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ICRC asked to make suitable entry/exit point shift

COLOMBO: The Defence Ministry has officially made a request from the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) to find a suitable location to shift the sole Entry-Exit point and cross loading point between the uncleared areas and the cleared now functional at Omanthai, to a place closer to Oddusudan, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told the Daily News last night.

“We made this request officially from the ICRC this week as we believe that there is no point of having the entry-exit point there in Omanthai as there are no LTTE presence in the Omanthai area at present,” the Defence Secretary added.

Defence Secretary Rajapaksa met an ICRC delegation this week along with Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka to officially convey this request.

”The ICRC also agreed with the point made by us and to find a suitable location to shift the Entry Exit point further north”, the Defence Secretary added.

The Defence Ministry made this request from the ICRC after the Sri Lanka Army 56 Division operating in Omanthai cleared the LTTE defence line in Omanthai last week.

According to sources, the Omanthai Entry Exit point will be shifted to the South of Oddusudan on the Nedunkerni – Oddusudan road as almost all areas between Mankulam and Oddusudan has been cleared by the Special Forces and Commando troops operating there, though the area has not been dominated by the troops.

Sources also added that only a handful of LTTE cadres were present at the Omanthai entry- exit point during the past few days.

The Security Forces Headquarter in Wanni on Wednesday changed opening hours of the Omanthai Entry-Exit point from 9 am to 1 pm to expedite the process of sending vehicles to accelerate the movement of vehicles and passengers within a shortest possible time frame.

However, the ICRC temporarily halted their operations at the Omanthai Entry-Exit point since Wednesday over concerns about the security of the ICRC representatives there.

Army Commander Lt. General Fonseka who visited the Wanni Security Forces Headquarters, instructed Major General Jagath Jayasuriya, Commander, Security Forces Headquarters, Wanni (SFHQ-W), to explore possibilities of dispatching of essentials into uncleared areas in single lineup convoys, once or twice a week, instead of regular fleets of vehicles throughout the week in consultation with ICRC officials. According to Army headquarters the directive in this regard came subsequent to ICRC officials’ reluctance to man the Omanthai Entry/Exit point as usual after the SFHQ-W decided to keep the Omanthai opening hours only between 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. from Wednesday onwards, in view of several concerns and intensification of humanitarian operations, progressing away further north to the gateway.

The Army Commander advised Wanni Commander Major General Jayasuriya to seek services of the ICRC escort for those lined-up food convoys to be taken in one fleet.

Although the ICRC has not so far showed up for manning the gateway, its ambulances and other vehicles executed their emergency medical services across the point in the past 48 hours, the Commander was told.

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