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Cablegate: Humanitarian Demining: Usg Program Continues

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 000441

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PGOV EAID KHDP CE LTTE
SUBJECT: Humanitarian demining: USG program continues
to build indigenous capacity in Sri Lanka

Refs: (A) 03 Colombo 1878; (B) Colombo 1488

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

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: A major State Department-sponsored
humanitarian demining training initiative has been
making major strides in Sri Lanka. Run by the RONCO
Corporation, the program has trained over two hundred
Sri Lanka Army (SLA) deminers and paramedics, and
provides technical oversight to humanitarian demining
tasks in Sri Lanka's war-torn north and east. The
program is currently also training handlers for six Mine
Detecting Dogs (MDD). This program, which has
consistently garnered kudos from the SLA and the general
public, is successfully building Sri Lanka's indigenous
capacity for humanitarian demining. END SUMMARY.

3. (SBU) MAJOR USG DEMINING INITIATIVE: A State
Department-sponsored program providing humanitarian
demining training assistance to the SLA is making
excellent progress. The program, which began in August
2003, is one of the largest ever in Sri Lanka. Since
its inception, the program, which is valued at USD 2.2
million, has trained a total of 276 deminers, divided
into two classes. Training is conducted at a SLA
training school located in Embilipitya in Hambantota
District in the south of the country. A third course of
approximately 120 students began on March 8 and is
slated to finish in early April.

4. (U) Running parallel to this third training course
for deminers is a 12-week course of training for
handlers of MDDs. Six MDDs, valued at USD 120,000, were
donated through the Marshall Legacy Institute in early
March and will be integrated into the SLA's humanitarian
demining strategy.

5. (SBU) OUTSTANDING RESULTS: Since the U.S.-trained
SLA personnel began their clearance tasks in late 2003,
the results have been impressive: working on seven
specific clearance tasks in three areas of the country,
the RONCO-trained demining regiments have cleared
311,304 square meters, and removed and destroyed 637
mines and 30 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO).
(Note: This program builds on previous U.S. demining
programs in Sri Lanka -- two Quick Reaction Demining
Forces, or "QRDFs" were deployed to northern Sri Lanka,
one in 2002 and one in 2003, clearing over 100,000
square meters of land and destroying approximately 400
mines and UXO.)

6. (SBU) In addition to the State Department efforts, a
Department of Defense-sponsored Blast Rehabilitation and
Victim Assistance (BRAVA) advance team recently
completed an advance trip to the northern city of
Jaffna, in preparation for a two-week visit in late
April, during which Army surgeons will treat landmine
victims.

7. (SBU) BUILDING INDIGENOUS CAPACITY: The USG's
humanitarian demining training program includes a large
"train-the-trainer" element, so that the SLA can develop
its own indigenous humanitarian demining training
capacity (with RONCO-certified instructors conducting
future courses as soon as late 2004). Another key
element of the program is the donation of equipment used
in demining: mine detectors, body armor, communication
devices and several vehicles have been contributed to
the demining initiative, which Brigadier A.M.A
Chandrasiri, the commander of the SLA Engineer Brigade,
told poloff on March 11 "extends the capability of our
units immeasurably."

8. (SBU) In the field, RONCO personnel provide
technical oversight and guidance to the SLA deminers,
who are working in three areas: Jaffna and Vavuniya
Districts in the north, and Trincomalee District in the
east. Typically, sites that are selected for clearance
are areas where Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are
attempting to return, or areas of high pedestrian
traffic, such as around schools or wells. After
performing technical survey operations, the teams then
select sites for mine clearance based on maximum
humanitarian impact, in cooperation with the local
Government Agent and the UNDP. The UNDP maintains a
large database of minefield maps for Sri Lanka.

9. (SBU) TOP-NOTCH COOPERATION WITH SLA: Cooperation
between RONCO and the SLA in the field continues to be
excellent. RONCO Chief of Party Fredrik Palsson told
poloff on March 11 that the students' performance in the
field was among the best he had seen in his career, and
that he continued to be highly impressed with both the
professionalism and responsiveness of the Sri Lankan
military.

10. (SBU) COMMENT: Current UNDP estimates are that
there are roughly one million landmines present in the
north/east, along with thousands of tons of UXOs. In
the past, casualties have been as high as twenty a
month, but this number is decreasing, due in part to the
efforts of humanitarian demining programs such as this
one. Through the success of this program, as well as
the results of the two earlier QRDF teams, the U.S. is
seen as a major provider of much-needed assistance and a
key contributor to Sri Lanka's peace process and
reconciliation efforts. END COMMENT.

11. (U) Minimize considered.

LUNSTEAD

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