New Mankulam DMZ proposed

[TamilNet, Friday, 23 July 1999, 13:10 GMT]
Sri Lanka Army officials said yesterday that they have suggested a new demilitarised zone, 5 km long and 1 km wide along the Mankulam- Thunukkai road, through which relief supplies may be taken into the Vanni.

The new DMZ is to extend due west of the A9 Kandy-Jaffna highway, from Mankulam, reported the State-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation reported. The area being proposed is presently held by the Liberation Tigers, according to observers.

The new proposal from the SLA's Chief of Staff and the Commander of the Vanni security forces Major General Lionel Balgalle has been sent to the LTTE through the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), the SLBC said.

The earlier SLA proposal of a DMZ along the Mankulam-Kilinochchi section of the A9 highway which is held by the LTTE was rejected by the Tigers, who said the SLA would be encouraged to exploit the dismantling of Tiger defences in the Mankulam area to break out into LTTE-held the Vanni.

The Liberation Tigers have accused the SLA of deliberately blocking food supplies to the Tamil populace in the Vanni by making unreasonable demands that Tiger defences been dismantled.

The SLA’s new proposal will allay the LTTE’s concerns the SLBC reported, quoting Major General Balagalle.

However, military analysts in Colombo felt that the SLA requirement that the LTTE gives up a large tract of territory for the DMZ, particularly in the Mankulam sector would in all likelihood not be accepted.

The Tigers are said to favour the present no-man’s land between the two sides’ defences at Mankulam being formally defined as a DMZ as this would be sufficient to provide the necessary access.

Aid workers say the closure of the only access point to the Vanni several weeks ago, amidst heavy fighting in the Mannar region was blocked aid supplies on which large numbers of displaced people and residents in the Vanni are dependent.

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