US donates ambulances to aid SLA demining efforts

[TamilNet, Thursday, 23 December 2010, 14:50 GMT]
U.S. Ambassador Butenis presented five ambulances Thursday to Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Chief of Staff Major General Daya Ratnayake to assist the SLA’s humanitarian demining efforts in the North, a press release from the Colombo US Embassy said. The vehicles will ensure that demining teams have emergency medical care and transportation at all times, according the release.

Full text of the release follows:

Colombo, December 23, 2010: U.S. Ambassador Butenis presented five ambulances today to Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Chief of Staff Major General Daya Ratnayake to assist the SLA’s humanitarian demining efforts in the North. The vehicles will ensure that demining teams have emergency medical care and transportation at all times.

Since the summer of 2009, the US has contributed over Rs 1.10 billion ($10 million) in funding, equipment and training to help the Sri Lankan Army and international humanitarian demining organizations to clear the areas of the North and East that were blanketed with mines as a result of the conflict. In addition to today’s donation, last month the U.S. Embassy provided four trucks to the SLA for humanitarian demining activities and soon the U.S. Embassy will present seven large Tata trucks to transport SLA demining teams. The United States Government is also working with the Army to provide an additional Rs. 113 million ($1 million) in demining equipment.

Speaking at the event, Ambassador Butenis said, “I commend the Government’s efforts in resettling most of those who were internally displaced by the fighting. Demining is an essential element of this resettlement process. The mines have meant that people can’t return to their homes, that farmers can’t plant and harvest crops, that villagers have to worry about explosives in water wells, and that children can mistake a mine for a toy. Due to the heroic efforts of the Sri Lankan Army and Sri Lankan and international demining organizations, large swaths of the North and East are now cleared of mines. However, much work still remains and our continuing support will enable the process to be completed more quickly.”

Appreciating the humanitarian demining assistance to Sri Lanka Army by the US State Department since 2003, Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Chief of Staff Major General Daya Ratnayake said, “The ambulances donated today will definitely help the Army HDU to expand Humanitarian Demining activities further whilst maintaining the desired degree of safety. Whilst extending our gratitude on behalf of the Commander of the Army I sincerely hope that US Government will continue to extend assistance in future too.”

 

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