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* UN offers assistance to boost Sri Lanka's maritime crime fighting capabilities
Fri, Feb 14, 2014, 11:44 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 14, Colombo: A United Nations agency has offered assistance to Sri Lanka to improve country's capabilities of combating maritime crime and develop strategies in preventing such incidences.

A top official of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) visiting Sri Lanka has said that 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.

The UN official, Alan Cole, Regional Coordinator (Maritime Crime Program) for UNODC, has commended Sri Lanka's efforts to counter drug, human smuggling and maritime crime in general in the Indian Ocean.

The official is in Sri Lanka to brief Sri Lankan authorities on the UN's efforts to prevent maritime crime in the Indian Ocean and discuss and develop strategies in partnership with the government to further boost the efforts.

Cole has said that the UNODC thinks Sri Lanka has got one of the most challenging circumstances as the country is geographically located in an important supply route.

"Drug smuggling and human trafficking is an enormous challenge. 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" the UN official told the state-run 'Daily News'.

The UN official has said that Sri Lanka in recent years has done well to prevent human smuggling by sea and the efforts in this regard in partnership with the Australian government were an overwhelming success.

Speaking on efforts to curb drug trafficking, especially heroin, the UN official has said that Sri Lanka Customs has done very well in recent times to prevent heroin from entering the country through various ports of entry.

While noting that the container control program, operated by UNODC, seeks to improve the capabilities of ports worldwide, including Colombo to detect drug trafficking, Cole said the UNODC could further help Sri Lanka Customs to improve its online tracking of containers which 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.

The UN official meeting with the Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem yesterday has asked the Minister to set up a system in Sri Lanka to try Indian Ocean drug trafficking offenders similar to a court system in Seychelles where the captured Somali pirates are tried.

During his visit, the UN official has also met with the Attorney General and Commissioner of Prisons among others. He is expected to meet the Secretary of Defence, Navy Commander, and other stakeholders.

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