COLOMBO: Tamil Nadu fishermen are welcome to make financial contributions for the reconstruction and expansion of St.Anthony’s church on Kachchativu, but they cannot participate in the actual building of the shrine, its priest, Fr.Jayaranjan, told Express on Wednesday.
Reacting to Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s demand that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi should intervene to see that Tamil Nadu fishermen participate in the construction of the shrine, Fr.Jayaranjan said that the Diocese of Jaffna, under which Kachchativu falls, will welcome financial contributions from anybody, including TN fishermen, but it is practically impossible for TN fishermen to actually participate in the construction work.
Explaining the role of the Sri Lankan navy in the reconstruction project, Fr.Jayaranjan said that the Jaffna Diocese had to seek the help of the Lankan navy because it is impossible for civilians to go to the island which is several kilometers into the sea and stay there for long periods without any local source of food or water. The island is barren with no shelter of any kind except the small chapel, he added.
“Furthermore, TN fishermen will need Sri Lankan work visas to work in Kachchativu which is part of Sri Lanka. They would also be subjected to all kinds of checking whenever they come,” Fr.Jayaranjan pointed out.
TN fishermen Requested Reconstruction
The parish priest corrected the impression widespread in Tamil Nadu, that the church reconstruction is being done at the instance of the Lankan navy.
“The navy is doing it only at the request of the Jaffna Bishop who knew about the difficulty of getting civilians to do the work. Further, the Bishop had undertaken the project at the request of Tamil Nadu fishermen who felt the need for a larger shrine. During the last St. Anthony’s Feast, the Bishop had promised visiting TN fishermen that he would complete the expansion project by the end of 2016 so that the congregation could use the new church at the next Feast,” Fr.Jayaranjan said.
Presently, the foundation has been laid and columns have come up, he added.
Political parties in Tamil Nadu had protested against Sri Lankan navy’s undertaking the construction of the shrine and had even gone to the extent of charging that what the navy is constructing is actually a naval base. The Lankan navy as well as the Jaffna Diocese denied these charges.