Amidst intense presence of the occupying Sinhala military at Kachcha-theevu during the annual fete of St. Antony on Sunday, the Ramnad diocese of Tamil Nadu Catholic Church that jointly conducts the prayers along with the Jaffna diocese, reminded the umbilical code relations of the people on either side of the Palk Bay. The theme of this year’s joint prayer by Tamil Nadu and Jaffna Catholic Church was war-torn Eezham Tamils reuniting with their relatives. The commanders of the occupying military were shocked when Fr. Michael of Ramnad, delivering the sermon, deeply felt for the mass killings of Eezham Tamils and death of humanism in the island, and said that the sons of the soil should be released, they should be honoured and they should lead their lives as heroes (Maaveerar).
Fr. Michael, leading the team from Ramnad of Tamil Nadu, delivered the sermon on behalf of the joint prayer.
The main theme of the prayer was that the war-affected Eezham Tamils should be able to trace their relatives and should be able to reunite with them.
Regretting the severed umbilical code relations of people on either side of the Palk Bay and deeply feeling for the mass killings of Eezham Tamils and death of humanism in the island, the religious leader was praying for the return of normalcy.
The sons of the soil should be released, they should be honoured and they should lead their lives as heroes (Maaveerar), Fr. Michael declared in the presence of the commanders of the occupying Sinhala military.
The commander of the occupying SL forces in Jaffna, Maj.Gen Hathurusinghe, the commander of the SL Navy in the north and the Sri Lanka Government Agent in Jaffna, Mrs. Imelda Sugumar were present at the occasion. SL Minster Douglas Devananda who had come for the fete was not present during the sermon.
The main prayer theme, i.e., tracing the missing, was repeatedly echoed by the priests and by the thousands of devotees during the fete.
Eezham Tamils visiting Kachchatheevu fete from Jaffna and the islets was severely constrained due to unrest in Neduntheevu (Delft) under the parish of which the church at Kachchatheevu comes, and due to SL minister Douglas Devananda monopolising the boat service to take his supporters, news sources in Jaffna said.
The unrest in Neduntheevu was due to a public agitation by the people of the island protesting the rape and murder of a 13-year-old schoolgirl allegedly by a member of the EPDP paramilitary of Mr. Douglas Devananda.
Vada-thaarakai (North Star), the only public boat from the Jaffna side that usually goes from Neduntheevu was blocked by the SL minister to carry him and his party.
The occupying SL military, along with its commanders in Jaffna, was present in large numbers at Kachchatheevu. The entire organisation of the fete was completely controlled by the occupying SL Navy.
More than 5000 people from Tamil Nadu and around 2000 fro Jaffna and Mannaar have come for the fete this year. Only around 600 were able to go from Jaffna.
The Indian media, especially from Tamil Nadu, was keen in live-relay of the proceedings of the fete. Thanks to the communication tower at Rameswaram, even Indian mobile phones could operate locally from Kachchatheevu.
A usual event that takes place on the sidewalks of the church fete is meeting of the representatives of the fishermen of either side. The Catholic Church using its influence and social control used to sort out fishing issues between the parties.
However, as the unfolding scenario in recent times is orchestration of issues by Establishments in New Delhi and Colombo, the matters have gone beyond the social control of the Church.
SL Minister Douglas Devananda tried to cash in on the situation by posing mediation between visiting fishermen representatives at Kachchatheevu on Saturday evening. The minister was also seen attempting to impress upon the media that had come from Tamil Nadu.
Citing the depletion of fish shoals on the Tamil Nadu side, the TN fishermen wanted the Jaffna-Mannaar fishermen to agree to two-days-a-week fishing by them in the Eezham Tamil waters. The Jaffna-Mannaar fishermen didn’t agree. The main issue of the fishermen from Jaffna.Mannaar was the use of trawlers by the Tamil Nadu fishermen. According to the Tamil Nadu side, doing away with trawlers was not immediately possible.
The arrogance and intimidating attitude shown by those who had come with the SL minister was not helpful to the talks, media sources said.
Satellite image showing the location of Kachchatheevu [Image courtesy: NASA, Visible Earth, Legend by TamilNet]
The uninhabited islet of Kachcha-theevu lying between Neduntheevu Island off Jaffna and Rameswaram of Tamil Nadu was un-demarcated between India and Sri Lanka until 1974, when Indira Gandhi government decided to cede it to Sri Lanka with some reservations. According to the provisions, Tamil Nadu fishermen could rest at the islet during fishing and also could visit the annual church fete, conducted jointly by the dioceses of Jaffna and Ramnad.
In the last many decades, the occupying Sinhala military permits neither the fishermen nor other visitors from either side, except for one night and two days of the annual fete.
The church fete used to be an occasion for the closely related people of either side to meet without the hazards of travel documents, without the psychological conditioning of the states on either side and without travelling the long way round via Colombo. But in the last several years even the annual social get-together has found with severe constrains.
Possibility of finding oil in the Palk Bay is the underlying cause for many of the evils faced by the Tamil fishermen on either side and is an important reason for New Delhi treading upon Eezham Tamils by favouring genocidal Colombo, strategic and economic analysts point out.
“India is persuading Sri Lanka to allocate oil exploration blocks in the waters that separate them as it considers the location too strategically important to allow companies from other nations to base themselves in this area,” a feature appeared in The Hindu on Tuesday said.
“New Delhi expects a favourable response after having stood by Sri Lanka during its annihilation of the LTTE’s military structure even though sections of the world community and Indian domestic public opinion assailed the security forces for human rights abuses,” The Hindu feature further said.