Feature Article

Religious leaders in Mannaar lack statesmanship

[TamilNet, Thursday, 28 March 2019, 23:21 GMT]
The forces seeking to escalate religious disharmony among Eezham Tamils in Mannaar have been both influencing and criticising the religious establishments of the Tamil Catholics and the Tamil Saivites in the district, trapping the two communities further into a prolonged conflict this week. The board of trustees of Thirukkeatheesvaram Saiva temple organised a protest on Thursday, a day before the SL Magistrate’s Court in Mannaar is set to hear the religious skirmish that took place in Thirukkeatheesvaram on 03 March. The protest drew four thousand participants from across the district bringing the traffic in the city to a standstill for two hours. In the meantime, SL Minister of Power, Energy and Business ‘Development’, Ravi Karunanayake, a Sinhala Catholic from Colombo, rushed to Madu shrine in Mannaar to discuss ‘development’ of the shrine.

The UNP Minister who was visiting Madu on Thursday had inaugurated the Lourdes Church at Thirukkeatheesvaram on 08 April 2017.

Informed sources in Madu said that Mr Karunanayake was vowing to exert his influence to protect the hardline parish priest alleged of inducing religious extremism using a conflict which could have been resolved without allowing the people to resort to violence and hate campaign.

Legal sources also said the judicial system of the SL State would only facilitate the escalation of communal tension through postponing the case hearing.

The protest on Thursday was the largest Saiva mobilisation witnessed in Mannaar in recent times.

The participants condemned the desecration of Nanthi flag and the violent removal of the controversial arch.

Protest march organised by Saiva groups in Mannaar
Protest march organised by Saiva groups in Mannaar

Protest march organised by Saiva groups in Mannaar
Instead of seeking an alternative avenue to resolve the dispute within the district, the board of trustees of Thirukkeatheesvaram was also taking the Tamil Saiva protesters to the District Secretariat to hand over an appeal, which was addressed to the executive president of the unitary state of genocidal Sri Lanka.

However, the board of trustees was carefully avoiding the presence of Sivasenai-associated personalities in the protest.

Protest march organised by Saiva groups in Mannaar

The Sivasenai was criticising the trustee board of Thirukkeatheesvaram Saiva temple in an attempt to strengthen the hands of Saivite hardliners.

The outfit is known to be maintaining close links with the extremist North Indian Hindutva groups, which operate in tandem with the intelligence establishment of New Delhi.

In the meantime, the Bishop of Mannaar Rt Rev Fidelis Lionel Emmanuel Fernando has come up with a statement on Tuesday.

Even though the statement was calling for reconciliation, much of its content was mere rhetoric.

The Bishop was indirectly defending the violent removal of the controversial arch structure by the Catholics, and he has failed to extend an apology for the desecration of the Nanthi flag during the skirmish caused by the people belonging to his diocese.

However, Mannaar Bishop's statement was sharp in condemning inaccurate and biased reporting by Uthayan newspaper. The statement also slammed the exploitative nature of the politicians seeking to benefit from the dispute.

As reported earlier, the Intelligence establishments of Colombo and New Delhi are whipping up religious extremist tendencies among the Eezham Tamils in Mannaar.

A grotto, which is a cavy structure referred to as ‘Kevi’ in Tamil, has been worshipped by 75 Tamil Catholic families of E'l'lup-piddi village. It is situated near the historic Saiva temple in Thirukkeatheesvaram GS division (MN/88) which is also home to 200 Tamil Saivite families.

The worship commenced in the late 1950s after Catholic leaders reaching an understanding with the management of Thirukkeatheesvaram temple at that time.

The place of worship was expanded into a proper church (Our Lady of Lourdes) in 2017, and a pattern of hostility was witnessed, particularly during the times of Maha Shivaratri in 2018 and 2019, primarily when Saivites use to decorate, consolidate and decorate an arch on the road to Thirukkeatheesvaram temple.

Such conflicts were amicably and quickly resolved in the de-facto rule of Tamil Eelam by the LTTE, secular Tamil activists in Mannaar observed.

The SL Justice system, its politicians and the intelligence establishments of Colombo and New Delhi want to exploit the situation to weaken the unity of Eezham Tamils, the secular activists warned.



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