SIGNATORIES of the Ottawa Convention are unhappy with the British Government's request for an extension of the deadline for the UK to meet its obligation to clear anti-personnel mines in the Falklands.
Falklands councillor, Mike Summers, confirmed today that although the Convention allows for a request for a ten-year extension for countries to meet their obligation under the convention to clear land mines in mined areas under their jurisdiction and control, the UK Government's request has not met with a positive response. Falkland Islanders are in support of the British request saying money would be better spent on removing landmines from needier parts of the world. Councillor Summers said he and his colleagues discussed the situation at an Executive Council meeting on Thursday, and also to review specific wording in the text. He said that they were uncomfortable with comments in the text that indicated Islanders would not be happy for large numbers of mine clearing personnel to spend time in the Falklands. According to a feasibility study on the clearance of landmines in the Falklands, the influx of a large number of de-miners and heavy machinery for an extended period of time would also cause disruption and be a strain on the Islands small community. Councillor Summers emphasised, "We never said this," pointing out that such a situation would in fact be very likely to be good for the Falklands economy. Falkland Islanders do agree, however, that in contrast with mined areas elsewhere in the world, the humanitarian and socio-economic impact of the minefields in the Falklands is negligible The UK extension request points out that the mined areas are clearly marked, fenced and monitored and pose minimal risk to the community. There have been no civilian injuries from the mines since 1982. When landmines do surface and pose a threat in and around the mined areas, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team that is permanently based there clears them. The mined areas cover just over 13 sq. km representing 0.1% of the land used for farming; so their economic impact is negligible. The UK is not alone in submitting an extension request. At least 16 other countries are also expected to do so before the November 2008 meeting of States Parties. The UK is the third largest donor to international mine clearance operations contributing around £10 million a year. By Lisa Johnstone – SeAled PR - Stanley