Sri Lankan village thrives after landmine clearance

Small businesses and public services flourish on ground cleared by HALO Skandapruram village. A year after resettlement began, Skandapuram in Kilinochchi District is now a thriving village home to 2,307 people. In late 2008, however, the village was a battle ground as the LTTE sought to prevent the Sri Lankan Army from advancing on Kilinochchi Town a few kilometres to the north-east.

In an attempt to stall them, the LTTE laid hundreds of mines in the centre of the village. With support from AusAID, ECHO, Japan, the US Department of State and Canada, HALO cleared over 21 hectares (58 acres) in Skandapuram and removed 1,141 anti-personnel mines. Without this clearance, dozens of families would have been unable to resettle and the heart of the village would have been left without public services and small businesses.

Karuppaijah Ginanasekaram (29) was heavily pregnant and the mother of a young baby when she and her husband Kamalajini (29) were displaced in late 2008. Forced to leave their small grocery shop behind the family were vulnerable, unable to return home due to the threat of mines and therefore reliant, upon resettlement in May 2010, on the assistance of other family members. The clearance of Skandapuram and the opening of the market gave them the opportunity they were waiting for.

Following his childhood dream, Kamalajini was able to secure a loan which enabled him to open a small general store in the market in August 2010. With mine clearance here complete, the future for the Ginanasekaram family now looks bright. They earn enough to service their loan and provide a stable income.

Skandapuram Library used to have 500 members and house over 5,000 books. When the village was displaced in late 2008, the building was closed down and the books sent away for safe keeping. Sadly they did not survive the war.

Following HALO’s clearance the library was able to reopen in June 2011 with 500 books and a delivery of daily newspapers.

Mrs Perinpanathan explains the importance of this village resource:

Many pupils at the school are too poor to buy additional books and past exam papers. Now the library is open we are able to support their studying.

Edward Lemon Kajenthiran (40) is pleased to be back in Skandapuram. A barber by trade, Edward used to run his own salon in the village and was proud of the improvements he’d made to the premises, adding a new glass front and investing in equipment. It provided a good living for him, his wife Cnistamay (34) and their three children, Steempraveen (12), Santosh (8) and Thusani (4).

Displaced in late 2008 he lost the lot. Forced to abandon his shop, Edward took some of his tools with him hoping to be able to work. But subsequent displacements over the next two years caused him to lose these too. Living on the goodwill of relatives in Jaffna, Edward worked for another barber to support his family, but always hoped that he’d be able to return to Skandapuram one day and restart his own business.

Hearing that HALO had completed mine clearance in the village Edward knew his opportunity had come, he moved back to Skandapuram in June 2011 and opened his new salon two weeks ago:

I am grateful that I can have my own business again. Now I can support my family and start my life again!