SLA said baulking shortest route to Jaffna
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 08 October 2003, 18:43 GMT]
The Consortium of Humanitarian Organisations in Mannar Wednesday called upon the Sri Lankan government and military to reopen the coastal road connecting the northwestern district with Jaffna. “The road has to be reopened as soon as possible to address the dire marketing problems faced by farmers in the district,” said Mr. Peter Sinclair, the President of the Consortium.
The A-32 Road is the shortest route between Mannar and Jaffna. At its southern end, the road begins from the Thallady Junction at the entrance of the causeway linking the mainland to Mannar Island.
At the northern end of the road is the Pooneryn causeway to Jaffna. The distance from Thallady to Pooneryn is 85 kilometres.
In 1997, when it became imperative for the Sri Lankan government to open a lifeline overland to Jaffna for the survival of its garrisons there, military planners in Colombo were largely in favour of wresting the A32 from the Liberation Tigers, as this was the shortest route to the peninsula.
The suggestion was rejected in favour of the A9, though it is about 45 kilometres longer.
Currently, Mannar farmers who want to sell their produce in Jaffna--the biggest market for rice in the north--have to travel 218 kilometres via Vavuniya and Kilinochchi.
“Almost seventy five percent of the rice produced in Mannar this year hasn’t been sold because there is no market for it in the south. But there is a big demand for rice in Jaffna. The demand in Jaffna is such that the rice we got from this season’s harvest in Mannar wouldn’t be adequate for two weeks' supply there. Our tragedy is that we cannot afford to sell the rice at market price in Jaffna because transport charges for 218 kilometres are higher. The same can be said for fish and vegetables,” Mr. Sinclair said.
Hundreds of families that have resettled in their villages in the northern parts of Mannar mainland such as Iluppaikadavai, Mulankavil, Pallamadhu, Vellankulam and Vidaththalthivu have to take a 12-kilometre detour now through the SLA’s checkpoint in Uyilankulam to reach the town.
The SLA, however, refuses to reopen the road.
The Road Development Authority is patching up the 43-kilometre segment of the A32 that lies within the Mannar district at an estimated cost of 2.5 million rupees. “This part of the road would be motorable once we complete our work,” an RDA official said.
“But progress is very slow because we have to take the detour. And all the material for the road work has to be unloaded for checking at the Uyilankulam,” he said.
RDA says at least 600 million is required to restore the A32.