July 8, 2005

S.Lanka crushes arms trade — with bulldozers

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka wants to crush its illegal
firearms trade to curb its murder rate, so on Friday it did
just that -- sending two bulldozers rolling over 32,000 rusty
shot guns, rifles and handguns to drive its point home.

The arms, harvested from a firearms amnesty, a Marxist
insurrection in the 1970s and 1980s, two decades of civil war
with Tamil Tiger rebels and from crime gangs, were mostly
beyond repair, and had been sitting in police and army stores
for years.

"(Each year) 1,400 homicides are committed using mostly
illicit arms," said Tilak Ranavirajah, Secretary to the
Ministry of Public Security, Law and Order, as soldiers laid
out the dilapidated arms at a ceremony in the capital's
Independence Square, a day before the international day against
illegal arms.

"We are destroying these arms in public to create a public
opinion," he added, saying a government firearms amnesty was
still in effect. "We want to give people another chance. If
they hand over these weapons, we will not prosecute them."