Fears of a humanitarian crisis including food shortages loomed large in the Wanni as Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) traded charges against each other over re-opening of the only entry-exit points at Omanthai and Uyilankulam.The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is refusing to position its personnel at these points until security guarantees are obtained from both sides. A prolonged delay would mean supplies of food and medicine cannot be moved into the area. The Entry-Exit Point at Omanthai remains the umbilical cord for all supplies into Wanni after the Government closed the Muhamalai Entry-Exit Point. It is located south of the Jaffna peninsula and all supplies moved by sea were transported to Wanni through this point.
ICRC spokesman Davide Vignati told The Sunday Times they discussed the issue with LTTE Deputy Political Wing leader, Thangan. His position was that the guerrillas would refrain from attacks if the Security Forces followed suit. The Security Forces in turn blamed the LTTE for the closure and said they did not get the points shut down.
Vignati said the LTTE response was now being discussed with the Government. An ICRC team was due to meet Defence Ministry officials in this regard last night.
Details of the outcome of the discussions were not known immediately, but a military spokesman said that the army was maintaining the position that the road was never closed by the army.
`The army is not obstructing the movement of civilians and the other essential items`, the spokesman said. The two entry-exit points were closed after the military accused the LTTE of firing mortars in the direction where the ICRC officials were present.
`We will not deploy the staff until we get a firm assurance about the safety. We will not risk the lives of the staff until that,` Mr. Vignati said.
The Uylankulam point was closed on May 18 while the Omanthai point was closed on Tuesday. The Omantahi check point was closed after a civilian vehicle trying to enter the government controlled area had been fired upon by the LTTE. One of the bullets had hit the ICRC post.
Mullativu Government Agent Emelda Sukumar told The Sunday Times that 35 lorries carrying essential items including food and kerosene were held up at Omanthai due to the closure of the road.
`If the entry-exit point remains closed for the next two to three days there will be a serious food shortage,` she warned. Vavuniya`s Additional Government Agent P.S.A. Charles told The Sunday Times that in addition 50 more private lorries carrying food and other essential items were also held up in Vavuniya.
The closure of the road prolonged as the fighting around Omanthai also continued. At least 12 Tiger guerrillas have been killed around Omanthai between Thursday and Friday while a series of other confrontations also have taken place in the area interrupting the movement of civilians between the