A team of media personnel representing 44 electronic and print media based in Colombo and Jaffna visited lands newly released from the Palaly Military Cantonment in order to get firsthand experience on the process on June 10, 2015. They were initially educated on release of lands in different stages since the end of the Humanitarian Operation in 2009 during briefing conducted at Headquarters Security Force – Jaffna (SF-J), Palaly.
Responding to questions raised by journalists during briefing, Commander SF-J Major General Nandana Udawatta revealed that 99.44% of contaminated areas have been cleared of mines and humanitarian demining is being continued by the Army Engineers and foreign demining agencies in the remaining area.
He further added that Jaffna is safe in the aspect of security and no terrorist activity has disturbed the Jaffna life after the war ended. Journalists from both government and private media firms joined the visit organized by the Media Centre, Ministry of Defence.
The delegation was headed by Military Spokesman Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera. Senior officers of the SF – J were also present on the media briefing.
During the past five years, Britain has provided a total of £5.1 million towards demining activities in Sri Lanka. From 2010 to 2014, Britain has contributed £3.5 million to The HALO Trust for demining work in former war-affected areas of the country. Last year, Britain announced a further £1.6 million from July 2014 for a period of 18 months.
The British High Commissioner for Sri Lanka Mr. John Rankin, during his recent tour of the Northern Province, said that the United Kingdom has been a long-time supporter of the demining process in Sri Lanka.
The HALO Trust, a UK-based organisation, which removes hazardous debris of war, works in the Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts and conducts mine risk awareness and educational programmes.
Speaking about the current state of mine clearance, Army Spokesman Brig. Ruwan Wanigasooriya said that only an area of 80 sq. km. remains to be demined in eight districts of the Northern and Eastern provinces. He also pointed out that the remaining regions consist of forest areas.
Media Centre of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development
British High Commission in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka was able to complete demining in human settlement areas in the shortest period of time on record, said Ministry of Defence Spokesman and MOD Media Centre Director Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya .
He made these observations at a press conference held at the MOD Media Centre, Kollupitiya, yesterday. “Sri Lanka heads the list of countries which had completed demining in areas earmarked for human settlement, and farming lands, within the shortest period of time under international standards in the aftermath of the elimination of terrorism,” Brigadier Wanigasuriya said.
He added that 1.1 million landmines and explosives that were strewn by the LTTE terrorists have been recovered by the Security Forces and other groups that were engaged in the demining program. Countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia have not yet been completely demined after several decades since the end of conflict in those countries.
Brigadier Wanigasooriya said Sri Lanka was able to demine areas for human settlement and their farming lands a hundred percent and there is only 82 square kilometers to be demined out of the 2,064 square kilometres that was strewn with landmines, claymores, high explosives etc by the LTTE before terrorism was eliminated. He added the area that has to be demined is in the thick jungles and the demining program is in progress. Brigadier Wanigasuriya stated that the demining is conducted not as per Sri Lankan standards but under UN Demining Program standards.
He added that when demining was completed, such areas were inspected and guaranteed by UNDP officials before lands were handed over to the civilians. He also added that of the demined lands, more than 70 percent was demined by the Security Forces. The rest was deminded by local and foreign NGOs. He further said that Sri Lanka could humbly be proud of its success in the demining program within a short period of time as none of the countries have been able to achieve such a degree of success in demining after a conflict was ended. He added that mines in countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia etc have not yet been completely removed, though years after conflict.