TN fishers must be consulted on Katchateevu church: Jayalalithaa

May 17, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Chennai, May 16, 2016: The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J. Jayalalithaa has expressed her opposition to Sri Lanka’s move to construct a new church in Katchatheevu is let in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In her letter on May 14, Jayalalithaaasserted that the decision of the Sri Lankan government to demolish and reconstruct the St Anthony’s Church, without consulting Tamil Nadu fishermen who are vital stakeholders, appears to be a carefully calculated provocation and urged the Center to prevail on Colombo to involve Indian fishermen in the process.

Sri Lanka Navy, on a request made by the Catholic Church in Jaffna, had on May 9 laid foundation stone for constructing a new church in the island.

Jayalalithaa says the unilateral decision by Sri Lanka has created fears among the Tamil Nadu fishermen who mostly belong to the Roman Catholic faith that the move could curtail their traditional and customary access to St Antony’s church in Katchatheevu.

She said the fishermen, who had regularly visited and worshipped at this church for several centuries, are extremely concerned that they have not been consulted regarding the proposed reconstruction.

“St Anthony’s Church on Katchatheevu Island holds considerable religious significance for the fisher folk in the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu including Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Pudukkottai, Ramanathapuram, Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli. They have traditionally undertaken pilgrimages to the island for the annual festival of St Anthony’s for several centuries. It is part of their essential cultural and religious heritage,” the letter said.

India under a Supreme Court directive ceded Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island in the Palk Straits with only the Catholic shrine, to Sri Lanka in 1974.

However, the Chief Minister claims the agreements entered into in 1974 and 1976 ceding Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka were without a Constitutional amendment and hence the ceding is unlawful and not valid.

The CM recalled that she has personally filed a Writ Petition in this regard in the Supreme Court of India in 2008 and the Tamil Nadu government has also impleaded itself in 2011 for the retrieval of Katchatheevu as a permanent solution for the vexed fishermen issue.

She noted that when local priests proposed demolishing and reconstructing the church during the annual St Anthony’s festival in February this year, Tamil Nadu fishermen indicated to them that as it represented the joint heritage of fishermen from both countries, its reconstruction should be taken up jointly by the two sides.

– colombo page

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