The Sri Lankan government claimed Thursday that there was no shortage of food and essentials in the northern Jaffna peninsula despite the closure of the main highway.
S. B. Divaratne, the commissioner general of Essential Services, told reporters here that a little over 81,000 tons of food had been despatched via the sea route since the middle of August last year.
Heavy fighting broke out between Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels and government troops in the Jaffna peninsula on Aug. 11 last year.
The clashes forced the shutting down of the main A9 highway linking Jaffna with the south of the island.
The rebels blamed the government of putting into effect an economic embargo by closing the A9 highway.
The LTTE claimed that the Jaffna population dominated by the minority Tamil community had been left to starve by the government because of its decision to close the highway.
"There are no food shortages in Jaffna right now. We have sent ship loads of 81,345 tons of food and essentials to Jaffna since mid-August (last year)," Divaratne said.
He said the food shipments were arranged with much difficulties as the ship owners demanded extra risk allowances to sail to Jaffna amid attacks by the Tiger rebels against government ships.
Divaratne said that the government had been able to send just 26,000 tons through the A9 highway in the first seven months of 2006 prior to the breaking out of armed clashes.
He said the retail prices had almost been normalized in Jaffna and blamed the private traders for exploiting the delays of despatch to charge excessive prices from consumers.
Divaratne said the food supplies were hampered by the non- functioning of the main port of Point Pedro due to LTTE threats and attacks.
"We have three other smaller ports but facilities there are minimum and this has caused delays in unloading," Divaratne said.
He said the actual number living in the peninsula was much lesser than the official figure of over 650,000 people and the government was feeding some 85,000 families or just over 272,000 people internally displaced by the clashes.