Tigers say ready to open A9 highway as scheduled
[TamilNet, Monday, 11 February 2002, 06:09 GMT]
In a statement issued in the Vanni Sunday, the political wing of the Liberation Tigers said that the A9 highway and the Uyilankulam road in Mannar would be opened on Friday 15 February. The two roads would be the only access arteries to the LTTE held Vanni region on which successive government in Colombo clamped a harsh economic embargo for more than a decade. The Vavuniya GA told TamilNet last week that the district secretariat was ready for opening the A9 on 15 February.
According to the LTTE political wing statement, the Pirmananaalankulam entry point would be closed for civilians from Wednesday 13 February and that it would be closed for vehicle traffic from Thursday 14 February. The statement said that the road through Piramanaalankulam – Madhu to the Vanni, which is currently the sole access route to the LTTE held region, would be completely sealed from Friday 15 January.
The A9 was sealed when the SLA launched Operation Jaya Sikurui ('Victory Assured' in Sinhala) to take the highway on 13 May 1997.
An access route to the Vanni for civilians was then opened through Uyilankulam, 18 kilometres southeast of Mannar. It was an excruciating detour of 112 kilometres along dilapidated dirt tracks through dry zone forests. This route too was closed when the SLA captured the region west of the A9 between Omanthai and Mankulam in mid 1999 in a series of offensives codenamed Rana Gosha ('Battle cry' in Sinhala).
The A9 was opened again as the access route to the Vanni at Mankulam through the SLA's heavily fortified forward defences. However, the route remained open only for a few days when the Liberation Tigers began a massive military offensive called Operation Unceasing Waves – III in November 1999 and recaptured in a week the vast swath of land that the SLA had fought hard for more than two years to seize and consolidate. In this offensive, a brigade group of the LTTE, backed by artillery and heavy mortar barrages, drove back the SLA to Omanthai, 17 kilometres north of Vavuniya town on the A9.
The Piramanaalankulam entry point, 28 kilometres west of Vavuniya on the raod to Mannar, was opened for civilian traffic following the SLA debacle in the Vanni. This route too is a tedious and difficult detour of about 145 kilometres, according to officials at the Vavuniya district secretariat.