Sri Lanka govt may sign anti-landmine treaty

October 27, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka may consider joining the global treaty banning landmines following the government’s defeat of separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, the army chief said on Tuesday. Sri Lanka had previously refused to sign up to the 1997 Ottawa Convention against landmines, arguing that the military could not unilaterally abandon mines in their bloody fight against the Tamil Tigers.

“With the end of conflict (in May), we have had the opportunity to review Sri Lanka’s position,” Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya said.

The Sri Lankan military estimates that there could be 1.5 million mines scattered across the island’s north, Jayasuriya told a seminar in the capital Colombo.

He said that the army had maintained maps marking its minefields, but the Tigers had not.

Some 277,000 people were displaced during the final stages of the fighting and now live in government-run camps, where they will stay until the military clears villages of landmines and screens the detainees. About 57,000 people have been allowed to return to home.