CLEARING A PATH FOR A MINE-FREE SRI LANKA
On Wednesday, July 16, 2003, His Excellency Devinda R. Subasinghe,
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States, and Anthony Lake,
Chairman of the Board of The Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI),
jointly hosted a gathering of eminent personalities in Washington
DC, to raise funds for mine detection dogs to "sniff out"
landmines and save lives in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan Government has requested MLI's assistance in establishing
an indigenous mine detection dog program in Sri Lanka. The Ambassador
noted that despite the ceasefire after 20 years of conflict, "an
estimated 700,000 landmines continue to cripple and kill innocent
people, instill fear, discourage resettlement, development and
deny use of land in the northern and eastern portions of Sri Lanka".
MLI is a Virginia-based, non-profit organization dedicated to
donating trained mine detection dogs to severely contaminated
countries. The Institute combines tax-deductible contributions
from private donors with government funds to train local handlers
to employ the dogs effectively in national mine clearance programs.
Ambassador Subasinghe explained that with current landmine removal
capabilities it will take 25 -30 years to free the country of
mines. He made special mention of the untiring efforts of Mrs
Diana Enzi, Wife of Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) who had been the
initiator for the Children Against the Mine Problem (CHAMPS) program.
He explained that CHAMPS allows children to become involved in
the global landmine epidemic by working with schools to educate
children about the threat of mines and raising funds to "adopt"
a mine detection dog. Ambassador and Mrs. Subasinghe are expected
to visit Wyoming with the Enzi's to participate in the fund raising
for this project soon.
Anthony Lake, former National Security Advisor, noted that a
timeline of 30 years or so is "unacceptable and unnecessary."
He suggested that donors could help reduce the timeline dramatically,
and that while they 'may never know the names or see the faces
of those they have helped, they can know that they have made a
difference in their lives."
Nearly 700 dogs are working reliably and safely in 23 countries
today. MLI President Perry Baltimore noted that "a highly
trained, explosive- sniffing dog is an extremely valuable &
versatile resource in the deminer's toolkit, and is the best detector
of landmines in the field today." Brigadier Rohan Jayasinghe,
Defence Attaché of the Embassy explained the efforts taken
by both the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the NGOs in this endeavor
to rid the affected areas of landmines.
Guests included Senator and Mrs. Mike Enzi (R-WY), James Lawrence
from the Office of Mine Action Initiatives & Partnerships
at the US Department of State, and corporate executives from Campbell
Crane & Associates, CHuBB International, DMS - Architectural
Services Inc., Limited Brands, Sandler Travis & Rosenberg,
Sara Lee Branded Apparel and Shell Oil Company.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
17 July 2003