26 September, 2020

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Women In The Context Of Post-War Sri Lanka’s Mine Action

By Nillasi Liyanage –

April 4th marks the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. On this occasion the Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines (SLCBL) congratulates Sri Lanka on its continued dedication towards Mine Action.

As a country affected by Anti-personnel Mines (AP Mines) Sri Lanka stands by its pledge to achieve ‘mine-free’ status by 2020, coinciding with the National Deadline and ahead of the Global Deadline for a mine free world, 2025. However, this does not mean that Sri Lanka’s engagement with the AP Mine issue ends there. This article looks at the impact that the AP Mine issue in Sri Lanka has on women and the roles they play in Mine Action, in the run-up to the National Deadline of 2020 and afterwards.

Anti-personnel Landmines (AP Mines) were used in Sri Lanka during the 30-year armed conflict by both the State Armed Forces and the Liberation Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE) as well as by the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) during their involvement. Considered to be extensively contaminated by AP Mines at the conclusion of the war in 2009, Sri Lanka has now been internationally hailed as a success story in Mine Action. According to the National Mine Action Centre (NMAC) the remaining mine contaminated area in Sri Lanka is just over 25Km2 as at December 2018.

A Prohibited Weapon

Being an indiscriminate weapon which causes superfluous harm and unnecessary suffering to not only combatants but civilians- regardless of whether they are child, man or woman- and animals, AP Mines are now a prohibited weapon by virtue of the ‘Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention’ (APMBC) of 1997. Women have played a pioneer role in bringing about a complete ban on AP Mines. It is exemplified by the fact that the ‘International Campaign to Ban Landmines’ and its Co-ordinator Jody Williams were jointly awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for their tenacity in making the APMBC a reality.

Having consistently opposed AP Mines in policy, in December 2017 Sri Lanka became the 163rd State Party to the APMBC. Accordingly, Sri Lanka now engages in Mine Action which is characterized by the Five Pillars of the APMBC, namely Demining, Mine Risk Education, Victim Assistance, Stockpile Destruction, and Advocacy. Sri Lanka also acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) in 2018, and ratified the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2016.

Role of Women in Mine Action

The local and international demining organizations carrying out demining in Sri Lanka; namely the HALO Trust, MAG, DASH and SHARP, employ female deminers in their operations in various roles such as deminers, Managers and Section Leaders, thus maintaining equal opportunities including equal pay. All of these women are from conflict-affected areas. Many of them are Female Heads of Households (FHH) and sometimes the sole breadwinners of their families. They take on the occupational hazards involved in demining alongside their male counterparts proving that they are equally competent.

Once the demining operations draw to a close these women deminers would become unemployed, thereby losing the economic stability that they and their families had so far. In recognition of their service to the country in making the land safe again it is a duty incumbent on the State to ensure that they have alternative employment opportunities. For instance, the government could enter partnerships with other mine affected countries or international organizations in need of trained demining staff so that these women can make use of their training.

Mine Risk Education (MRE) or activities that educate the public about safe practices to adhere to avoid the dangers of mines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) has resulted in a drastic drop in accidents caused by war-related explosives in the war affected provinces. Females, including schoolgirls working as volunteers with the MRE partner organizations have played a significant role in reaching out to families and acting as peer group influencers.

In the area of Victim Assistance, Sri Lanka still needs to improve survivor inclusion, accessibility to services and service effectiveness. Regardless of these obstacles women and girls who have met with landmine accidents as well as those secondarily victimized by a family member becoming victim to a landmine play inspiring roles in coming to terms with their disabilities and facing day to day challenges. Some are emerging as leaders taking their stories to the world. Shanthi Sriskandarasa is a mine victim who is now representing her local constituency as a Member of Parliament. It is worthy to note that the Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Rehabilitation (JJCDR) which provides a yeoman service to mine victims and other persons in need of prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation assistance, is efficiently headed by Chairperson Dr. Ms. J. Ganeshamoorthy.

In the fields of advocacy and universalization the SLCBL has been able to foster female participation.  The young women who are SLCBL’s Campaign Volunteers have been able to spread awareness about mine action both locally and globally. This writer as SLCBL’s Youth Coordinator delivered the youth statement at the plenary meeting of the 17th Meeting of State Parties of the APMBC held in Austria in 2017 urging government representatives and other delegates to meet their Mine Action obligations.

Women in Mine Action in Sri Lanka have contributed immensely towards achieving the country’s obligations in becoming free of the scourge of AP Mines. May this article be a tribute to their dedication, hard work and sacrifices and may it bring them the recognition that they so richly deserve.

*Nillasi Liyanage – Youth Coordinator- Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    This is just looking at the Problem in one direction. It is the countries in the security council and their allied countries, because businesses move to poor countries as the cost of production is cheaper, produce all the weapons and sell billions of Dollars worth weapons every year. It is the producers of these weapons who are WAR MONGERS and they need this cash in order to increase their GDP, get rid of old manufactured weapons making way for new models and to destabilize countries that do not listen to them.
    Once Sri Lanka sign to the Anti-line Laws of UN, WEST may start another round of Tamil or Muslim Terrorism. then what will the Srilanka do. go for something better, may be cluster bombs and get rid of every one including civilians. Then those countries come behind saying Genocide and war crimes. If Srilanka signs for this, must develop DRONE Warfare as the west may have developed even anti-Drone war fare by now.

  • 2
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    I was very impressed with the HALO Trust until I read that some of the trustees were paying themselves £500 (Rs100,000) a day. Its not just our people who are corrupt. We are more aware of their activities because they are local.
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/angelina-jolie-resigns-from-mine-clearing-charity-after-discovering-other-trustees-paid-themselves-10482330.html

    • 0
      0

      Thank you for the link Paul.

  • 2
    1

    “According to the National Mine Action Centre (NMAC) the remaining mine contaminated area in Sri Lanka is just over 25Km2 as at December 2018.”
    Soon after the armed conflict ended, Rajapakse regime focused attention to clearing land mines. Western countries, Koti Diaspora and TNA never appreciate this kind of achievements.The only thing these guys do is chanting the mantra ‘War Crimes War Crimes War Crimes’.

  • 0
    0

    Our memory is short. We have forgotten the scourge of land mines.
    Thank you Nillasi Liyanage, Youth Coordinator- Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines, for bringing to our attention that “….. contaminated by AP Mines at the conclusion of the war in 2009, Sri Lanka has now been internationally hailed as a success story in Mine Action. According to the National Mine Action Centre (NMAC) the remaining mine contaminated area in Sri Lanka is just over 25Km2 as at December 2018….”.
    .
    One gets an impression that Nillasi had been cautious with the choice of words. The ‘women’ in the “Women In The Context Of Post-War Sri Lanka’s Mine Action” were not from the Lankan Armed Services.
    .
    We frequently read about several countries contributing to mine clearance in SL. ‘The Daily Mirror’ of 04 April mentions Australian contribution. What is the portion that goes into the pockets of the de-miners?
    ‘The Daily Mirror of 04 April also says “Dedicated military airport in Hingurakgoda”.
    Is there a contradiction here?
    .
    One may well ask, not aspersive, as to how many de-miners are in the ‘SL Campaign to Ban Landmines’.
    Is it possible ever for a de-miner to represent SL at a meeting like “the 17th Meeting of State Parties of the APMBC held in Austria in 2017 urging government representatives and other delegates to meet their Mine Action obligations”?

  • 3
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    MR govt made the public believe that the Forces marched in to the LTTE held areas, defeated the LTTE and won the War. Obviously the demining is not over even after 10 years after the War has ended is an indication that the land held by the LTTE was not penetrable . Therefore there is no way our Forces could have captured mine infested LTTE held land areas. Also the fact that the LTTE had buried all their weapons, is proved by the first Deyata Kirula Exhibition held at the BMICH after May 2009 establishing the fact that LTTE had infact buried all their weapons. Again what was disseminated by the MR govt that the LTTE had by August 2008 after commencing the War in January 2008 in just eight months, were confined to Kilinochchi contradicts the numbers of dead on both sides? Had there been fighting and the number stated that had died, there would not have been an LTTE cadre numbering thousands to assemble in Kilinochchi by August 2008. Again according to Govt media information, that when the Forces entered Kilinochchi 0n 9th January 2009, it was said that the entire LTTE cadre and the Tamil civilian population of around three hundred thousand had vacated Kilinochchi. This confirms that the Forces captured Kilinochchi from the LTTE without a fight as they had vacated to Puthukudiirippu on the Beachfront. Why the LTTE, if it was fighting the Forces, abandoned their stronghold Kilinochchi with all fortifications is obviously because VP and the LTTE cadre was lured to the Beachfront with a promise that VP will be whisked away to safety by the US and the Indian assurances given to VP. However after VP allowed the Tamil civilians to wade the Nandikadal Lagoon to the Forces control area, VP and the LTTE were duped by the very forces that nurtured them for 30 yrs.

  • 0
    2

    Eagle Eye has not noted Nillasi saying “…….the HALO Trust, MAG, DASH and SHARP, employ female deminers in their operations in various roles ………… All of these women are from conflict-affected areas. Many of them are Female Heads of Households (FHH) and sometimes the sole breadwinners of their families………”.
    .
    Go on Eagle Eye: Say that the HALO Trust, MAG, DASH and SHARP are financed by Wellala High Caste DEMELU and the deminers are Low Caste Demelu.

    • 4
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      K.Pillai,
      It is good that women from conflict areas and female heads of households engage in land mine clearance. Then they will realize the misery brought to them by their Sun God. I am sure these women who do this dangerous task belong to low castes. After they do the donkey work Wellala Demalu will take control of that land and use ‘Thesawalamei’ to keep the land to themselves. That is the main reason why they want Land and Police powers and low caste Demala people oppose to that.

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