|Northern peace marathon on Saturday
Meanwhile, Amaratunga and Hindu Affairs Minister T. Maheswaran firmly maintained that the A9 highway will be opened to the public from April 8 as earlier proposed. This assertion was in sharp contrast to the stand taken by some other government ministers, notably Transport Minister Piyasoma Upali, who claimed that the event had been postponed till April 20 due to delayed de-mining activity.
Maheswaran, who spoke on the heels of a visit to the LTTE-controlled area of the Wanni, said that "there are no problems".
The ministers were addressing a press conference at the Defence Ministry, hurriedly summoned after the LTTEs approval came through for the peace marathon. The LTTEs message was communicated through the Norway-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) on Thursday afternoon. The conference was attended by Army Commander Lionel Balagalle, Acting Inspector General of Police T. E. Anandaraja and other senior police officials.
"The LTTE has no objection to organise that marathon and let the runners go through that area...," said Jukka Pollanen, head of the SLMM district office in Vavuniya, in a letter to Vavuniya Government Agent K. Ganesh on Thursday.
"The LTTE warned that the runners must not step out of the A9 road due to the possible mine threat," he added. Pollanen did not say whether the LTTE had mentioned a particular date in reference to the marathon.
"But I take for granted that although no date is mentioned, they (LTTE) are keeping in line with the deadline they have given for the 8th," Amaratunga said, adding that the LTTEs very permission for the peace marathon proved that the road will be ready for public use as planned.
Questioned further about the opening of the road, Maheswaran said that it would and could go ahead under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding. He also said public transport will be permitted. "The LTTE may also have their own buses but private buses will be allowed," he said. "They (LTTE) will let them go."
Those participating in the marathon there will be the public on foot, bicycle, three-wheelers and other modes of transport are now expected to leave Colombo from Independence Square at 6.30 a.m. on Saturday. They will reach Vavuniya on Sunday night after traversing Kandy, Dambulla, Matale and Anuradhapura. Maheswaran is expected to lead them into the Wanni and through to Jaffna from Vavuniya onwards. This leg of the journey has been scheduled for April 8.
The marathon has received blessings from Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph and Jaffna Bishop Thomas Saund-eranayagam. Their letters to Amaratunga were circulated at the briefing.
Meanwhile, the participants at the conference appealed to the public to show support for their endeavour to take "a message of peace" to the north by showing up for the marathon. Police also called on the public not to take any weapons or drugs along with them.
|FEATURES | OPINION | BUSINESS | EDITORIAL | CARTOON | SPORTS | SATMAG|