Talaimannar refuses to yield

[TamilNet, Saturday, 05 May 2001, 20:20 GMT]
(News Feature) Two decades ago Talaimannar was a prosperous town. The only ferry service between India and Sri Lanka operated from here, carrying thousands of passengers from Talaimannar pier to Rameswaram in South India. One could buy a railway ticket to India from any part of the island and take the train to board the ferry at Talaimannar for the short journey across the Palk Strait. Today less than hundred and fifty families live in the Talaimannar pier.

Talaimannar itself is an impoverished village of about four hundred and fifty families now. "We cannot leave the village after 5.30 p.m. If people fall seriously ill after dusk we have take them through a dangerous path through the shrub jungle at the risk of being shot by Navy patrols", says Rev.P.Nesan, the parish priest for Talaimannar and Talaimannar pier.

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Rev.P.Nesan, the parish priest for Talaimannar and Talaimannar pier (Photo: TamilNet)
Persons who fall sick in the night can only be taken along scrub jungle paths to medical care. But generally District Medical Officers refuse to accept such persons for treatment because they have come without the due permission from the Navy and Police.

The railway tracks here are overgrown with shrub. Colombo terminated the railway service in 1990 June, following the outbreak of hostilities between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army.

Few people are on the streets. The Sri Lanka Navy and Police camps and sentries dominate Talaimannar and its pier.

The Sri Lankan government stopped the ferry service in November 1984. The ferry, Ramanujan, carried 500 passengers on each journey across the Palk Strait, a distance of 32 kilometres.

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Talaimannar fishermen's co-operative society. (Photo: TamilNet)
The Sri Lanka Navy has banned fishing in these waters after dark. "We are caught between the devil and the deep sea. Big flotillas of Indian trawlers that fish in the waters very close to our coast deplete the fish and leave little for us. The Navy prevents us from deep sea fishing for inexplicable security reasons", said an official of the Talaimannar fishermen's co-operative society.

"Two lorry loads of fish were sent to Colombo from Talaimannar every day until the mid eighties. Now only two lorry loads of fish are sent daily from the all over the district", he said.

Marketing the limited daily catch is now very difficult because of the restrictions on movement in the Mannar Island. There are seven Sri Lankan Security Forces checkpoints between the Mannar town and the Talaimannar pier. Passengers have get off the vehicle in which they are travelling at all these points.

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Talaimannar Roman Catholic Mixed Tamil School. (Photo: TamilNet)
A large number of fishermen have left the village since 1986, fearing the Sri Lankan army. More than sixty boats in which refugees travelled from Talaimannar to the south Indian coast have been confiscated by the Police.

Mr. S.I.I Cruz, a teacher from the Talaimannar Pier Government Mixed Tamil School, said that he and his colleagues have to use government textbooks Xeroxed in Vavuniya because Colombo has not sent the children books for social studies so far.

There are no phone lines to the village and the pier. Rev. P. Nesan said that the Sri Lanka Navy now occupies the church in Talaimannar pier and that his people are unable to go there. He said that his appeals have fallen on deaf years. "It is true that we are living in very difficult circumstances. But we are determined to live for a better future for our children", Rev. Nesan said.

 

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