Mine action: Overseas funds for LTTE front org., EU won’t help unless...

by Shamindra Ferdinando

An LTTE front receives financial and technical assistance from several international NGOs for mine clearing operations. Among the donors are Norwegian People’s Aid, British Mine Advisory Group, Swiss Foundation for Mine Action and Danish De-mining Group.

The assistance is made available to the Humanitarian De-mining Unit (HDU) tasked with mine clearing operations in LTTE-held areas. This comes under the ultimate purview of the LTTE. The HDU functions as the implementing arm of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) under investigation in several countries including the UK and Australia.

The TRO had been accused of channelling funds to the LTTE. Recently the Central Bank revealed that TRO was among 30 major recipients of tsunami aid totalling over Rs. 40 billion.

Despite grandiose plans to curb terrorist financing internationally proscribed groups continue to raise funds. "The fight against terrorist financing demands an all encompassing approach, targeting not only terrorist groups, but also the individuals, banks, criminal enterprises and charitable organisations that finance terrorism," US Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead told a recently concluded three-day congress in Colombo. The programme brought the US Department of Justice, the FBI, Australia’s Asia Pacific Group handling money laundering and the UK’s Charities Commission, together to train fiscal authorities and enforcement professionals in several Asian countries including Sri Lanka.

According to donors the army and the HDU are the major mine clearing operators active in the northern and eastern provinces.

Authoritative sources said that the government was aware of continuing overseas technical and financial assistance to the LTTE front organisation.

According to the UNDP the army provided minefield records of some 3,000 mine fields. Additional information had been provided by the HALO Trust, Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, and Mines Advisory Group.

Dr. A. S. Kunasingham, Senior Advisor and Secretary, National Steering Committee for Mine Action yesterday said that they received 100 percent backing of the army and the LTTE. Kunasingham said that about 2,500 civilians are deployed for mine clearing.

The army launched humanitarian de-mining operations in 1996 and the LTTE two years later.

Addressing a recent function to mark the International Day for Mine Awareness at the Sri Lanka Institute for Foreign Relations, Kunasingham said that eight international de-mining groups, the army and two local NGOs are engaged in both manual and mechanical clearing of mines He declared that the ongoing mine clearing programme has upto now covered over 50 percent of the mined area of which about 30 percent has been released for resettlement, reconstruction work. "Of the 730 mine-affected villages, 175 have been cleared," he said.

The EU provides substantial funds for mine clearing operations. European Union Head of Delegation Julian Wilson declared that EU would not provide further financial assistance to mine clearing operations as the country was not a signatory to the Ottawa Convention. "While it pains to say it, we will provide no more funds to Sri Lanka this year for de-mining because of it. Indeed, until Sri Lanka is a signatory, our funding will be limited and, if we continue in 2007, it will not be for mine clearance but only for technical survey. This is true for all our support - humanitarian and reconstruction," he told the meeting.


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