Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha has said Sri Lanka stands ready to share its experience in comprehensive demining as a ‘best practice’ with countries which are facing similar challenges. Noting that “Sri Lanka’s continuing progress in demining has been achieved by telescoping what according to some estimates was to take 15 – 20 years, into one of 5 – 7 years duration, he said this was not only a rewarding experience for our people as they now move about freely across the country, but also a positive lesson for other conflict affected countries, where nationally owned and nationally driven programmes could achieve their intended purposes, if the necessary political commitment, resolve and pragmatic vision is put in place”.
Ambassador Aryasinha made these observations when he addressed the 16th Annual Conference of the High Contracting Parties to Amended Protocol II on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the use of Mines, Booby-Traps and other Devices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) on Wednesday (12 November 2014) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons came as a result of an increased international realization that the effects caused by certain conventional weapons may be excessively injurious and indiscriminate. The Convention and its Protocols together manifest a clear intention and commitment of the Contracting Parties to address this challenge effectively, through the adoption of national programmes and measures.
Ambassador Aryasinha said “the GoSL successfully embarked on a very difficult challenge of demining an area of approximately 5,000 square kilometers of land initially estimated to be contaminated with mines, out of which approximately 2,064 square kilometers were confirmed as hazardous areas. The scale of the problem Sri Lanka faced in demining can be clearly seen from the number of mines and other devices unearthed and neutralized during the demining process. Over 1,128,336 explosive devices (1,712- anti tank, 615,669-anti personal and 510,955 UXOs) have been recovered as at September 2014. Five years since the ending of the terrorist conflict in Sri Lanka, so far this year alone, a total of 55,761 explosive devices, including 78 Anti- Tank mines, 28,577 Anti Personnel mines and 27,106 UXOs have been recovered. Demining continues to take place as the number of mines and IEDs laid by the LTTE was extensive and their locations unknown.”
He said, “75% of this demining work had been allocated to the Sri Lanka Army, which was the largest single area assigned to any of the parties involved in demining and included most of the densely mined regions. The demining process was also supported by funding from donor countries and the UN and carried out by INGOs/NGOs such as the Halo Trust, DDG, MAG, FSD, Sarvatra, Horizon, MMIPE and DASH.”
“Out of the total confirmed hazardous area, 96.2% has already been cleared and only 78.8 square kilometers of territory remains to be cleared. It is expected that these areas too will be completely cleared in the near future.”
Ambassador Aryasinha said, “due to this efficient and effective demining process and also to the infrastructure development in the former conflict affected area, the Government of Sri Lanka was able to resettle a total of 510,710 persons (153,837 families) out of nearly 767,748 IDPs (226,824 families), in the Northern Province and 257,038 persons (72,987 families) in the Eastern Province. As per the Joint Study undertaken by the Ministry of Resettlement, the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province (PTF); and the UNHCR, as of August 2014, only a total of 26,056 persons (7,840 families) remain to be resettled, which includes 21,747 persons (6,498 families) from the North and 4,309 persons (1,342 families) from the East.”
He noted that “while focusing on the operationalization of the Amended Protocol II and considering matters arising from the annual reports presented by High Contracting Parties, it is imperative that special attention is paid to the development of technologies which could protect civilians. Similarly, it is important that concerted efforts be taken to create greater awareness among the public about indiscriminate effects of mines, booby traps and other devices. It may also be timely to look into effective cooperation to ensure the wellbeing of victims in a more coordinated manner.”