Opening of Pooneryn causeway urged

[TamilNet, Saturday, 29 March 2003, 13:28 GMT]
“The Sri Lankan government should take steps to re-open the Kerathivu- Sangupiddy causeway to ease the burden of the civilians living in western parts of Vanni region," said that the President of the Kilinochchi branch of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRC), Mr. P. Karthigesu, speaking to Tamilnet about recent moves to further improve transport facilities between Jaffna and the mainland.

“At least 2000 people would be able to travel daily with much ease to villages and towns on the Vanni western coast and its interior if the causeway is opened to the public. People from Jaffna who travel to these parts have to take very circuitous and difficult routes to reach their destination now in the western sector of the Vanni," Mr. Karthigesu said.

“We, along with several civil society groups, intend to take up the matter through the Government Agent”, he added.

Pooneryn is 34 kilometres from Jaffna if one travels through the causeway. Now one has to reach Kilinochchi and travel west from there on a dilapidated dirt road – at least 40 kilometres more.

Mannar is 112 kilometres from Jaffna on the road along the northwestern coast linked to the peninsula by the causeway. Today travellers have to cover an extra 100 kilometres to get to Mannar from Jaffna.

The strategic causeway has remained closed to public traffic since 1992 when the Sri Lanka army launched an operation called Valampuri to secure the general area. The operation was part of the SLA strategy to ‘strangulate’ the LTTE within Jaffna by cutting off all possible access points to the peninsula.

The Liberation Tigers urged Colombo during peace talks in 94-95 to shift the combined army-naval base encompassing either side of the causeway so that it could be opened to the public.

The Sri Lankan government refused. But pulled out the base in September 1996, 14 months after the 94-95 talks broke down, to concentrate forces for a thrust towards Kilinochchi.

The work on the Mahatheva Causeway began in 1937. The gap between the Kerathivu point, south of Chavakachcheri and Sangupiddy on the mainland was 13700 feet when the construction commenced.

It was narrowed to 1300 feet by 1987. The depth on the northern side of the gap was reduced to 11 feet and to 4-6 feet on the Sangupiddy side at the time.

 

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