Washington , Oct 15,2012
In a new Milestone for Sri Lanka’s Humanitarian Demining Project, the Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) of the United States has honored Sri Lanka Army sapper DKN Rohan and Mine Detection Dog Spartacus as the best Mine Detection Dog (MDD) Team for the year 2012. The Sri Lankan team was selected for this prestigious award out of 107 teams representing 11 countries.
The team received the “MDD Team of the year” award at the annual “Clearing the Path” Gala organized by the MLI on October 10, at Fairmont Hotel, Washington DC.
The MLI is a Virginia based international, nonprofit humanitarian organization committed to assist conflict affected countries to clear landmines through affordable and sustainable programs. The organization was founded in 1997 following upon the vision of Nobel Peace Laureate, former US Secretary of State and author of the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War, George C. Marshall. Currently the MLI runs three major programs; the Mine Detection Dog Partnership Program (MDDPP), the Children against Mines Program (CHAMPS) and the Survivors’ Assistance program, alongside post-conflict recovery efforts in 13 countries.
The MLI has gifted 26 Mine Detection Dogs to the Army Humanitarian Demining Unit under its Mine Detection Dog Partnership Program (MDDPP) since 2004 when the organization first began working in Sri Lanka . The U.S. government provides funding for the training of local staff engaged in MDDPP while the MLI raises private funding to provide highly trained dogs to the beneficiary countries.
The award winning black Belgian Malinois MDD Spartacus arrived in Sri Lanka in 2011 along with a group of five, in order to accelerate the post-conflict resettlement and rebuilding activities in the North. Students of Seven Lakes School in Katy ,Texas sponsored Spartacus under the MLI’s Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS).
His Excellency Mr. Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States on Thursday (Oct 12) at a ceremony at the Embassy, felicitated the winning team of Sapper Rohan and MDD Spartacus . Brigadier Dhananjith Karunaratne, Commander Engineer Brigade of the Sri Lanka Army, Mr Perry Baltimore and Ms. Elise Becker of MLI and officials of the Embassy were in attendance.
Commenting on the significance of Sri Lankan team’s achievement, President and the Executive Director of MLI Perry Baltimore said Sapper Rohan and MDD Spartacus have excelled in all aspects of mine clearance operation.
“Sapper Rohan and his dog Spartacus risk their lives and limbs daily to save and improve the lives of others. Together they have identified antipersonnel landmines, hand grenades, and unexploded rocket propelled grenades. They have searched and cleared dozens of acres of land that is now being safely used by the Sri Lankan people”, he said.
He explained the teams nominated for the award are evaluated based on the amount of land searched, the bond shared by the dog and the handler, and the overall impact the team has had in improving and saving lives.
When asked what sets MDD Spartacus and Sapper Rohan apart from other MDD teams, he said it is the emotional bond that the two share when working together.
“They have such a wonderful human and dog bond, which made their team exceptionally efficient and effective. The bond shared between MDD Spartacus and DKN Rohan has not only enriched their own lives, but is pushing them to work even harder to search out minefields in Sri Lanka and save lives”, he added.
Mr. Baltimore concluded that the MLI is proud to provide MDDs to Sri Lanka as the country is nurturing the resource effectively and works hard to make life better for its people.
Brigadier Dhananjith Karunaratne , Commander of the Engineer Brigade informed that over 80% of the initial 5000 square kilometers that had been heavily mined by the LTTE terrorists have now been cleared. He said over 470,000 antipersonnel mines, 1400 antitank mines, 390,000 booby traps, and other improvised explosive devices have been removed since the end of the conflict in May 2009. Also , he pointed out that support from MLI has assisted in the success of Sri Lanka’s humanitarian demining project, that recently enabled the completion of resettling nearly 300,000 internally displaced people.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya congratulated the award-winning team and thanked the MLI for its genuine efforts to help Sri Lankan people.
“Sri Lanka greatly appreciates everything the Marshall Legacy Institute has done , and we also are very grateful to the families who donated mine detecting dogs…,” he said.
He underscored that Sri Lanka values the genuine contributions made by all to the country’s post-conflict recovery efforts under the visionary leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa .
“Before the internally displaced persons could be resettled, vast areas of land in the north and East needed to be cleared of land mines. The Sri Lanka Army worked quickly to handle the demining process , and they are benefitted greatly from the support of the Marshal Legacy institute and other NGO’s around the world”, he said.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya acknowledged Marshal Legacy Institute as a true humanitarian organization and assured continued support to MLI’s work in Sri Lanka.
Source: Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC Press Release 20 Oct 2012