Sri Lanka’s proposal for the establishment of a Centre of Excellence on Ocean Sciences and the Environment attracted keen interest at the Thirteenth Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in Perth, Australia, over the weekend.
External Affairs Minister Professor G.L. Peiris, who led the Sri Lankan delegation, briefed the 20 Ministers present about the country’s recent initiatives, especially with regard to maintaining the security of sea lanes and the role of the Sri Lankan Navy in this regard. Prof. Peiris said that the Centre of Excellence proposed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, would serve as a partnership institute for Indian Ocean Rim countries, support scientific and socio-economic research in relation to the geographical area, and carry out educational and training services to build capacities of institutions in the region.
In the course of his address, Prof. Peiris said “ Sri Lanka is a country that was plagued by terrorism for nearly three decades until its total eradication from our shores in 2009. However we are aware that the armed conflict was sustained by the terrorists, mostly with smuggled weapons from abroad through maritime channels. These terrorists also acquired enormous wealth through illicit activities such as trafficking of narcotics, weapons and persons”.
The Minister continued “Sri Lanka is also very concerned about the security of commercial sea lanes of the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean borders over thirty nations and it is estimated that approximately 60,000 ships sail this ocean each year, including nearly half of the world’s containerised cargo. The threat posed by pirates, particularly in the Eastern Indian Ocean region is a threat to global trade and security. It is noted here that the existing international legal system has proved inadequate to face this growing problem. Though the multilateral efforts undertaken through the International Task Forces to contain piracy in the Indian Ocean are laudable, it is necessary to commit greater resources and cooperation to these efforts. In this regard Sri Lanka is ready to cooperate with like-minded countries to ensure the safety of sea lanes that is vital for all our economies.”
The Commonwealth countries attending the Indian Ocean Conference in Perth were Australia, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa and Tanzania.