Palaly shelling cancels Jaffna ship
[TamilNet, Friday, 19 May 2000, 07:33 GMT]
'The City of Trinco', a passenger ship to Jaffna that was scheduled to depart this morning from the eastern port of Trincomalee was canceled by the Sri Lanka Navy for security reasons officials said. The ship was to set sail with 350 passengers to the Kankesanthurai harbour (KKS), located in the sprawling Palaly base complex in the northern sector of the Jaffna peninsula. The Liberation Tigers say that their artillery units have been firing on the base since Wednesday.
The Palaly air base and the KKS harbour are the only viable supply points available to the Sri Lankan troops battling the advancing troops of the Liberation Tigers in the peninsula.
The Tigers fired several volleys on the base killing 7 soldiers and wounding 28 in the base yesterday said sources in Colombo. The Voice of Tigers radio said that LTTE's artillery fire had knocked out the communications tower of the base and had hit its runway.
The KKS harbour may also be within the firing range of the LTTE's field guns military sources in Colombo said. Jaffna news paper sources contacted by phone Wednesday evening said that the Liberation Tigers have advanced into Kopay Veli, about 12 kilometers from the Palaly base as the crow flies.
The 122 mm howitzers captured from the SLA by the Tigers have an effective range of 17 kilometers.
The Sri Lankan government dismisses the magnitude of the threat posed by the LTTE's artillery fire on the base, claiming that adequate supplies for its troops have been stockpiled in Palaly and other main camps in the peninsula to sustain the current operations of the army against the Tigers.
SLA sources in Colombo, however, say that ground commanders are concerned that a serious problem may arise in evacuating soldiers wounded in battles raging in the peninsula now, if the Tigers manage to zero in their field guns on the Palaly runway.
They are worried that morale and discipline might further plummet if seriously wounded front line troops cannot be evacuated by air - the Palaly runway being the only airfield in Jaffna, said the military sources in Colombo.
Three thousand forty people have registered and reserved seats for passage to Jaffna at the Trincomalee Divisional Secretariat officials said. Thousands more are awaiting transport to and from Jaffna. The last passenger ship to Jaffna sailed on April 1 this year. The service was canceled after the Tigers stepped up their offensive into the peninsula in late March. This ship, Lanka Muditha was used to transport troops as well.
The Lanka Rani and the Lanka Devi, two ships bought by the Ceylon Shipping Corporation to transport passengers to and from Jaffna were requisitioned by the Sri Lanka army last month for its logistical use in the face of mounting pressure from the advancing fighting formations of the Liberation Tigers in the peninsula.
The Sri Lanka Navy escorts the army supply ships to Jaffna from Trincomalee in international waters off the northeastern maritime zone of the island to avoid the Sea Tigers in the coastal waters.
The Liberation Tigers now control a long coastline from Jaffna's southeastern sector to Kokkuthoduvaai, close to the Trincomalee district border.