A9 highway gears for non-stop run
The Alpha 9 of Sri Lanka or better known as A9 road is progressing to
return to her busy schedule like in those good old days. It not only
connects two different cities but it heralds peace and harmony of two
different ethnicities. A peaceful A9 symbolizes a traditional bond
between the North and the South of our motherland. The A9 was closed in
1984 when the LTTE attacked the Pooneryn defences of the Sri Lanka Army
which posed a threat to the Elephant Pass. Years later the A9 was
reopened on 8 April 2002 after the Ceasefire Agreement between the
Government and the LTTE was concluded. Again in 2006, while the truce
was in operation, the A9 had to be closed down due to the massive LTTE
attack on Muhamalai entry exit point.
Fight to save A9
The emergence of paramilitary organisations in the country witnessed
a rapid escalation of terrorist activities. It posed a serious threat to
the A9 road which was the major link that connects the so-called
'mono-ethnic Eelam State' with the southern part of the country.
On January 19, 1985 the Colombo bound 'Yal Devi' train was destroyed
by a landmine attack at Murukandi killing civilian passengers.
Reinforcements and rescue teams of the Army were rushed to the scene
from Kokavil, Mankulam and Elephant Pass camps. It was real carnage
where the passengers were crushed to death. Later it was revealed that
the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) was responsible for the
Out of the series of operations conducted by the Army since 1985 up
to date, the one that was launched to clear a land route to Jaffna was
'Operation Jayasikuru'. Operation 'Jayasikuru' (definite victory) was
launched in May 1997 under the operational command of Maj.Gen. A. K.
Jayawardhana with the aim of opening a land route to Jaffna. Due to
stiff resistance from the LTTE, the Army had to continue the operation
up to end of 1998 until the capture of Mankulam.
The 'Operation Riviresa' launched on October 17, 1995 to regain
Jaffna was a landmark achievement for the Sri Lanka Army. 'Riviresa' was
launched under the overall command of Major General Rohan Daluwatte. The
51 division was commanded by Brigadier Neil Dias with Brigadier Sarath
Fonseka as his deputy. 52 division was commanded by Brigadier P.A.
Karunatillake with Brigadier Anton Wijendra as his deputy. The troops
met with heavy resistance from the very beginning. Yet, the two brigades
moved on in two fronts to the town and finally the town was captured on
December 2, 1995. The second phase of Operation Riviresa was to liberate
Thennamarachchi area and the third was to wrest control of the
Vadamarachchi area. The loss of Jaffna was a serious blow to the LTTE's
For the Army the next phase was capturing Paranthan and Kilinochchi.
Hence, Operation 'Sathjaya' was launched from Elephant Pass. The 53
Division under Maj.Gen. Neil Dias successfully regained Paranthan
junction. Amidst stiff resistance, the troops captured Kilinochchi
through operation 'Sathjaya' I and II.
'Operation Liberation' targetted the recapture of Jaffna.
It was planned to clear the areas in the Jaffna peninsula stage by
stage inflicting maximum damage to the terrorists and their logistical
facilities. Troops organized into three brigades and the key figures in
this operation were Brigadier Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Colonel Wijeya
Wimalaratne. Other brigade was under the command of Brigadier G.H. de
Silva. Stage I of the operation successfully liberated the Vadamarachchi
area in the Peninsula. It was considered a personal defeat to LTTE
Peace Keeping Force
The second stage of the operation was launched to capture the city of
Jaffna until the Indian planes dropped food over Jaffna (Operation
Poomalai) on June 04, 1987. After much diplomatic shuttles between
Colombo and New Delhi the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord was signed in 1987.
The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) entered Sri Lanka soon after the
Sri Lankan troops withdrawn from Vadamarachchi were air-lifted to
Colombo and other parts of the island. The IPKF was later compelled to
launch a military offensive to disarm the LTTE. Both Brigadier (later
Lieutenant General) Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Colonel (later Major General)
Vijaya Wimalaratne were killed in August 8, 1992, when they were making
preparations for an operation to capture the Jaffna Peninsula.
Elephant Pass in 1991
On July 10, 1991 the Army camp at Elephant Pass came under siege by
the LTTE. The army base commanded by the then Major Sanath Karunaratne
defended the camp. The battle for Elephant Pass turned to be the most
violent and bloody confrontation between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan
Meanwhile with the change of command which took place in mid July
1990, Maj. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa was made responsible for overall
operations in the Northern province. This was the period of Eelam war
II. The army troops valiantly withstood the ferocious enemy attack. At
this decisive moment, Lance Corporal Gamini Kularatna of the 6 Sinha
Regiment managed to climb on top of an advancing bulldozer and lobbed a
grenade. He sacrificed his precious life for the defence of the
motherland. Major Lalith Buddhadasa, the second in command of the base
too was killed along with a few other soldiers by a mortar attack.
To break the siege and reinforce the Elephant Pass camp Maj. Gen.
Kobbekaduwa, along with Brigadier Vijaya Wimalaratne, launched
"Operation Balavegaya". Brigades 1 and 3, commanded by Colonel Sarath
Fonseka and Colonel Anton Wijendra respectively headed for an amphibious
attack to regain Elephant Pass. Prabhakaran's much publicized, `Mother
of all Battles,' was defeated. The meticulously planned defence of the
Elephant Pass camp was a great morale boost to the Army.
A drastic change took place as a result of the Norwegian brokered
2002 Ceasefire between the Sri Lanka Government and the LTTE. The
Security Forces had to withdraw from areas they gained control during
previous operations. The ceasefire was however abrogated with thousands
of LTTE violations of its provisions.
After the Eastern liberation, the most successful operation to regain
the A9 road was launched. The aim of the Army, under the command of Lt.
Gen. Sarath Fonseka was to inflict maximum damage to LTTE military
capabilities while protecting the civilians in the war-affected areas.
Sandwiched between the Northern Forward Defence Line and the Wanni
Forward Defence Line, the terrorists faced nothing but defeat and
The Northern Front was commanded by Maj. Gen. G. A. Chandrasiri while
the Wanni FDL was under the command of Maj. Gen. Jagath Jayasooriya.
Later with Maj.Gen. Chandrasiri being posted to Colombo to assume duties
as Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Mendaka Samarasinghe succeeded him to take
the charge of Northern Command.
According to senior military officials the worst battle was the one
targetting to capture Kilinochchi. With the Task Force 3 capturing
Mankulama on November 17, 2008, the present operation was launched to
secure the direct control of the A9 road. The second hit was on December
01, 2008 when the 57 Division commanded by Maj.Gen. Jagath Dias captured
Kokavil town on the A9 road. Again on December 10 the same Division took
over the control of A9 at Terumurukandi. Task Force 4 commanded by
Colonel Nishantha Wanniarachchi captured Nedunkerni on December 20. The
57 Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias successfully captured the
Kilinochchi township and its surroundings by January 02, 2009. The 53
and 55 Divisions respectively commanded by Brigadier (now Maj. Gen.)
Kamal Gunaratne and Brigadier Prasanna de Silva moved southward clearing
the path up to Elephant Pass while the 58 Division commanded by Brig.
Shavendra Silva progressed towards it from the Wanni front line after
capturing Paranthan on January 01. By January 10 with the troops linking
up at Elephant Pass the A9 road came under the full control of the
Thus a new chapter was opened in the history of the island nation in
its war against terrorism!