Bishop wants demilitarized zone for feast
[TamilNet, Saturday, 14 August 1999, 05:53 GMT]
The Bishop of Mannar Dr. Rev. Rayappu Joseph called on the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and the Liberation Tigers to declare Madhu church and its precincts as a demilitarized zone for holding the annual feast.
He wrote to the commander of the Sri Lankan security forces in the Vanni, Maj.General Lionel Balagalle and the leader of the LTTE's political wing, Thamil Chelvan, last evening asking them to declare a demilitarized zone with the radius of one kilometer around the church.
The bishop states in his letter that both parties should desist from using the precincts and the wells in the environs of the church. He requests the Tigers and the SLA not to move about in the precincts of the Madhu church in uniform or with weapons.
Bishop Rayappu Joseph states in his letter categorically that the annual feast of the Madhu church cannot be held this week if the SLA and the Liberation Tigers do not accede to his request.
The Madhu festival began on August 6. The feast will be held tomorrow morning.
Church sources said that three hundred thousand devotees are expected to flock to Madhu from various parts of the island for the feast.