SLN bars pilgrims from attending Kachchathivu festival
[TamilNet, Saturday, 03 March 2007, 04:14 GMT]
Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) denied permisssion to Tamil Catholic pilgrims to participate in the annual festival of the St. Antony’s church in Kachchathivu, an isle situated in the Palk Straits between Sri Lanka and India about 15km southwest of Delft (Nedunthivu) islet, scheduled for this weekend, sources in Jaffna said. Pilgrims from India and Sri Lanka in thousands visit this isle every year, meet their kith and kin and barter goods from both countries.
The annual festival celebrations which used to last one week was cut shortened to two days in the recent past. Pilgrims who attend the festival in Kachchaithivu stay thre for two days, Saturday and Sunday, and depart on Monday morning.
More than 2,000 pilgrims attended the celebrations last year.
The annual festival falls on this weekend and the Navy had so far given permission to only 50 people including the priests and officials of the Delft (Nedunthivu) Divisional Secretariat in the islets of Jaffna district who coordinate the festival.
SLN denied permission to other pilgrims.
St. Antony’s church in Kachchaitivu has rich cultural history.
The Agreement between India and Sri Lanka on the Boundary in Historic Waters between the two Countries and related Matters was signed in June 1974. The Agreement states that Indian fishermen and pilgrims will enjoy access to visit Kachchativu as hitherto, and will not be required by Sri Lanka to obtain travel documents or visas for these purposes.
However, fulfillment of these traditional rights has been in abeyance since 1983 due to the security situation in the Palk Straits. The matter remains under discussion between the two Governments.