A9 opens for traffic on Sundays

[TamilNet, Sunday, 06 April 2003, 11:58 GMT]
The A9 highway to Jaffna will be open for public traffic on Sundays, starting today, Sri Lanka military sources said. The road was opened last year following the cease fire agreement between the LTTE and Colombo. But it remained closed on Sundays despite pleas by the Tigers to keep it open 7 days of the week. The road to the Vanni in Mannar through the Uyilankulam entry point was also opened to public traffic on Sundays from today.

The Sri Lanka military said last year that the road could not be opened on Sundays because the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which supervises the no man’s land between the LTTE’s line of control and that of the Sri Lanka army was not willing to send delegates on Sundays to the entry points on A9 (Omanthai and Muhamalai) and in Uyilankulam.

The ICRC, however, said that it was ready to help with the opening of the road on Sundays provided there was definite agreement on the matter between Colombo and the LTTE.

Travellers between Jaffna and other parts of the island were greatly inconvenienced by the closure of the road on Sundays- particularly those who got late to make the crossing at Omanthai or Muhamalai before closing time (5.30 p.m.) on Saturday had to spend two nights and a whole day in the Vanni before continuing their journey on Monday morning.

The road was open to the public from 7.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.

Those transporting perishable agricultural produce and sea food from Vanni and Jaffna were particularly affected by these A9 travel restrictions.

In an interview with Tamilnet last year, head of the LTTE’s political division, Mr. S. P Thamilchelvan, urged Colombo to agree on keeping the A9 open seven days of the week for the public and round the clock at least for commercial traffic.

The A9 was closed in 1997 when the Sri Lankan armed forces began the largest military operation in their history to take control of the road between Thaandikkulam, on northern outskirts of Vavuniya town, and Kilinochchi, which was held by them at the time as a heavily fortified garrison.

The ambitious operation became a bloody quagmire for the SLA amid fierce resistance by the Tigers. The A9 came to be called the highway of death.

In 1999 November the LTTE launched a counter attack, destroying in the course of a week all the gains the Sri Lankan armed forces had made and consolidated for more than two years.

Next year, with the fall of the sprawling Elephant Pass military base, about 85 percent of the road between Vavuniya and Jaffna came under the LTTE’s control.

 

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