The De-mining Coordinating Office attached to the District Secretariat of Jaffna, on Friday said that it estimated around 800,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) as remaining in the former Forward Defence Line along Naakarkoayil, Mukamaalai and Ki’laali in Thenmaraadchi. The DCO is the civil authority coordinating that the de-mining is carried out according to UN procedures and is responsible for clearing areas vacated or otherwise cleared by the SL military operated ‘Humanitarian de-mining Units’. The recent tragic incident at Ketpali, where two teenagers sustained serious injuries, has taken place at an area, which is yet to be cleared by the coordinating office, according to DCO official V. Murugadas, who also said that the people, who are interested in resettling in their lands, have lost patience and start visiting the areas without verifying the status of de-mining.
“It would take years to complete the proper process of de-mining the FDL area with at least 800,000 land-mines”, Mr. Murugadas told media.
In the meantime, members of the de-mining units in Jaffna, who did not wish to be named, said that the main reason for slow progress in de-mining was caused by the Sri Lankan military, which has not utilised them with necessary details of their minefields. “There are no maps describing the number, types of mines and the coordinates,” an experienced field officer of a de-mining group told TamilNet.
According to him, the Sri Lankan military has placed more than 70% of the landmines in the said FDL.
The humanitarian de-mining units have to operate very carefully as they confront different types of mines planted each other in a confusing manner. Such mines are planted deliberately to make it harder for the opposite party to de-mine and infiltrate the FDL through the minefields.
The de-miners have also come across situations where landmines are booby-trapped with other explosive devices.
In the meantime, civil groups complain that the slow progress in de-mining is what the Sri Lanka Army and its hierarchy in Colombo envisage, as compatible with their land-grab and Sinahalicisation of strategic locations.