US working to eliminate threat of landmines

[TamilNet, Monday, 03 April 2006, 11:12 GMT]
"We are proud to be a close partner with Sri Lanka in increasing the local capacity to detect and clear mines," said U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead, in a press release issued by the US Embassy in Colombo Monday marking the mine awareness day to be observed on 4th April. "It is a long-term effort, yet one in which all sides have cooperated. We hope we will be able to assist the government in eliminating this threat within the next few years so Sri Lankans can go about their daily lives free from the fear of mines," the release added.

Full text of the release follows:

US demining work
Remote controlled MAXX+ makes short work of brush that interferes with mine removal
US demining work
A mine field in Jaffna becomes an onion field
US demining work
Mine detecting dog Wyoming and her handler, sniff out danger in Jaffna
Colombo, April 3, 2006: The United States joins Sri Lanka in observing the International Day of Mine Awareness and Mine Action on April 4. Sri Lanka has made impressive strides to rid the island of mines. The National Steering Committee for Mine Action, under the Ministry of Nation Building and Development, has set ambitious goals for the future, and the United States has been a partner with Sri Lanka from the beginning of the mine clearing effort.

In 2002, the U.S. Department of State deployed a Quick Reaction Force of skilled de-miners from the U.S. mine removal program in Mozambique. This was followed by a State Department funded partnership between the Sri Lankan Army's Engineering Brigade and RONCO, a de-mining contractor, to build a permanent de-mining capacity in the Sri Lankan Army. Over the last four years, the State Department has spent almost $10 million creating a humanitarian de-mining school, as well as providing vehicles, computers and equipment to the de-mining squadrons of the Engineering Brigade, making it the largest and most productive unit in the effort to make land safe for resettlement and agriculture. The U.S. Department of Defense has shared innovative mechanical technology, like the MAXX + clearance system currently clearing mines in Trincomalee district.

"We are proud to be a close partner with Sri Lanka in increasing the local capacity to detect and clear mines," stated U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead. "It is a long-term effort, yet one in which all sides have cooperated. We hope we will be able to assist the government in eliminating this threat within the next few years so Sri Lankans can go about their daily lives free from the fear of mines."

The American people have also responded to Sri Lanka's efforts. Schools children from the state of Wyoming raised $120,000 dollars to pay for one of the twelve mine detecting dogs donated to Sri Lanka by the Marshall Legacy Institute, an American NGO. The Leahy War Victims Fund has a $3.8 million dollar project administered by USAID and implemented by Motivation Charitable Trust in comprehensive mine victim assistance, which includes the Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation, the training of Sri Lankans overseas to become physical therapists and prosthetic technicians, and vocational training for mine victims.

The United States and the international community has supported Sri Lanka's efforts to return land contaminated by mines to productive use with technical assistance, mine risk education, and donations of money and material. The U.S. Embassy salutes all the dedicated Sri Lankans involved in the heroic effort to clear the island of mines, and offers our continued support in the years ahead.

 

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