SLA's security measures keep Jaffna uncleared of mines

[TamilNet, Saturday, 05 April 2008, 06:44 GMT]
As Landmine Danger Awareness Week is observed in Jaffna peninsula, 95,75,958 sq.ms of the district remain infested with landmines due to Sri Lanka Army’s (SLA) refusal to permit demining activities in the High Security Zones (HSZ) and other areas, Jaffna Secretariat sources said. In addition, killings and abduction of the demining personnel belonging to Danish-demining organization and Halo Trust, allegedly by SLA troops and SLA-backed paramilitaries, have also forced these organizations to limit their services in the peninsula.

Of the 135,69,286 sq.ms identified as landmine danger area in 2002 after the signing of the Cease Fire Agreement, in Jaffna peninsula, 90,00,360 sq.ms were cleared of landmines by the end of 2007, and were handed over to the public, according to Demining Co-ordination Office in Jaffna Secretariat.

Final clearance in the second stage is being carried out now on an area of 59,22,960 sq.ms but 95,75,958 sq.ms still remains uncleared of land mines.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure Development in the recent report has announced its goal of making Sri Lanka landmine-danger-free by the end of year 2008.

But civil society organizations expressed serious doubts if this objective is even remotely achievable given the prevailing military situation in Jaffna.

Since August 2006 many employees of Danish-demining group and Halo Trust, a British-demining group, have been killed, abducted and issued with death threats allegedly by SLA troops and SLA-backed paramilitaries, causing the remaining personnel either to flee the peninsula or relinquish their jobs in fear.

These atrocities had forced the above demining organizations to close their branch offices in the peninsula, restricting activities to their head offices in Jaffna town.

The Danish demining group had shut its branch offices in Eazhaalai, Kayts and Chaaavakachcheri and Halo Trust too had closed its branch offices.

 

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