Ferry service for Sri Lankan pilgrims yet to be organised

The Sri Lankan and Indian governments are yet to work out the logistics for ferrying 32 Sri Lankan Tamil pilgrims intending to participate in the Thiruvathirai festival at the Chidambaram temple in Tamil Nadu which is to be held between January 2 and 12.

Officials told Express on Monday that the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry has, in principle, given approval for a ferry service from Kankesanthurai in Jaffna to a point in Tamil Nadu to enable the pilgrimage to take place. But details as regards dates of departure and return and the kind of vessel that would carry the pilgrims have not been worked out.

It is not certain if the vessel carrying the pilgrims will be a Sri Lankan naval ship or a civilian one. Also, it is not clear if the Sri Lankan ship will carry the pilgrims all the way to Tamil Nadu or transfer the passengers to an Indian vessel at the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

The initiator of the pilgrimage, Marvanpulavu Sachchithananthan, of the Eelam Siva Senai had asked for a ferry from Kankesanthurai to Nagapattinam or Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu. But the government of India chose Karaikal in Puducherry. It takes about an hour and a half to go to Chidambaram from Karaikal.

‘Eelam Siva Senai’, had forwarded a request for a group pilgrimage through the Governor of the Northern Province, Reginold Cooray. Recommending that Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera take up the matter with Indian authorities, Governor Cooray noted that “the initiative could enhance the ongoing reconciliation process.”

Apparently no decision has yet been taken by the Foreign Ministry. The Sri Lankan navy says that it has not heard from the government in this regard.

“This tradition of going to the Chidambaram temple in December has a rich history which dates back 2000 years. It was stopped after independence. We are not asking anything new, but only requesting the revival of an old tradition the Hindus had practiced,” Sachchithananthan told Sunday Times. (NIE)

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