HDU sounds alarm on removal of ‘safety fences’

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 14 May 2003, 10:01 GMT]
Humanitarian De-mining Unit (HDU) officials in Kilinochchi said Wednesday that an NGO operating in the Vanni had created a dangerous precedent when it recently removed fences demarcating areas infested with mines and unexploded ordnance in Sannaar, on the northern coastal sector of the Mannar district. “The NGO had apparently removed the demarcating fences to show that the Sannar area is safe for rehabilitation work”, the HDU officials said. The HDU is an arm of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO).

“The danger is that the unwarranted action of the NGO in question has prompted people in areas near Sannaar to remove the safety fences around places identified by the HDU as being infested with mines and UXOs, exposing themselves to grave danger”, they added.

HDU sources alleged that the Colombo based NGO had removed the fences to show that everything was normal in Sannaar to obtain aid from an international donor agency.

Government officials say that no resettlement assistance would be released to persons desirous of going back to villages which are still infested mines and UXOs.

“Donor agencies too say that no monies would be released for resettlement assistance programs in mined areas. This is impelling some displaced families who are desperate to resettle for pressing economic reasons to remove the demarcating fences placed by the HDU in their villages. We fear that the action of the NGO in question in Sannaar will encourage people to follow suit, putting entire families of resettlers at grave risk”, an HDU official said.

Poverty caused by constant displacement and meagre employment opportunities are impelling thousands of refugees to go back to their villages which were formerly occupied by the Sri Lanka army or were part of the SLA’s forward defence structures in the Vanni. All these areas are heavily mined.

HDU says that it does not have the resources to meet the constant demand from IDPs to clear and certify all the areas to which they (IDPs) want to return as being completely free of mines and UXOs.

Social workers in the Vanni have alleged that some international mine clearing NGOs are deliberately slowing the process for their own profit.

 

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