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Government Gazette

U.S. helping eliminate threat of landmines in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO: The United States joins Sri Lanka in observing the second annual 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, states a US Embassy press release.

In 2002, the U.S. Department of State deployed a Quick Reaction Force of skilled de-miners from the U.S. mine removal programme 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 five years, the State Department has spent almost $ 10 million training and equipping nearly 900 humanitarian de-miners 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, clearing 5 million square meters for resettlement and agriculture.

"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 Robert Blake, "Despite the return to violence, dedicated de-minig squadrons from the Sri Lankan Army, INGOs such as the Humpty Dumpty Institute and the HALO Trust and private partnerships from Land O' Lakes are still dedicated to removing mines and economic redevelopment. We hope we will be able to assist the government in making the Sri Lanka mine-safe and productive, so Sri Lankans can go about their daily lives free from the fear of mines."

The United States and the international community have 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 continue support in the years ahead.

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