Colombo, December 15 (The New Indian Express): In response to a request from the Tamil Nadu government, Mrs.Sasikala Natarajan and the Ceylon Workers’ Congress leader Arumugan Thondaman, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has given permission to allow 80 more pilgrims from Tamil Nadu to witness the consecration of the renovated St. Anthony’s chapel in Kachchativu island on December 23, an official confirmed on Thursday.
At the request of the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Rama Mohana Rao, the Indian government too has agreed to increase the number from 20 to 100.
Arumugan Thondaman, leader of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress and a Member of the Sri Lankan parliament whose roots are in Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu had been approached by Ramanathapuram fishermen to intercede with the Sri Lankan President on their behalf and secure an increase. And when he and fellow CWC leader Senthil Thondaman met Sasikala at the funeral of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa, she too had made a similar request.
In a letter to Sasikala dated December 11, Arumugan Thondaman said that he had spoken to President Sirisena and the latter had given permission to increase the number of pilgrims from Tamil Nadu from 20 to 100.
Jaffna Diocese Clueless
However, the Jaffna Diocese, under which the Kachchativu chapel falls, is yet to hear from the government of Sri Lanka about the purported decision of the Indian and Sri Lankan governments to increase the number of pilgrims from Tamil Nadu.
“As of now, there will be 20 authorized pilgrims from Tamil Nadu comprising 16 lay people and four clergy. From the Sri Lankan side there will be a contingent of 150 worshipers comprising lay people and the clergy. All of them will be from the Delft parish,” Delft parish priest Fr.Jayaranjan told Express.
The Sri Lankan and Indian governments and the navies of the two countries will have to quickly address the logistics issues in view of the increase in numbers. Transport, food, shelter and medical facilities will have to be provided for 80 more people than planned for till now.
The consecration, which was to be held on December 7, had to be postponed to December 23, due to the death of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa.