President and CEO of The Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) Mr. Perry F. Baltimore, met on 21 January with Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha at the Embassy to discuss the future engagement of the MLI on humanitarian efforts to make Sri Lanka a landmine free country. The MLI has been working alongside the Sri Lanka Government and the Sri Lanka Army since 2004, when the first batch of thirteen Mine Detection Dogs (MDD) arriving in the island. Up to now the MLI has donated 40 MDDs, which has contributed significantly to the enhancement of Sri Lanka Army’s landmine clearing capability and capacity.
At the meeting also attended by Minister Counsellor Defence Air Commodore Sampath Wickremeratne and Miss Elise Becker, Vice President (Operations) of MLI, the current status of the MLI’s role in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s effort to be declared a Landmine Free State by 2025 and possible support towards this goal from the MLI was discussed. The MLI operates in 15 countries across the world, and has so far provided 256 MDDs to them. Sri Lanka has received the third highest MDDs.
Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha appreciated the contribution made MLI and its donors towards the Sri Lanka Government’s de-mining efforts, particularly since 2006, as the areas previously held by the LTTE were liberated. He said this support had enabled the speedy de-mining, early resettlement and also restoration of livelihoods for these populations particularly in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. He also thanked the MLI for making themselves available for further engagement with Sri Lanka to enhance the de-mining program. Noting that besides private donors, the Department of Defense and Department of State had also sponsored MDDs during this period, he said this programme was a reflection of the continuing cooperation between the two countries, the military-to-military relations, as well as people to people contact.
The President of MLI Mr. Baltimore re-affirmed the institute and its’ donors willingness to continue to work closely with the Sri Lankan authorities in future. He noted that the cost to acquire and train a dog is considerably high, and that most of the dogs are sponsored by donors who want to help Sri Lanka and other countries affected by landmines. He expressed his Institutes’ gratitude to the personal caring and the affectionate treatment that the Sri Lanka Army Humanitarian De-Mining Unit is providing to all the MDDs active and retired in their unit. He also briefed the Ambassador on the MLIs’ ‘CHAMPS” program, where children and youth societies from USA, interacts with children in other countries who are affected by landmines, to build awareness and to find sponsorships for needy children in those countries.
MDD ‘Sammy’, who is now retired after serving nine years in Sri Lanka, was also brought to the Embassy on this occasion. In 2019, she and her handler, Corporal Nishantha Bandara of Sri Lanka Army won the Best Mine Clearance Team Award out of all MDDs of MLI who are deployed around the world.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
22 January 2021