crime when special missions are afoot. If international terrorism is to be ever removed from our midst, we must begin with the recognition that international terrorism is a form of global criminality. We must not let ourselves be deceived by the artfully crafted cloaks of false pretensions. It is the method of terrorism as in the murder of innocent civilians and the defiance of the sanctity of life - that defines terrorism.


The eradication of such a global criminal phenomenon requires a global governmental and non-governmental endeavour in many fields.

There shall have to be numerous bilateral, sub-regional, interregional, and global, governmental and non-governmental arrangements.

To such a global endeavor, this organization, the United Nations, must contribute and the United Nations is no stranger to the development and administration of global programs.

One of the magnificent achievements of this Organization, in the last half century, has been the transformation that has taken place in global opinion on the relationship that should obtain between the governing and the governed, between the government and the citizen. It was on the basis of the moral authority of the General Assembly's Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the determined endeavours of the Commission on Human Rights, that this transformation was achieved. The dignity of the individual has now, largely as a result of United Nations leadership in the field of human rights, been placed, as it should be, amongst the primary priorities of national and international attention.

The achievement is due, in large part, to the remarkable multi-faceted and powerful structure that was developed within the United Nations system of organizations and agencies, over the past fifty years, for the protection and promotion of human rights. We know of the large number of general multilateral conventions that were concluded. We are acquainted with their reporting requirements and monitoring committees. We know of the many special rapporteurs. There are training programmes and centres on human rights. We have had Special Sessions of the General Assembly and special Conferences. Numerous Trust Funds supplement and often exceed the allocations from the Regular Budget of the United Nations. There is an enormous public relations programme on Human Rights. There is a High Commissioner of Human Rights. The list of United Nations entities which make human rights one of their major concerns could go on and they would still not include the hundreds of governmental and non-governmental national and international groups that are themselves engaged in the protection and advancement of human rights, and we have not as yet come to the international and national print and electronic media.

If only such a powerful edifice would turn its attention to the eradication of the horrors of terrorism that afflict so many in developed and developing countries alike, the world would be a better and safer place for all the peoples of the planet.

Moreover, let us remember in this connection, that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights is not limited in scope to ensuring the observance of human rights by Governments alone.

The Declaration has a far wider purpose: the observance of human rights by all governmental and non-governmental alike. One need only look to the explicit prescription in article 3 of the Universal Declaration, which requires that everyone has the right to life; and to the provisions of article 30 of the Declaration which prescribe that: "Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein".

An act of terrorism by a non-governmental entity against civilians is surely one of the most heinous violations of the human rights of its victims and, surely, a crime against humanity as well.


Sri Lanka pledges to follow closely and cooperate fully in the work of the United Nations on terrorism. Sri Lanka will, of course, do so pursuant to the Resolutions of the Security Council and in particular the Resolution 1373 adopted by the Security Council last Friday night 28 September.

Sri Lanka will, also, follow closely and cooperate fully with such other United Nations programmes against terrorism that shall, hopefully, also develop, within the United Nations System in the knowledge that it is the prevention of the terrorist's strike that should be the principal focus of a global endeavour against terrorism; and that fundamental to such prevention is the interdiction of terrorism's "life-blood": the provision of funds made available in such millions, knowingly or unknowingly, willfully or otherwise, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in circumstances where it is possible that such funds may be utillised to further terrorism's purposes.

It is surely morally unacceptable in contemporary times, whether there be specific legal provision in international conventions to that effect or not, that funds should flow in their millions, or tens of millions would perhaps be more exact, from territories under the jurisdiction of one State for the slaughter of innocents in another.

Sri Lanka will, of course, continue in its active role as the Chair of the General Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee on the Elimination of International Terrorism established in February 2001, with a view to concluding, under the auspices of the Sixth Committee, international conventions on particular aspects of terrorism and eventually developing an appropriate comprehensive and focused international legal framework in the light of which Governments would bring to justice those who are responsible for acts of terrorism.

The world before the eleventh of September was not always encouraging to the Ad Hoc Committee. Two examples should suffice to make this point; the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1999, shows as of now only 44 Signatories and just 4 States Parties of whom Sri Lanka is one; the International Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime adopted by the General Assembly, on 15 November 2000, shows as of now 123 signatories and just 3 States Parties.

We know also that our negotiations on international conventions, often concluded after lengthy, exhaustive sessions to produce lowest common denominator provisions enleavened by "constructive ambiguity" have not been as effective as they ought to be. They may salve our consciences but with loopholes through which millions of dollars could pass in questionable transactions in the real world.

Yet that was the world we know before the eleventh of September. Let us hope that things will now change for the better.

Sri Lanka, a party to all the major United Nations conventions relating to terrorism, will continue to urge the widest possible participation in the international conventions that have already been formulated under the auspices of the United Nations, on a number of aspects of terrorism. Sri Lanka will also pursue the fullest participation in the formulations of the conventions that remain on the agenda of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elimination of International Terrorism.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka, October 2, 2001







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