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Cablegate: Usg Funded Sri Lanka Army Humanitarian Demining

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 001421

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS; NSC FOR E. MILLARD. PLEASE ALSO
PASS TOPEC.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER EAID KHDP LTTE
SUBJECT: USG FUNDED SRI LANKA ARMY HUMANITARIAN DEMINING
SUPPORTS PEACE PROCESS

REF: COLOMBO 441


1. (U) SUMMARY. PM/WRA Office Director Richard Kidd and
Deputy Office Director Col. Stuart Harris visited Sri Lanka
August 5 - 9 to review USG-funded Sri Lanka Army (SLA)
humanitarian demining efforts. The USG-funded humanitarian
demining program in Sri Lanka illuminates how mine action can
be an effective tool for advancing MPP and foreign policy
goals - in this case, USG support of the peace process in Sri
Lanka. SLA demining efforts help conflict-affected Sri
Lankans return to their normal lives: once their land is
cleared to humanitarian standard, IDPs can return to their
homes, agricultural lands can return to production and
communities can re-establish themselves socially and
economically. UNDP technical advisors in Colombo and field
offices play an effective role in mine action in Sri Lanka,
where they work to develop national humanitarian demining
capacity and execution. END SUMMARY.

IDPs Cannot Return to Mine-Affected Areas
-----------------------------------------

2. (U) PM/WRA Office Director Richard Kidd and Deputy Office
Director Col. Stuart Harris visited Sri Lanka August 5 - 9
to review USG-funded Sri Lanka Army (SLA) humanitarian
demining efforts. Nearly 20 years of conflict between the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of
Sri Lanka (GSL) left a legacy of an estimated 1.5 million
anti-personnel mines across wide swathes of north and east
Sri Lanka. In February 2002 both parties signed a Cease-Fire
Agreement (CFA)and began peace negotiations. Although the
LTTE pulled out of peace talks in April 2003, the CFA holds.

3. (U) Support for the peace process is fragile in many
areas of the country, but especially in the north and east
where much of the population has been repeatedly displaced
due to conflict. Two and a half years after the CFA was
signed, 360,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) are still
unable to return home to their land and their livelihoods.
In many cases, IDPs cannot return home - and to normalcy -
because their homes are in landmine-affected areas. Since
1995, approximately 1160 civilians have been injured (and 171
killed) by mines. Nearly 3000 military and police personnel
have also been injured by mines.

4. (U) The GSL coordinates efforts to help IDPs return and
to rehabilitate conflict-affected areas at the national,
provincial, and district levels. Mine action is a critical
part of this process, and the GSL supervises it closely.
Aided by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) technical
advisors, the GSL sets national humanitarian demining
standards and identifies and prioritizes areas most in need
of demining. GSL officials at the district level assign
tasks to demining actors, including NGOs (e.g. Halo Trust and
Danish Demining Group, among others,) and the Sri Lanka Army
(SLA) humanitarian demining unit.

5. (U) In 2003, the Department of State funded a nearly $2.2
million assistance program to help the SLA develop its
humanitarian demining program - a major effort to build
indigenous demining capacity. (Note: Post has requested $2
million in funding for FY05. End note.) RONCO Consulting
Corporation provides technical oversight of the project,
which has trained nearly 600 SLA deminers, trainers and
paramedics in humanitarian demining and unexploded ordnance
(UXO) removal since 2003. The Marshall Legacy Institute's
recent donation of six mine detection dogs has further
increased the capability and reach of the SLA demining
program. Kidd, Harris and poloff met with GSL and UNDP
interlocutors in Colombo and traveled to Jaffna and Vavuniya
in the north to review the RONCO-supervised SLA program.
They met with various SLA personnel to learn more about
implementation of manual demining activities, as well as with
GSL District Mine Action Steering Committees in Jaffna and
Vavuniya. They also visited a Halo Trust mechanical
"crusher" site.

SLA Humanitarian Demining Supports Peace Process
--------------------------------------------- ---
6. (U) The SLA works closely with the national GSL mine
action apparatus and is assigned specific tasks by district
Government Agents. By far the biggest humanitarian demining
actor in Sri Lanka, the SLA has cleared over 20 million
square meters of land (nearly ten times the amount cleared by
all other demining actors combined.) SLA demining efforts
help conflict-affected Sri Lankans return to their normal
lives: once their land is cleared to humanitarian standard,
IDPs can return to their homes, agricultural lands can return
to production and communities can re-establish themselves
socially and economically. The USG-funded humanitarian
demining program in Sri Lanka illuminates how mine action can
be an effective tool for advancing Mission Performance Plan
(MPP) and foreign policy goals - in this case, USG support of
the peace process in Sri Lanka. SLA humanitarian demining
activities allow thousands of people in the north and east to
return to their homes and livelihoods, reinforcing the
benefits of peace and stability.

7. (U) Importantly, SLA humanitarian demining helps repair
historically contentious community relationships in
conflict-affected areas in the north and east. Many Jaffna
interlocutors noted that demining efforts have improved the
status of the SLA; a helpful turn of events critical to
building support for the peace process. Major General M.D.S.
Chandrapala, Commander of the Security Forces at Jaffna told
poloff, "I can't thank you enough for what you have done to
help improve our reputation here." One example involves the
issue of SLA high security zones (HSZs) in Jaffna (and other
parts of Sri Lanka), which are an ongoing bone of contention
for Tamils who cannot return to their homes within the HSZs.
Recently, the GSL decided to release paddy land and homes in
a controlled-access village near Jaffna, allowing authorized
villagers to pass through SLA checkpoints to areas within one
HSZ. The SLA cleared this area, (nearly two million square
meters) of UXO, which will allow one of the richest paddy
areas in Jaffna to return to production. Many Jaffna-based
interlocutors report that local residents interpret this land
release and its clearance by the SLA as a sign of
confidence-building on the GSL's part, and are now more
optimistic about the peace process.

UN Role Positive
----------------

8. (SBU) UNDP technical advisors play an effective role in
mine action in Sri Lanka. UNDP advisors in Colombo and field
offices work to develop national humanitarian demining
capacity and execution, as opposed to building the
capabilities of UN demining operations. While UNDP advisors
provide technical oversight, the GSL runs the show. UNDP's
deference to GSL decision-making is clear in national and
district mine action steering committee meetings. It its
advisory capacity, the UNDP staff support national planning
efforts and quality assurance standards. In a meeting with
the PM/WRA visitors, Secretary to the Ministry of Relief,
Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, M. S. Jayasinghe
commented "In our country, the UN works well."

Positive Media Reaction to Visit
--------------------------------

9. (U) Sri Lankan media eagerly reported on Kidd's visit.
Major English and Tamil dailies and websites carried articles
about the USG-funded SLA demining program. All major
television channels carried coverage of Kidd's meetings with
District Mine Action Committee Meetings in Vavuniya, as well
as SLA-released footage of demining site visits.

Comment
-------

10. (U) IDPs in Sri Lanka are unable to return safely to
their homes unless these areas are cleared of mines and UXOs.
The USG-funded SLA humanitarian demining program is a very
important effort to reduce both the human cost of mine
casualties and the opportunity cost to development efforts in
these areas. Humanitarian demining is fundamental to the
successful rehabilitation of conflict-affected areas in the
north and east and is enormously supportive of the peace
process. Sri Lanka provides an excellent example of UN,
bi-lateral and GSL/SLA cooperation in humanitarian demining
efforts. USG-funded training and equipment for the SLA
humanitarian demining efforts should continue.


11. (U) This message was cleared by Richard Kidd, Office
Director, PM/WRA.

ENTWISTLE

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