The LTTE has smelt danger to its vital interests in the Sri Lankan government's plan to bring food from India to Jaffna to mitigate the severe food shortage there.
The rebel Tamil group's Military Spokesman, Rasaiah Ilanthirayan, told Hindustan Times that the government's plan was a clever device to divert attention from the issue of re-opening the A9 main highway at Muhamalai, which is at the southern doorstep of Jaffna.
Ilanthirayan said that if there was a severe shortage of food in Jaffna, home to 600,000 Tamils, it was only because the government had closed the A9 at Muhamalai.
The closure of the road at this point was preventing the supply of food from the Wanni, an area south of Jaffna which is under the control of the LTTE, he said.
"We have enough grain in the Wanni to meet at least 50 per cent of the needs of the people of Jaffna. But we are not able to bring the supplies because the A9 is closed at Muhamalai," Ilanthirayan said.
The best solution would be to lift the barriers at Muhamalai and allow food to come from the Wanni and South Sri Lanka, he argued.
Opening the A9 would obviate the need to get supplies from abroad, he said.
Question mark over supplies from India
Since the LTTE is not happy with the idea of getting food from India, the 5,000 tonnes of rice, 1, 500 tonnes of sugar and 300 tonnes milk powder, which India is ready to send as a "one-time gift", cannot be brought.
Without a security guarantee from the LTTE, shippers will not undertake the task.
Adding to the shippers' fears are the recent sea battles in the northern seas off Point Pedro and Kankesanthurai, in which a passenger ship with 308 people on board was caught.
The food will have to be off loaded at Kankesanthurai or Point Pedro, which have become a theatre of naval warfare.
But given the mounting pressure from the Sri Lankan government as well as Tamil Nadu politicians, the government of India is keen on supplying food to Jaffna and would like the LTTE to allow it.
It is learnt that New Delhi would like the LTTE to appreciate the need for such supplies for two reasons:
(1) There is an emergency in Jaffna, where, since August this year, six lakh people have been getting only about a fourth of their daily needs of essentials, and that too at astronomical prices.
(2) The supply from India is only an "one-time gift". New Delhi has no plan or intention to continue supplies with a view to solving the food problem in Jaffna or to divert attention from the issue of re-opening the A9.
SL determined not to open A9 at Muhamalai
As for the government of Sri Lanka, it is determined not to open the A9 at Muhamalai because it fears infiltration of the LTTE from the Wanni.
It also fears recruitment of young Tamils from Jaffna to the "Makkal Padai" or "Peoples' Army" which is an auxiliary force of the LTTE based in the Wanni.
The government's Defense Spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, has charged that the LTTE is using the "Makkal Padai" to plant claymore mines and throw grenades against the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.
According to him, the LTTE is paying Makkal Padai members SL Rs 5,000 to SL Rs 15,000 depending on the damage wrought or the casualties inflicted by their grenades or claymore mines.
"The LTTE's rate card is very enticing for the young blood," Rambukwella said.
LTTE rejects alternative route
The government had suggested an alternative land cum sea route through Pooneryn and the Sangupitty jetty on the Jaffna lagoon.
But the LTTE rejected the route saying that the Sangupitty jetty as well as the Pooneryn road were in a very bad shape.
The Scandinavian truce monitors had apparently agreed with the LTTE's assessment and said that it would take months to repair the damaged facilities.