In Sri Lanka , deminers risk their lives to protect ours

High Commissioner Whiting gives opening remarks to celebrate the progress Sri Lanka has made in becoming a mine-free country.

A local deminer demonstrates the work she does on a daily basis.

Guests tour the Official Residence’s lawn to watch deminers work.

MAG’s deminers take a group photo with High Commissioner Whiting.

Sivasithamparame explains what happened on the day she lost her leg.

She tried to help the man but lost her leg instead

Kamaladevi Sivasithamparam is a landmine victim who lost her leg after stepping on an anti-personnel mine in 1987 while trying to reach for her fallen colleague. Despite her injury and the practical and physical challenges it imposed on her, Kamaladevi continued with her work as Secretary to the North and East Provincial Council for the next twenty five years.  She is now retired, and an active member of Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines, advocating for landmine victims and disabled. She also sits as an advisor of a community organization which provides prosthetics and rehabilitation services to landmine victims.

"At that time, no one was aware of these things. Even children could tell you the name of airplanes flying overhead by the sounds they made, and run to the bunkers - those things we knew. But we didn't know this antipersonnel mine thing.  That man lost his leg.  It was just hanging there.  He was calling for water. And I was the one left.  I went off the road onto the gravel and trampled on a mine.  My leg went flying right off.  It was a pressure mine.  When you take the weight off-it explodes", recounts Sivasithamparam, as she explains what happened on the day she lost her leg.

Canada destroys mines to prevent more landmine victims

“Where mines are involved, mine action must always be a central part of the solution. Humanitarian actors need roads clear of mines to access people in dire need of aid. Development projects cannot be built on mine-laden foundations. And societies cannot recover from conflict where people cannot return to their homes, fields and schools.”
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Dion

To celebrate the significant work that deminers have done to rid Sri Lanka of the scourge and impact of landmines, Canada’s High Commission to Sri Lanka hosted a unique event in Sri Lanka to recognize the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

The High Commission invited Mines Advisory Group (MAG) to turn the Official Residence’s front lawn into a mock minefield for the day of the event. MAG set up a stark visual reminder of the importance of demining work and the risks that deminers face in Sri Lanka, and brought a team of professional local deminers to demonstrate the back breaking and heroic work that goes into mine clearance.

Canada’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Shelley Whiting led a moment of silence to “remember all lives lost due to mines, in memory of deminers who have lost their lives or been injured in the course of their work, and in recognition of all deminers who, on a daily basis, risk life and limb so that the rest of us can be safe, and whose work to make Sri Lanka and the world mine-free to often goes unacknowledged and unrecognized.”

Canada through the Global Peace and Security Fund, has been a significant donor to Sri Lanka’s demining efforts, contributing more than $3 million since 2009 to MAG and HaloTrust’s demining efforts, which are undertaken in close collaboration with the armed forces, the National Mine Action Centre, the United Nations, and the Government of Sri Lanka.

As a result, Canada has helped destroy more than 47 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines, clear and return to productive use more than a billion square metres of land, and rehabilitate and reintegrate thousands of landmine survivors into their societies as full productive members.

Mines and explosive remnants of war constitute a serious threat to safety, and an impediment to social and economic development. Clearance of landmines is a necessary prerequisite to long-term peace and security for all Sri Lankans. Canada looks forward to continued engagement with Sri Lanka in the months and years to come, to strive together to create a Sri Lanka and a world free of anti-personnel mines.