While commending Sri Lanka's efforts to counter drug, human smuggling and maritime crime in general in the Indian Ocean, a top United Nations official yesterday said the UN was willing to lend its expertise both in knowledge and technical know-how towards further improving capacity of local officials who are behind these initiatives.
Alan Cole, Regional Coordinator (Maritime Crime Program) for UN Office on Drugs and Crime, currently in Sri Lanka said, he was here to brief what the UN is doing to prevent wider crime in the Indian Ocean and discuss and develop strategies in partnership with the government to further boost efforts.
"Drug smuggling and human trafficking is an enormous challenge. The UNODC think Sri Lanka has got one of the most challenging circumstances as the country is geographically located in an important supply route. Sri Lanka has done well to combat such crime and we are ready to help further improve capacity and develop strategies at prevention in partnership with the government" he added in an interview with the 'Daily News'.
Cole said Sri Lanka in recent years has done well to prevent human smuggling by sea and described efforts in this regard in partnership with the Australian government as an overwhelming success.
Cole, the official for the UN in its anti piracy coordination activities against Somali pirates said Sri Lanka with other countries had supported UN's endeavours in this regard and as a result the UN considers the problem is now under control. "We came here four years ago to brief the Sri Lankan government on what the UN response to Somali piracy was and at that time Somali pirates were been found on this side of the Indian Ocean and as far over as The Maldives," Cole said.
"I am pleased to say that during last four years, the international community working together have arrested 1,400 Somali pirates who are being imprisoned in 21 countries. This has resulted and as a resulted in major drop in piracy," Cole added.
Cole said the UN at present was engaged in helping carry out prosecutions and building prisons in Somalia itself to house convicted pirates, so that they do not become a burden on the country's which are currently holding them.
Speaking on efforts to curb drug trafficking, especially heroin, Cole said there has been a huge increase in the trafficking of heroin across the Indian Ocean, mostly into East Africa and also into eastern Indian Ocean states in recent times.
Cole said in particular, the Sri Lanka Customs has done very well in recent times to prevent heroin from entering the country through various ports of entry.
He said the container control program operated by UNODC which seeks to improve the capabilities of ports worldwide, including Colombo.
Cole said the UNODC could further help Sri Lanka Customs to improve its online tracking of containers which is is a very important component to identify containers that might be of interest and how they have being traveling.
Cole said the UN could help Sri Lanka in terms of entering in to agreements with the Navies of other countries, prosecution of international drug dealers, updating legislation and improving the capacities of the law enforcement sector and prosecutors.
"We can also provide new detection equipment and share our expertise on forensic analysis. Sri Lanka has got excellent capacity in many of these areas but there are yet some specialist skills which our agency has and which may be of interest to the Sri lankan government" he added.
Cole during his current visit has met with the Attorney General, Commissioner of Prisons among others and is slated to meet the Minister of Justice, Secretary of Defence, Navy Commander, Secretary of law and order and many other stake holders.