INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Demining Operations in Jaffna Suspended

Published: Wed 28 Dec 2005 11:20 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 002167
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
STATE FOR SA/INS AND PM/WRA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PTER PHUM CASC MOPS KHDP CE EAIS LTTE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: DEMINING OPERATIONS IN JAFFNA SUSPENDED
REF: A. COLOMBO 2000
B. COLOMBO 2157
SUMMARY
--------
1. (SBU) The HALO Trust (HT), Sri Lankan Army (SLA) and
Danish Demining Group (DDG) have all suspended operations in
the Jaffna peninsula as of December 28. HALO Trust and the
SLA cited the deteriorating security environment, while the
DDG's closure coincides with its holiday stand-down.
Disgruntled HT employees, misreported in the local press as
members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), stole
two vehicles and demining equipment from the HT office and
equipment compound on December 27. The stolen items have no
impact on HT's ability to carry out demining. Worried about
improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the SLA has asked
demining NGOs to turn over their monthly explosive allotments
for safe keeping. The remaining AmCit contractor from RONCO,
a mine detecting dog (MDD) specialist attached to the SLA,
has moved onto the military base to avoid traveling on the
Jaffna-Palaly road. END SUMMARY.
SUSPENDED ANIMATION
-------------------
2. (SBU) Following a series of roadside attacks on Army
vehicles by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),
including a grenade attack on a clearly marked Sri Lankan
Army (SLA) humanitarian demining truck (Ref A), the SLA
suspended humanitarian demining operations in Jaffna on
December 7. The HALO Trust (HT) Program Manager told Poloff
that in light of the security factors and in order to review
their personnel situation, HT will suspend operations as of
December 29. The Program Manager of the Danish Demining
Group (DDG) told Poloff that the end of year stand-down is in
effect until January 9, adding that DDG is regularly
reviewing the security environment.
THIS IS A STICK UP
------------------
3. (SBU) On December 27, eight men, some armed with pistols,
forced their way past security guards into the HT office and
vehicle/equipment compound in Jaffna. Witnesses positively
identified two of the perpetrators as a disgruntled HT
section leader and the other as one of four employees
terminated for cause in November. Program Manager Ed Rowe
told Poloff the following day that contrary to media reports,
the LTTE was NOT/NOT involved and there were no/no British
personnel on the compound at the time of the incident. The
names and addresses of the two were given to the police, SLA,
Jaffna Government Agent and Brigadier Chandrasiri, Commanding
Officer of the engineering brigade in charge of humanitarian
demining. Items taken include a laptop computer, a digital
camera, two clearly marked Land Rover Defender 110s, 40 mine
detectors, 6 radios and some HALO Trust T-shirts. Rowe said
that HT has over 30 vehicles, 600 radios and 200 detectors in
Jaffna, and the theft will have a negligible impact on HT
demining operations. Rowe described the incident as clearly
an act of vandalism, and speculated that the perpetrators
took those items because they could be crammed in the back of
two trucks in a hurry.
CAN I HOLD YOUR CENTEX?
-----------------------
4. (SBU) Both HT and DDG program managers reported being
approached by the SLA to turn over their monthly allotment of
detonators and explosives for secure storage. Both NGOs hold
less than 10 Kg and intend to comply with the request. (NOTE:
The average LTTE roadside bomb uses between 20 and 30 Kg (Ref
B) of explosives and Tigers seem to be awash in explosives.)
GONE TO THE DOGS
----------------
5. (SBU) RONCO, the U.S. funded demining training
contractor, is moving its only AmCit employee in Jaffna, a
mine detecting dog (MDD) handler, onto the Palaly Army base
in Jaffna as of December 28. This will allow for continued
care and training of the MDDs without the risk of traveling
the Jaffna-Palaly road. The RONCO acting chief-of-party told
Poloff that if the situation does not improve by late
January, the dogs and handler will be air-lifted to Vavuniya,
out of the area of recent violence.
COMMENT
-------
6. (SBU) Suspension of the demining program in Jaffna is just
another regrettable consequence of the LTTE campaign of
terror. As usual the people of Jaffna will suffer the most,
losing land that could have been reclaimed for farming or
housing and facing the everyday peril of unexploded ordinance
in their community. The Tigers have made it plain long ago
how little human suffering influences their actions. This
makes their claims in defense of the oppressed people of
Jaffna drip with cynicism. END COMMENT
LUNSTEAD
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