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DateLine Tuesday, 3 March 2009

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A-9 opens

*Twenty buses carrying 400 troops commenced their journey through the newly liberated area of the A-9 road

*Another historic occasion in two and half year humanitarian operation

Security Forces marked yet another historic occasion in their two and half year humanitarian operation, opening the Jaffna-Kandy A-9 road for troop movement after 24 years with 400 troops from Jaffna reaching Anuradhapura and another 400 troops from Anuradhapura reaching Jaffna along the A-9 road.

Twenty buses carrying 400 troops commenced their journey through the newly liberated area of the A-9 road at 9.04 am after an official function at Elephant Pass with the participation of Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General Mendaka Samarasinghe and other high ranking officials of the Security Forces in Jaffna.

Parallel to this ceremony, another 400 troops reporting back to duty in Jaffna commenced their journey from Anuradhapura officially launching this troop movement mission after participating in an official function with the participation of Vanni Security Forces Commander Major General Jagath Jayasuriya. The Maha Sangha blessed the troops at Elephant Pass and Omantai before troop movement commenced.

“With the commencement of this troop movement mission, the Sri Lanka Army will make use of the A-9 road for troop movements to and from Jaffna peninsula,” Major General Mendaka Samarasinghe said.

Although the A-9 road was fully liberated in January this year with the capture of Elephant Pass on January 9, the road was not used for troop movement until the Security Forces had given full security clearance.

“The Sri Lanka Army will greatly benefit from this move as we can save the number of days taken for soldiers going on leave and reporting back for duty in Jaffna by sea or air as they have to stay for more than one week at Transit camps,” General Officer Commanding the 55 Division Brigadier Prasanna Silva told the Daily News.

“It is a great relief for the troops as they can avoid the long delays when going on leave and reporting back for duty,” the Brigadier added. Earlier, the Army troops used the Jetliner for their troop movement between Jaffna and Trincomalee by sea and aircraft from Palaly to Ratmalana.

With the commencement of this troop movement mission, the Jaffna-Kandy A-9 road will become the lifeline between the Jaffna peninsula and the South for the Security Forces and the road will also be opened for the civilian movement to and from Jaffna.

“We are hoping to open the A-9 road for civilian movement possibly by April,” a senior military official told the Daily News. During a major period of the last two and a half decades, transportation of both men and material to Jaffna peninsula had taken place using sea and air routes, which is costly.

However the Kandy-Jaffna A-9 road remained open for civilian transport for a brief period prior to 2006, during the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA). After the CFA collapsed in 2006, once again the main land based link between Jaffna and the rest of the country remained closed for traffic.

According to Media Centre for National Security Director Lakshman Hulugalle the re-opening of A - 9, would pave the way for a sharp reduction in transport expenses in moving military and civilian supplies to the Jaffna peninsula.

Thus the opening of the overland route is expected to bring down the cost of living in the Jaffna peninsula drastically and also help Jaffna farmers to send their products to Colombo through cheaper means.

It is also expected to bring down the travel costs of passengers who earlier paid exorbitant sums to secure transport through air and sea routes, to reach Colombo and other areas in the South.


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