Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s direction to the External Affairs Ministry to facilitate the participation of all fishermen devotees from the state in the consecration ceremony of St Antony’s church at Katchatheevu, an islet ceded by India to Sri Lanka in the 1970s.
Pointing out that while 100 pilgrims from Ramanathapuram had sought permission to attend the event, the Centre had accorded ‘political clearance’ only to 20 people from Tamil Nadu. Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao had written to the Foreign Secretary about this recently.
Panneerselvam said since the church is of significant cultural and religious significance to lakhs of fishermen from Tamil Nadu, many of them were keen to participate in the ceremony.
“I request you to kindly direct the Ministry of External Affairs to facilitate the participation of all fishermen devotees from Tamil Nadu who wish to participate in the consecration ceremony, without placing any restriction on the numbers,” the letter read.
Panneerselvam recalled that his predecessor, late J Jayalalithaa, had earlier written to him that the construction of the church should be jointly taken up by the Indian and Sri Lankan sides in view of the joint heritage of fishermen from both sides.
The state’s fishermen were “very keen” on protecting their traditional and customary access to this “important place of worship”, he said.