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Dec 27, 2016

Govt. failure to sign landmine conventions questioned Featured

Sri Lanka’s failure to become a signatory to the international landmine and cluster bomb conventions has come in the way of communal reconciliation, say demining agencies operating in the north.

These agencies say the government’s national integration and reconciliation week from next January will not be meaningful without its having signed those conventions.

Demining researcher Vidya Abayagunawardena has told BBC Sandeshaya that the government could give a guarantee, by signing the conventions, that there would not be another war in the future.

Such a government guarantee is needed because the main victims of landmines are the average northern civilians, he said.

Noting that cabinet approval has already been obtained to sign the conventions, Abayagunawardena said Sri Lanka could derive much international gains by becoming a signatory.

Safety of military camps
When contacted, defence secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi said the government could not sign the conventions in view of the safety of military camps.

After getting funding for an alternative solution, the government intends signing the conventions, he said.

He refuted claims that being a non-signatory would impede communal reconciliation or the government’s ties with the UN.

However, Abayagunawardena said the military’s inhuman face was evident by the use of landmines, whereas it could use infrared cameras and other modern safety equipment.

A 44 square km area of the north still remains to be demined, he said, adding that it would take yet another 15 years to complete the task.

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