Finally GoSL ready to join int’l anti-personnel mine treaty

More than six years after the conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka is ready to sign the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Canadian High Commissioner Shelley Whiting yesterday flew to Madhu, Mannar where they visited a mine clearing site.

Minister Samaraweera has assured Canadian High Commissioner Whiting of Sri Lanka’s eagerness to join the Canadian initiative launched in 1997.

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Sri Lanka on Dec. 1 told the 14th meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Convention that the National Unity Government was considering seriously of joining the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty as a matter of priority. The Foreign Ministry quoted a GoSL representative as having told the meeting: “There are positive signals that my Government may decide to be a State Party within the course of next year. The Government wants to see Sri Lanka again a committed member of the international community to promote disarmament and humanitarian mine action.”

Senior military officials told The Island that the eradication of the LTTE in May 2009 had paved the way for Sri Lankan to join the Ottawa Treaty.

The LTTE introduced mine warfare in the Northern Province in the early 80s and gradually expanded it to other parts of the country. The use of mines intensified with the deployment of the Indian Army in July 1987. Sri Lankan security forces, too, used a range of mines, primarily to protect bases and front line positions vulnerable to LTTE attacks.

Successive Sri Lankan governments declined to join the treaty due to security forces’ requirement and the conventional military challenge posed by the LTTE, military sources said. Since the conclusion of the war, the armed forces as well as several international mine clearing groups are engaged in the de-mining process.

-Shamindra Ferdinando

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