Expand to war-torn north, Sri Lankan businesses urged

March 30th, 2009 - 2:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, March 30 (IANS) Sri Lanka has urged city-based businessmen and companies to ensure all commodities are freely available in the war-ravaged northern Jaffna peninsula on the eve of the upcoming Sinhala and Tamil New Year festive season, a media report here said.
The Sinhala and Tamil New Year, a national event in Sri Lanka’s calendar, falls on April 14.

Commissioner general of essential services S.B. Divaratne has invited Colombo’s business leaders and entrepreneurs Tuesday in a bid to persuade them to expand their business activities to the north before the festive season, the state-run Daily News said Monday.

Among the leading companies invited is global giant Unilever, apart from a host of wholesale dealers in food items.

The government appeal comes weeks after the island’s northern highway that links the northern peninsula with the rest of the country was re-opened for military traffic after 24 years.

The opening of the main supply route became possible after former rebel strongholds along the highway, including Mankulam, Kilinochchi, Paranthan and Elephant Pass, were recaptured by the advancing troops since the beginning of 2009 following months of fierce fighting.

Overland supplies to over 40,000 troops based in the Jaffna peninsula along this world-famous A-9 highway remained cut off for the last 24 years as some 75 km stretch of the highway cuts across areas formerly held by the rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Authorities here say the highway would be opened for public when landmines in areas earlier held by the LTTE were cleared and roads reconstructed.

The government has also unveiled a project to re-lay rail roads and resume the lucrative train service to the north, which is now limited to the northern town of Vavuniya.

Claiming that the LTTE was facing an “imminent defeat”, the government last week had said troops have made inroads into the rebel strongholds in the north, confining them to an area of 21 sq km - of which 20 sq km has been declared safe zone for civilians - in the north-eastern Mullaitivu district.

–indo-Asian News Service

PK/ank/jg

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