Officials meet UN advisor on `cluster bomb’ story Never used or acquired such material says army commander
Posted on April 29th, 2012

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island


In the wake of the senior UN official in charge of mine clearing operations carried out by NGOs alleging that unexploded cluster munitions had been found in the Vanni east recently, the GoSL has challenged the agency to furnish evidence to support the latest allegation directed at Sri Lanka.

Responding to a query by The Sunday Island, Army Chief Lt. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya yesterday said that a delegation of officials in charge of the ongoing mine clearing efforts had met Allan Poston, the technical adviser for the UNDP to clarify the issue.

The AP Bureau Chief in Sri Lanka during Eelam War IV, Ravi Nessman, in a New Delhi datelined story revealed the recovery of unexploded cluster ammunition on the basis of a recent e-mail sent by Poston to the UN.

The Indian journalist was forced to leave Colombo shortly after the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009 due to GoSLƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s refusal to extend his visa. Nessman is current AP Bureau Chief for South Asia based in New Delhi.

“We sought evidence and whatever information the UNDP can provide us in carrying out an inquiry,” the ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ army chief said. The former Vanni Commander emphasized the GoSL forces had never used cluster ammunition during any stage of the offensive or acquired any during the entire conflict.

Military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya told The Sunday Island yesterday that cluster ammunition had never been found in any part of the Northern and Eastern Provinces during the conflict.

In fact, at the conclusion of the conflict in May three years ago, the National Mine Action project had identified 2,061 square kms for mine clearing operations. “The military and NGOs have so far cleared 1,936 square kms, though they never found evidence at least to suggest the use of cluster ammunition,” ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ he said.

Asked why the GoSL had refused to join a UN convention banning the use of cluster ammunition, the official said that the government had at the height of the fighting in the Vanni in 2008 assured the global community it wouldnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t employ such weapons, though it was not been a signatory to the agreement.

Authoritative sources revealed said that the UNDP had furnished four photographs of a mine clearing site to the army describing a part of what looked like a metal piece as cluster ammunition. Citing his experience as mine expert once deployed in Lebanon, Poston has asserted that the buried object looked like cluster ammunition.

Asked whether the UNDP alerted the army or sought assistance from army engineers to carry out a comprehensive check in the area, sources said that the GoSL got to know about the alleged recovery from NessmanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s report from New Delhi.

Responding to a query, sources said that the UNDP had not got in touch with the army, which had received overseas training to handle cluster ammunition, in spite of those supervised by the UNDP not having the expertise.

A senior official said now that a UNDP employee on the ground, probably deployed somewhere in Puthukudirippu, had come across what he perceived as cluster ammunition, the army could be directed to the site or at least given an opportunity to speak with the person, who ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ had made the detection.

That person, too, should be an expert on cluster ammunition as he promptly brought the detection to the notice of the Colombo-based UN official, sources said, adding that the latest allegation could be part of the ongoing propaganda blitz against the country.

The official asserted that the de-mining operation in Sri Lanka was coming to a rapid conclusion. In spite of various experts warning that mine clearing operations taking many years, the GoSL with the support of international community had achieved unprecedented success on the ground.

“What we have achieved in three years was astounding,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ he said highlighting that less than 130 square kms had to be cleared, mostly in the Vanni east region. The operation was coming to a successful conclusion long before anticipated, he said.

Sources said that there couldnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t be any reason for any expansion of UN supervised mine clearing operations as the operation was coming to end. The bottom line was that the most difficult phase of the operation was over now and the army could now concentrate on the jungles.

During a recent interview with The Sunday Island, Lt. Gen. Jayasuriya said that he would provide the maximum possible strength needed to complete the de-mining operation. Making Sri Lanka mine free was high priority for the army, he said, emphasizing the vast resources it had allocated for mine clearing operations was evidence of GoSLƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s commitment.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2024 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress