08th March 2018 18:16:54 Hours
Sri Lanka Army Humanitarian De-mining Unit (SLA-HDU) was assured more new technical equipment and funds for purchase of more Mine Detection Dogs (MDDs) by HRH Prince Mired Raad Zeid Al-Hussein, Special Envoy on Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention, who visited minefields in Muhamalai, Jaffna this morning (6) at the invitation of HE the President and the National Mine Action Centre of the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs.
The visit of the Special Envoy adds more significance to Sri Lanka at this stage since it was just less than three months ago only Sri Lanka became a signatory to the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention alias 'Ottawa Treaty' as the 163rd State.
The Special Envoy, Prince Mired Raad Zeid Al-Hussein, together with Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, Hon D.M Swaminathan, representing the host, HE the President, Mr Juan Carlos Ruan, Director, Implementation Support Unit of the Special Envoy, Ms Laila Rodriguez - Bloch of the Implementation Support Unit, Eng (Dr) Ponnaiah Suresh, Secretary to the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, diplomats, UN envoys, foreign officials, Mr K.G.M.B Wickremasinghe, Head of Mine Action Operations at the Ministry, Mr Vidya Abeygunawardene of the Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines, Mr Gihan Indraguptha, Director / UN at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several other officials in the retinue, visited those minefields in Muhamalai.
Prince Zeid Al-Hussein, visibly impressed with Sri Lanka Army's Humanitarian De-mining Unit (SLA-HDU) tasks at ground level expressed his overwhelming satisfaction of the "well-organized, very well-planned and neatly-organized" ongoing de-mining work of the Sri Lanka Army and wanted his best wishes, blessings and greetings be conveyed to the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake and Army de-miners alike at work in Muhamalai, according to Major General Darshana Hettiarachchi, Commander, Security Forces - Jaffna (SF-J) who represented the Commander of the Army, along with Brigadier Amith Seneviratne, Engineer Brigade Commander.
During his stay in the field, the Special Envoy saw for himself how Army de-miners using manual, mechanical and MDD methods continue with de-mining roles in three separate demonstrations. The Special Envoy assured the Army of funds for purchase of more MDDs and flail machines through the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs in future since most of those machines are now more than six years old.
He extended his appreciation for the good work, being carried out by Army de-miners of the Sri Lanka Engineers (SLE) and assured all possible support for promotion of their endeavours during his stay at Muhamalai.
Upon arrival at Muhamalai, the visiting Prince Al-Hussein and the visiting Minister were welcomed by the Army Commander's representative, Major General Darshana Hettiarachchi, Commander, SF-J, together with Major General Laksiri Waduge, General Officer Commanding, 52 Division, Brigadier Amith Seneviratne, Engineer Brigade Commander and several other Senior Officers.
At the outset, Brigadier Amith Seneviratne, Engineer Brigade Commander who claimed that nearly 77% of de-mining works has been completed by the SLA-HDU made a presentation to the Special Envoy with a briefing on the status quo of minefield operations and how SLA-HDU teams are conducting manual, mechanical and MDD clearance operations in the minefields of Muhamalai.
During his stay in Muhamalai, the Prince Al-Hussein also had a look at how other international mine clearing agencies, like SHARP, DASH, HALO Trust are operating in Muhamalai and Indrapuram areas. He was also expected to meet the District Secretary for Jaffna, landmine victims and survivors before he flew back to Colombo this afternoon (6). During his three-day official visit, he is expected to call on HE the President Maithripala Sirisena, Hon Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, Hon Minister of Foreign Affairs Thilak Marapana, UN officials, INGO representatives and several other high ranking state officials.
By December 31, 2017, more than 450 Army de-miners under the SLA-HDU team have succeeded in clearing 1,223.36 km2 in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaittivu, Vavuniya, Mannar, Trincomalee, Ampara, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Puttlam districts. Batticaloa district had been declared completely cleared of those explosive devices several months ago in 2017.
All de-mining agencies, including the SLA-HDU during those extensive de-mining operations have recovered 735,444 Anti Personnel Mines (APMs), 2073 Anti Tank Mines, 556,385 Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) as of the same date in the previous year. At present, SLA-HDU with the highest number of de-miners in action is engaged in mine clearing operations with Delvon Association for Social Harmony (DASH), Skavita Humanitarian Assistance and Relief Project (SHARP), Mine Advisory Group (MAG) and Hazardous Area Life Support Organization (HALO Trust).
The National Mine Action Centre (NMAC) formally founded in 2010 currently functions under the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs on par with International Mine Action Standards (IMAS).
Sri Lanka Army's Mine Detection Dog teams during the years 2012, 2016 and 2017 won the Best MDD Award from the US Marshal Legacy Institute after inspecting teams who arrived here recommended the roles of MDDs and their handlers for such recognition.
The ‘Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction’, typically referred to as the ‘Ottawa Convention’ or ‘Mine Ban Treaty’, which seeks to end the use of anti-personnel landmines (APLs) worldwide was opened for signature on December 3, 1997, and came into effect on March 1, 1999.
The SKAVITA Humanitarian Assistance and Relief Project (SHARP) and Delvon Assistance for Social Harmony (DASH), the official undertakers of the challenge in Sri Lanka have then been in the forefront of giving this technical assistance to the Sri Lanka SLA-HDU.
SLA-HDU as at present operating under manual, mechanical and MDD techniques for de-mining work currently possesses 10 MDDs, 4 MV4 flails, 307 de-miners, 226 F3 Mine Lab Detectors, 4 Bozena Flails, 31 Flail operators, 18 MDD handlers and 20 medic/vet assistants.