Sri Lanka has decided to ratify the anti-personnel mine ban convention, also known as the Ottawa Convention.Northern and Eastern provinces in Sri Lanka have been severely affected by landmines and explosives due to the conflict situation which prevailed in the country. According to the latest figures, to date, 162 States have joined the convention and have collectively destroyed a total of over 48 million stockpiled landmines to date. (Colombo Gazette) The Ottawa Convention adopted on Sept. 18, 1997 came into force on March 1, 1999. This landmark humanitarian and disarmament Convention seeks to end the suffering caused by landmines.By joining the convention, each State Party undertakes to destroy all stockpiled anti-personnel mines that it owns or that are under its jurisdiction or control, not later than four years and to clear landmines within 10 years of becoming a State Party. Providing assistance to mine victims and awareness raising also remains important aspects in the Convention. As a result a joint proposal made by MangalaSamaraweera, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and D.M. Swaminathan, the Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, to ratify the anti-personnel mine ban convention to create that background, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. The Government today said that the de-mining process is important for the resettlement of internally displaced persons and threats for the lifestyle and infrastructure development in the area by these explosives should be prevented.
Video of the press briefing [25mins] United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan today announced the formation of the independent panel that will conduct an inquiry into allegations of impropriety in the administration and management of the Iraq Oil-for-Food Programme. The panel will be chaired by Paul A. Volcker, former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the United States Federal Reserve System. Its other two members are Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa, who previously served as the Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and Mark Pieth of Switzerland, a Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology at the University of Basel with expertise in money-laundering. According to the terms of reference that will govern the independent inquiry, the panel will have the authority to investigate whether the procedures established by the UN for the administration and management of the Programme were violated; determine whether any United Nations officials, personnel, agents or contractors engaged in any illicit or corrupt activities in the carrying out of their respective roles in relation to the Programme, and; determine whether the accounts of the Programme were in order and were maintained in accordance with UN regulations and rules.To ensure a thorough and meticulous inquiry, the members of the independent panel will have the authority to access all relevant UN records and information, written or unwritten, and to interview all relevant UN officials and personnel. The panel is authorized to obtain records and interviews from persons unaffiliated with the UN who may have knowledge relevant to the inquiry, including allegations of impropriety. It is also authorized to seek cooperation from UN Member States to conduct its inquiry.In a separate action today, the Security Council adopted unanimously a resolution welcoming the appointment of the panel and calling upon the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), Iraq and all other Member States – including their national regulatory authorities – to fully cooperate with the inquiry.In addition, within three months of the initiation of its work, the panel should provide the Secretary-General with a status report of its work. The Secretary General has stated that he will employ his authority so that the Organization’s privileges and immunities do not impede efforts to hold accountable those who have engaged in unacceptable conduct.”Obviously, these are serious allegations which we take seriously, and this is why we’ve put together a very serious group to investigate it,” the Secretary-General told the press today at UN Headquarters. “The organization will take whatever steps may be appropriate to address the issues raised by the inquiry. We have assembled a group of respected individuals that I hope will complete its work as soon as practicable.””As to the impact on our activities in Iraq, I hope the Iraqis realize that even if there have been wrongdoings by certain members on the UN staff, the UN, as a whole, did make a genuine effort to fill in their humanitarian needs,” he added. “There were hundreds of UN staff who worked very hard and diligently to establish the food distribution system and ensure that supplies did go in and, I think, that positive aspect of it should not be overlooked either.”As provided in the terms of reference, the panel’s report will be made public.