The Princess Royal visited a Buddhist temple and watched a landmine clearance on the second day of her official visit to Sri Lanka.
Despite only arriving in the country the day before, Princess Anne, 73, has embarked on a packed schedule during her three-day visit.
The royal and her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, began their day on Thursday at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, in Kandy.
The tooth is said to be the Buddha’s left canine and is kept within seven caskets and paraded through the streets of Kandy every five years during a ten-day spectacle.
Wearing white as a mark of respect and removing her shoes, like all visitors, Princess Anne was given a plate of jasmine flowers by a Buddhist cleric and ushered into an inner sanctum, reserved for the temple’s most important guests, to make her offering to the relic in private.
The couple then travelled to Jaffna, a city on the northern tip of Sri Lanka, which is rebuilding its cultural heritage after the civil war.
Upon arrival, the Princess had a garland placed around her head and a pottu or dot placed on her forehead and met Tamil representatives from the arts, education and local politics at the public library.
Her final visit of the day saw Anne watch landmine clearance by workers from the Halo Trust using machines.
The King’s sister put on a heavy protective vest before she was given a private tour from the perimeter of an active minefield.
The conflict between armed separatist Tamil Tiger forces and the Sri Lankan Army ended in May 2009 after 26 years, with the government troops claiming a victory that left an estimated 100,000 dead.
Stephen Hall, Halo Sri Lanka programme manager, gave Anne and husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence a briefing of the charity’s work before they drove to the landmine site.
He told Princess Anne that the area close to their location, Muhamalai near Jaffna, was the forward defence line in the civil war.
“For this, thinks Western Front, First World War, it’s very similar. Ten years we had both sides dug in firing at each other, entrenched. It was brutal, it was bloody and there is a lot of ordnance out there to clear.”
Halo’s land mine clearance in Sri Lanka has allowed 280,000 displaced people to return to their homelands, with locally trained staff removing more than one million pieces of ordnance that were left by both sides during the war.
He also said: “We’re very much focused on the humanitarian impact of our work – the resettlement of internally displaced people, restoring livelihoods and reconciliation. So clearing explosive ordinance is a means to an end.”