Mar 09, Colombo: Special Envoy on the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention Prince Mired Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, who visited Sri Lanka from March 5-7 at the invitation of the Sri Lankan government, has welcomed Sri Lanka's engagement towards achieving a country free of anti-personnel mines and encouraged the island nation to take the lead to get other countries in South Asia to follow suit.
The Special Envoy Prince Mired expressing his gratitude to the President and people of Sri Lanka for the invitation to view the work Sri Lanka is undertaking has invited the Sri Lankan Government to take a leadership role in fostering this humanitarian disarmament instrument in South Asia.
"I want to humbly thank the Government of Sri Lanka for its warm hospitality and evident commitment to the norms and implementation of the Convention," Prince Mired said at the conclusion of his visit.
"Sri Lanka's engagement and commitment expressed at its highest level of government as evidenced by the decision to join the Convention, and implementation of its national mine clearance operations can only mean that attaining Sri Lanka's ambition to rid its territory of these weapons and returning contaminated land for normal use can be achieved in the not too distant future. I know the international community will view Sri Lanka's commitment and ownership favourably and will inspire current levels of cooperation and assistance to remain firm or even increase should Sri Lanka's unwavering commitment to the implementation of the Convention continue during the years to come," said Prince Mired.
Sri Lanka which acceded to the Convention on 13 December 2017 is one of the newest States Parties to the treaty banning the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines, calls for the destruction of these weapons and assistance to the victims of these artifacts of war. The Convention will enter into force for Sri Lanka on 1 June 2018.
During his visit the special envoy called on President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapana, and Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Affairs D.M. Swaminathan and on the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Prasad Kariyawasam, to promote the Convention and its norms among South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member States that have not yet joined the Convention.
Following the meetings Prince Mired said he was impressed by Sri Lanka's "remarkable sense of ownership, seriousness, and political will mustered to address landmine contamination".
"Maintaining this issue on the international radar, especially in the South Asia region is key to banning this indiscriminate weapon. This is also an opportunity for Sri Lanka's leadership in the region; we very much welcome such efforts, especially as it concerns Sri Lanka's neighbors," he said.
Prince Mired further delivered the same message during his address at the Colombo-based think-tank Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute.
Prince Mired congratulated those in charge of Sri Lanka's mine clearance operations including the Director of the Mine Action Centre, the Commander of the Army and military for their understanding of the mine clearance imperative.
"I had the opportunity to see first-hand your impressive mine clearance operations in Jaffna carried out by the Sri Lanka Armed Forces and the Delvon Assistance for Social Harmony (DASH). I also saw the devastation that landmines have caused in the area. I encourage you to keep your resolve. Achieving a mine-free Sri Lanka is not only possible but the right course to follow to avoid further suffering and foster development. It is not an easy task, but it is doable," said Prince Mired.
The Special envoy was also invited to see the work of the Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation, the only center providing prosthetic, orthotic devices and orthopedic services in Jaffna Peninsula.
"I am so honored to have been given the opportunity to visit the center and see first-hand the amazing work they are doing in support of mine survivors and other persons with disabilities. It will be important not only for Sri Lanka but for those in the international community in a position to do so, to support this type of rehabilitation services in Sri Lanka and elsewhere", said Prince Mired.
"Landmine clearance is no-doubt going to be a success story in Sri Lanka, but I invite all relevant government parties to remember that mine-free does not mean victim-free. Once Sri Lanka completes its mine clearance efforts, landmine victims and survivors, many of which are children now, will still require sustained efforts to address their needs for decades to come. We cannot forget about them. While we cannot take back what has happened, we can assure that their future is brighter. I encourage Sri Lanka to continue addressing the needs of landmine victims and survivors by implementing not only this Convention but by addressing their needs through the context of another instrument Sri Lanka has joined, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities."
The Special Envoy also met with donor States that support the work of landmine clearance in Sri Lanka, international mine clearance organizations MAG and HALO Trust, the European Union and other relevant international organizations including the United Nations Team in Sri Lanka.