Jaffna peninsula Demining activities stall

[TamilNet, Sunday, 24 February 2008, 02:34 GMT]
Increased frequency in clashes between Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Forward Defence lines (FDL) has resulted in humanitarian demining activities in the peninsula slowing down with the possibility of all related activities coming to a complete halt in the near future, representatives of various Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Jaffna said Saturday.

The international countries alarmed by the large scale planting of land mines and pressure mines by the parties involved in the conflict have taken steps to trim their activities by significantly slashing their financial contributions as well reducing the number of employees involved in clearing mines.

Donors have spent considerable amount of funds for removal of mines throughout the peninsula and are not ready to pour in more funds to again begin the same process, the sources added

International agencies have tried to persuade the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) to sign the Ottawa Treaty (Mine Ban Treaty), and Sri Lanka's refusal to become a signatory is an additional reason for donor nations' reluctance to allocate more funds for demining activities, NGO representatives pointed out.

Meanwhile, during the ongoing hostilities it is feared that there has been a large scale planting of land mines in the FDL areas in Muhamaalali, Kilali and Nagarkoayil. In addition large quantitities of land mines are believed to be buried in areas adjoining Kudakkadal in Ariyaalai East, Kurunagar, Pasayoor as well as in Thenmarradchi from Kilali up to Kachchaai, Thanangi’lappu. Some of these areas were recently cleared of the mines and declared safe areas.

Danish Demining Agency (DDA)which has been involved in clearing land mines has recently closed down its offices in Chaavakachcheari, Eazhaalai and Kayts and and is establishing a coordinated central office in Jaffna town.

Halo Trust, a non political and non religious NGO registered in Britain and USA as Non-Profitable organizations has also embarked on a similar action.

Many other NGOs involved in demining activities have already reduced their man power and are ending activities in the North.

Meanwhile, almost two thirds of the employees of the District office for coordinating land mine removal, functioning at the Jaffna secretariat, have been laid off due to shortage of funds.

The Ottawa Treaty or the Mine Ban Treaty championed by Late Diana, Princess of Wales, formally the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, bans all anti-personnel landmines (AP-mines). As of 2007, 158 countries has signed the treaty. Thirty-seven states, including Sri Lanka, the Peoples Republic of China, India, Russia and the United States are not party to the Convention.

Another reason for reduction in fund allocation for removal of land mines is due to the failure of GOSL in taking suitable action to prevent the abduction killing and disapperances of employees of NGOs such DDA and Halo Trust , local sources said


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