Supporting demining in Northern Province
“Demining is the main challenge that needs to be overcome in resettling the IDP population,” said Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, at a ceremony to handover 5 AusAid-funded flail machines to the Government of Sri Lanka. The equipment was procured by the United Nations Development Programme, which assists the Government in coordinating and managing mine action through UNDP supported District Mine Action Offices in Jaffna, Vavuniya and Mannar.
The ceremony that took place on the 16th of February was attended by Minister Samarasinghe, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Kathy Klugman and UNDP Resident Representative Neil Buhne.
While thanking the Australian Government for coming to the assistance of the Sri Lankan people, Minister Samarasinghe added that the generous contribution will go a long way in expediting the ongoing demining process in the North of the country. Minister Samarasinghe added that the new flails will be “rushed to” Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu to accelerate the ongoing demining process. The minister added that mine clearance is a major factor behind the backlog of around 100,000 people that are yet to be resettled. It is in this respect that the Australian contribution will provide assistance in giving these people a future in their own villages and helping them to “feel like equal stake holders in the country.”
The equipment donated by AusAid is part of a larger donation of 307 million Sri Lankan Rupees, with which UNDP has procured an additional 100 hand held metal detectors, 25 large loop detectors and 125 body armour for deminers. With this recent contribution Sri Lanka now has a total of 29 flailing machines, 5 of which were previously donated by UNHCR, OCHA and the UN’s Central Emergency Respond Fund. The equipment will be used by the Humanitarian Demining Unit set up under the Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure Development.
High Commissioner Kathy Klugman also added that Australia hopes to assist the demining efforts further with the procurement of the 125 mine detectors that will help with the manual demining process. Speaking on behalf of the Australian Government, High Commissioner Klugman said that “Australia is very pleased to respond to Sri Lanka’s needs and assist in the crucial demining efforts in the country.”
An additional AUD 800,000 (approximately 8 million LKR) has been allocated to the UNDP Support to Mine Action Project to increase coordination capacities of the District Mine-Action Offices (DMAO). The DMAOs will be provided with technical support, training and equipment to ensure that they are in a position to manage and coordinate all mine action activities and ensure that the demining work meets Sri Lanka’s mine-action standards.
UNDP Resident Representative Neil Buhne assured the Government of continued UNDP support in recovery efforts and said that the international community wants to help Sri Lanka to reduce the consequences of the conflict and to build “thriving communities” in the war torn areas.