COLOMBO: None of the Indian pilgrims have attended the annual festival at a famous church in Sri Lanka's Katchatheevu island amid tensions between both the countries following the killing of an Indian fisherman allegedly by the Lankan navy.
The two-day event which began yesterday was significant for the navy as it had completed building the new St Anthony's church.
Sri Lanka's Navy Commander Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne said that no Indian devotees were present. "This is due to the killing of an Indian fishermen recently where they charged the navy of firing. The navy was not responsible for firing," Wijegunaratne said. He said the navy only arrest poaching fishing boats in Sri Lankan waters and never fire at them. "They can't open fire without approval from the Navy Commander and I did not give firing orders," Wijegunaratne said.
He said the navy had launched an investigation. "We have asked India to provide us with Global Positioning System (GPS) location data of the boat in question. This will help us to investigate," Wijegunaratne said. He also said following a request from the Bishop of Jaffna last year, the navy began constructing the new church at the site which has now been completed.
Nearly 7,000 Sri Lankan devotees were present. Sri Lanka and India on Wednesday agreed to release fishermen held in each other's custody after a high-level discussion here in a bid to defuse the tension following the killing of the 22-year-old Indian fisherman. The fisherman from Tamil Nadu was killed and another injured on March 6 allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy.