The Australian High Commissioner, Dr Greg French, met today with the head of the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action in Sri Lanka (FSD), Mr Christoph Hebeisen, to sign an arrangement providing $A 1 million (Rs 78 million) to support on-going mine and unexploded ordnance clearance operations in Sri Lanka.
"Australia is committed to assist the Government of Sri Lanka in meeting its objective of removing landmines from high risk areas. We must not forget the daily and on going impact that mines and unexploded ordnance have had on thousands of Sri Lankans.
Landmines are a real threat to peoples' livelihoods in local communities - it prevents them from farming land and earning a decent income, and it endangers their children. Australia is pleased to fund FSD to clear a portion of the several hundred thousand mines and unexploded ordnance still in Sri Lanka" Dr French said.
FSD, supported by the Governments of Australia, Switzerland and Japan, works largely in Vavuniya and Mannar. Australia's funding will build local capacity in mine and battle area clearance, as well as explosive ordnance disposal, and will assess the socio-economic impact of mines on local communities.
As one of the original signatories of the Ottawa Convention on the prohibition and destruction of anti-personnel mines, Australia is a leading contributor to international mine clearance, mine awareness and victim assistance, stockpile destruction activities and Treaty compliance. For the decade ending December 2005, Australia has provided $100 million towards mine action activities.
In the current year, Australia is providing an estimated $A 35 million (Rs 2,736 million) in aid to Sri Lanka, including $A 10 million (Rs 781 million) in humanitarian funds for relief and recovery activities following the tsunami.