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Cablegate: U.S.-Sponsored Humanitarian Demining Training

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001878

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR SA/INS, PM, PM/WRA
PLEASE ALSO PASS TOPEC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV EAID KHDP CE LTTE
SUBJECT: U.S.-sponsored humanitarian demining training
program for Sri Lankan military enters operational phase

Refs: (A) Colombo 1488
- (B) Colombo 1430
- (C) Colombo 1295, and previous

1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified --
Please handle accordingly.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: A major State Department-sponsored
humanitarian demining training initiative has entered
its operational phase. Run by the RONCO Corporation,
the program is training the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) in
humanitarian demining operations and will provide on-
site technical support during mine clearance operations
in the north/east. The program, which has consistently
garnered positive press coverage, is a signal of strong
U.S. support for Sri Lanka's peace and reconciliation
efforts. END SUMMARY.

3. (SBU) NEW USG DEMINING PROGRAM: A State Department-
sponsored initiative to provide humanitarian demining
training to the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has entered its
operational phase. The USD 2.2 million program, which
is being run by the RONCO Corporation, provides demining
training and operational oversight to SLA demining
teams. An initial batch of 125 deminers graduated from
the training course on September 24 and a second group
of 147 is slated to graduate on November 4. A total of
300 SLA troops are slated to be trained by the time the
program wraps up in early 2004. The training is taking
place at a SLA engineering school located in
Embilipititya town in Hambantota District in the south
of the country.

4. (SBU) TECHNICAL OVERSIGHT OPERATIONS TO BEGIN:
After the training is completed, RONCO will join the
teams for on-site humanitarian demining operations in
Jaffna and Vavuniya Districts in the north, and
Trincomalee District in the east. Technical surveying
operations, in preparation for mine clearance, are
currently underway in all three of these districts. The
teams, operating under the technical oversight of RONCO
personnel, will target specific areas for
landmine/unexploded ordnance (UXO) removal based on
maximum humanitarian impact. Typical sites would
include areas of high pedestrian traffic and areas where
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are attempting to
return. In addition to hands-on humanitarian demining
training, the SLA teams are also trained in performing
survey work and how to work with residents of the
communities in the affected areas. Rounding out the
program, some SLA personnel are given emergency medical
training to deal with the possibility of injury during
the demining operations.

5. (SBU) EXCELLENT COOPERATION WITH SLA: Cooperation
between RONCO and the SLA continues to be outstanding.
RONCO chief of party Fredrik Palsson told poloff on
October 30 that he was extremely pleased both with the
level of cooperation he had received from the SLA and
with the professionalism of the students. Showing the
high level of support that the SLA maintains for the
program, Lieutenant General Lionel Balagalle, the Chief
of the Defense Staff, is slated to attend the November 4
graduation ceremony (as will poloff who coordinates
Embassy demining efforts.)

6. (SBU) PRESS COVERAGE HIGHLY POSITIVE: The project
continues to garner extremely favorable press coverage.
The September 24 graduation of the first tranche of
students was covered widely in English-, Sinhala-, and
Tamil-language papers. Government and independent radio
and television also carried highly favorable coverage of
the event.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Sri Lanka's landmine/UXO problem is
a serious one, with UNDP estimating that roughly one
million landmines are present along with thousands of
tons of UXO in the north/east. Dozens of Sri Lankans
are injured every month and some are killed. To counter
this problem, the U.S. sent out two Quick Reaction
Demining Force teams to Jaffna in 2002 and 2003 to
remove mines and UXO at key sites. These "QRDF" teams
had great success. With the RONCO training and
technical oversight program, U.S. assistance is now
helping to create an indigenous demining capacity that
will allow the GSL to continue effective operations
after USG involvement ends. Overall, these demining
programs are serving to underscore the U.S. government's
continued strong support for Sri Lanka's peace and
reconciliation efforts. END COMMENT.

8. (U) Minimize considered.

ENTWISTLE

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