Crossing completed at Mankulam

[TamilNet, Monday, 09 August 1999, 16:10 GMT]
Ten lorries carrying essential supplies were sent under ICRC escort to the Vanni this afternoon by 4.30 p.m. Supplies from lorries that came from Vavuniya were unloaded and reloaded onto lorries from the LTTE held areas of the Vanni which came through the safe passage on the A9 at Mankulam around 3 p.m.

Earlier in the day around 11.45 a.m. an ambulance from the Akkarayankulam hospital came through with seven seriously ill patients.

Four hundred and eleven civilians who were stranded in Vavuniya for more than a month due to the closure of access routes to Vanni were brought in 10 buses to the crossing point. Their belongings came in three lorries.

The Sri Lankan security forces commander in the Vanni, Maj.General Lionel Balagalle, had made arrangements to allow the civilians to take goods liberally across the lines.

Some civilians as a consequence had to return across the safe passage to take back excess baggage said the TamilNet correspondent.

The civilians were given a free bus ride to Mankulam today on the instructions of the Maj.Gen. Balagalle. However, they would be expected to pay the fare from Vavuniya to Mankulam from tomorrow said government officials. Of the civilians who made the crossing today, 163 were from Kilinochchi, 239 from Mullaithivu and 9 from the LTTE held part of the Mannar district.

Journalists from either side were allowed to walk up in the no-man's land to about 10 meters between each other.

TamilNet correspondent said that the gap between the Sri Lankan army positions and the LTTE's positions was about 80 meters.

Journalists from the LTTE's side included 'Sathiya' from the Voice of Tigers radio. The deputy leader of the LTTE's political wing, Karikalan, the commander of the Mankulam sector, Jeyam, and others were present at the other end of the safe passage.

The SLA too observed the proceedings from its positions on the southern end of the safe passage.

Five ICRC officials were present at the scene to assist and facilitate the process. The ICRC issued a statement on the situation this evening.

"The ICRC hopes to continue with such escort on a daily basis for the next few days and thereafter the frequency of the escort will depend on needs and the requirement for ICRC protection" the press note said.

The Vavuniya GA thanked everyone who made the passage possible.

There were no hassles to impede the crossing today mainly because of the special interest Maj.Gen. Balagalle had shown in expediting the opening of the passage under his direct supervision with a view to helping the people of the Vanni said the TamilNet’s Vavuniya correspondent.


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