Catholic shrine demolished, Mannar tense

[TamilNet, Monday, 29 September 2003, 11:23 GMT]
Mannar town was tense Monday following the demolition of a catholic shrine in Erukkalampiddi, a Muslim village in the western part of the Mannar Island. Officials from the Mannar District Secretariat, the Liberation Tigers and officers from the Sri Lanka army and Police were engaged in talks to defuse the situation amid a sit in protest in the town by more than a thousand catholic fishermen from Pallimunai, a coastal suburb of Mannar town, who had built the shrine.

Muslim owned shops and businesses closed when reports of the attack on the shrine reached the town.

A group of persons from Erukkalampiddi village had attacked and demolished the shrine of St. Anthony at Oosi Mookkan Thurai between 7.30 and 8.30 a.m. Monday morning.

Three persons were injured during a fisticuff between some local Muslims and a group of Pallimunai fishermen when the latter visited the spot upon hearing reports of the attack later on Monday morning, Police said. They have been admitted to the Mannar hospital.

TamilNet’s Mannar correspondent who visited the spot this afternoon by boat with a group comprising the Mannar Government Agent and officials from the Mannar District Secretariat and the Parish priest for Pallimunai, Rev. A. Gnanapragasam, said the shrine was completely demolished.

The Mannar region remains tense and a large number of Police personnel have been moved into the town, he said. Military and Police guards have been posted at the in mosques in Moor Street, Uppukulam and Periyakadai, according to him.

Mannar GA and the Bishop of Mannar spoke to the protesting Pallimunai fishermen around noon to defuse the escalating tensions. Brigadier Sarath Fernando, the commanding officer for Sri Lanka army’s 2-5 and 21-2 Brigades in the Mannar District and Senior Superintendent of Police for Vanni, Mr. Mohammed Miskin were also present at there.

The Erukkalampiddy village is located in a small promontory 6 kilometres northwest of the Mannar town. The shrine is about 5 kilometres from the village, located on a remote part of the promontory’s coast called Oosi Mookkan Thurai. Fishermen from Pallimunai who fish in these parts and use the spot to dry their nets put up the shrine about 20 years ago, according to Mannar Catholic Church sources.

The shrine, built originally as a thatched wooden structure, was burnt on two occasions by mobs of Muslims from Erukkalampiddi.

“People in Erukkalampiddi tend to see the shrine as catholic encroachment into a Muslim enclave in this part of Mannar”, said an official who visited Oosi Mookkan Thurai Monday morning.

An emergency meeting was convened later Monday afternoon at the District Secretariat to explore measures to diffuse the situation. Mr. Noordin Mashoor, Minister Assisting Vanni Rehabilitation and Tamil National Alliance MPs for Vanni, Mr. Selvam Adaikalanathan and Mr. Sivasakthi Anandan are also taking part in the meeting, a Mannar kachcheri officials said.

 

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