Tamil activists accuse Lankan Army of purchasing landmine parts

In 2004, Sri Lanka received around GBP 15 million for de-mining projects.

Colombo: Tamil activists have claimed that they have obtained classified documents that show the Sri Lankan military seeking tenders from Colombo-based suppliers for the purchase of remote-control detonators for Claymore anti-personnel mines.

The documents, which have been seen by The Independent but cannot be independently verified, have been dismissed by the military as fake.

However, according to experts, the use of Claymore mines detonated by remote control would not be in breach of the comprehensive Ottawa Treaty of 1997.

The activists claim that given that Sri Lanka has always denied manufacturing parts for anti-personnel mines, these purported revelations about detonators merit investigation.

The Independent quoted Reverend SJ Emmanuel, the president of the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), as saying that the forum had obtained the documents from a senior Sri Lankan military source.

He said that there was a need for an impartial panel established by the UN to examine whether both the Army and Tamil rebels manufactured mines.

"How much more evidence do we have to produce for the international community to act upon?" he asked.

The documents date from summer 2006, when the Sri Lankan authorities were involved in a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire with the Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

According to the evidence gathered, Sri Lanka was receiving considerable sums to fund projects for clearing hundreds of thousands of mines, the legacy of a decades-long conflict with the LTTE, which had launched a brutal war to secure a separate Tamil homeland.

In 2004, Sri Lanka received around GBP 15 million for de-mining projects.

And even now, more than 18 months after the Sri Lankan Army defeated the remnants of the LTTE, many Tamils are still unable to return to their villages as they wait for them to be de-mined.

While Sri Lanka is not a party to the Ottawa Treaty, the authorities have publicly supported its humanitarian aims and since 1996 voted in favour of all resolutions at the UN General Assembly that call for a ban on the use, stockpiling or production of anti-personnel mines.

The Army has claimed to stop using such weapons in 200, but despite this, there have been repeated allegations that covert units within the Sri Lankan Army continued to use them.