Alternative supply routes offered
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 30 June 1999, 19:28 GMT]
Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Chief of Staff and the Commander of the security Forces in the Vanni, Major General Lionel Balagalle said in Vavuniya yesterday that the SLA is ready to open a new route to the areas held by the Liberation Tigers as an alternative to the current one blocked by the recent fighting south of Vidaththalthivu.
He said that a new route has to be opened for resuming the supply of food and essentials to civilians in those parts of the Vanni held by the LTTE.
The SLA commander held a meeting yesterday afternoon at the Vanni Security Forces Headquarters in Vavuniya with K.Ganesh, the Government Agent of the district, and Sherine Pollini, ICRC delegate in Vavuniya.
Maj. Gen. Balagalle told the officials that the SLA is unable to open the Mannar-Vidaththalthivu road as due to the security situation in the region.
The SLA began a major thrust to take a strategic junction on this road last Friday, backed by artillery and Air Force bombers.
The LTTE said that it has stalled the army's advance.
SLA sources in Vavuniya said that the commander had urged the two officials that the matter of routing supplies to displaced people should be discussed with the Liberation Tigers and arrangements be made without delay.
He suggested as alternative routs the following:
- The A9 highway from Vavuniya to Mankulam.
- The route from Vavuniya through Poovarasankulam, Iranai Iluppaikulam and Moonrumurippu to Thunukkai.
- The Vavuniya-Oddusuddan road to Puthukkudiyiruppu.
But according to air workers, the Liberation Tigers have said in the past that such offers to open access roads are a standard ploy by the SLA to make the Tigers slacken their fortified defences on the approaches to strategic points on these routes.
The three roads were the scenes of fierce battles with the LTTE during Operation Jeyasikurui, from mid-1997 to late last year.