At the end of January British MP and Minister of State for South Asia Hugo Swire visited Muhamalai, the largest minefield in Sri Lanka, just a few weeks before a 250,000m² portion of it is due to be handed back to local residents for redevelopment. Muhamalai saw years of intense conflict that left a lethal legacy of unexploded ordnance spread over more than ten square kilometres. DFID-funded deminers have removed over three thousand anti-personnel mines from this site since 2012, roughly a third of the total so far.
Accompanied by High Commissioner John Rankin and the Foreign Office South Asia Director Giles Thomson, the minister received a briefing from HALO’s Programme Manager on the impact of mine clearance in Sri Lanka, the technical and logistical challenges of Muhamalai, and HALO’s plans to clear all known minefields in Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu over the next two years.
Mr Swire’s visit to Sri Lanka also took in meetings with the newly elected President Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, Minister for Resettlement DM Swaminathan and the new Governor for the Northern Province HMGS Palihakkara. He emphasised the urgent need to complete the resettlement of Tamils displaced during the war and the commitment of the British government to supporting the final stages of this process. An essential part of this resettlement is ensuring the land is cleared of explosive remnants of war.