The Sunday Leader

Katchatheevu Issue Re-ignites

On several occasions, Tamil Nadu disputed the ownership of the Katchatheevu Island and Sri Lankan government has over the years maintained a very clear position not to renegotiate the matter with the Indian government. Some members of India’s Rajya Sabha last week reignited the Katchatheevu and demanded that the Indian Central Government renegotiate the ownership of the island.

The Sri Lankan government however insisted that their position on the island remains and that there will not be any question of negotiating the ownership of the Katchatheevu Island. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Deputy Foreign Minister Ajith P. Perera said that there is no question about renegotiating the Katchatheevu issue as both countries have clearly agreed in the Sirima-Shastri Pact that the ownership of the island belongs to Sri Lanka.

“A few days ago the Indian Foreign Minister had also clearly stated that nobody can cross the international marine borders and enter Sri Lankan waters. In the Sirima-Shastri pact, it is very clear that the island belongs to Sri Lanka and we will not negotiate its ownership,” he added.

Deputy Minister Perera said that Indian fishermen crossing the international marine line to poach in Sri Lankan waters is a different matter and the Ministry of Fisheries and fishermen’s organizations are having rounds of discussions with India on that matter – whereas ownership of Katchatheevu is not negotiable.

The Hindu newspaper reported last week that India’s Rajya Sabha members from the AIADMK, DMK and the CPI had made a fresh request to the Indian Central Government to renegotiate with the Sri Lanka government in order to reclaim the Katchatheevu Island. According to the reports, these MPs had said that the India should reclaim Katchatheevu as it was not done through a constitutional amendment and has not served India’s interest.

A. Navaneethakrishnan of the AIADMK has said that the ‘ceding’ of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka without any constitutional amendment has adversely affected the livelihood of fishermen of Tamil Nadu. “The ceding of Katchatheevu is in total violation of the views given by the Supreme Court in a Presidential reference in the Berubari case,” he said, adding that a case has been filed in the Supreme Court by AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa.

Several attempts were made by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to retrieve the Katchatheevu Island from Sri Lanka but failed to get the Indian Central Government to negotiate its ownership – and Sri Lanka continued to maintain the same position.

Kachchatheevu is a tiny uninhabited island, 285.2 acres in area, with not even a drop of drinking water, located ten miles northeast of Rameswaram. The island originated from a volcanic eruption that occurred in the 14th century. Before Indian Independence, the Katchatheevu Island was originally owned by the Ramanad Kingdom of Ramanathapuram district now known as Tami Nadu and in 1974, India recognized Sri Lankan ownership of the island on a bilateral agreement. Occasionally, over past years, Tamil Nadu had been reclaiming the island. The island was declared to be a sacred area by the Sri Lanka government due to the Catholic shrine dedicated to St Anthony situated on the island.

Every year in March, there is a feast at St Anthony’s Church in Kachchatheevu island with pilgrims from both India and Sri Lanka. This year, the St Anthony’s Church Festival in Katchatheevu was held on March 01 with over 5,000 pilgrims from both the countries and Sri Lanka Navy provided all facilities and security for the visiting pilgrims. Traditionally, the island was frequented by Indian fishermen, who used it as a staging post to dry their nets and their catch. Pilgrims from both countries visit the island every year at the beginning of March for a week-long festival. (WK)

Search Continues For Udayanga

The search for Udayanga Weeratunga, the former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia took a new twist last week with the Foreign Ministry saying he had reportedly turned up in Iran.

Weeratunga is being investigated over allegations that he had provided arms to rebels in Ukraine when he was the Ambassador to Russia.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that the Government is preparing to send two police officers and one official from the Foreign Ministry to Ukraine to further investigate the allegations. “I got the Ambassador who is now in Delhi to come down about two weeks ago. He is now arranging for them to go to the Ukraine,” the Minister said.

He said that appointments have been made with officials in Ukraine, including the public prosecutor to discuss the allegations.

“We have now suddenly received the heavy luggage of Udayanga Weeratunga at the foreign ministry. He has sent various people to collect it without any power of attorney. We have not released it. Then I believe last week he appeared in Tehran out of all places and gone to the embassy and requested his luggage to be released. But now we have informed the investigators and the police and we are getting their advice with what to do with the luggage. The luggage is here in Colombo,” the Minister said.

Samaraweera said that there is no warrant for the arrest of Udayanga Weer-atunga as investigations are yet not complete.  “Obviously his guilt his making him hide, he has become an international fugitive. This is the caliber of our former Ambassadors,” Samarawe-era added.

1 Comment for “Katchatheevu Issue Re-ignites”

  1. Lanka Watch

    The Sri Lankan govt. should take a serious note of the threat posed by some
    of the Indian legislators, wanting to renegotiate ownership of Katchativu Island
    and SL should talk to Mr. Modi and nip it in the bud,while he has a majority and
    a law is enacted in both countries that this matter is non negotiable and India
    has no claim over this island for ever and no tress passing by Indian fishermen
    into SL territorial waters is also not permitted, by law.

    Mr. Modi won the majority, Like President Obama ,on a celebrity wave but subsequent elections in Delhi and in other provincial elections show that BJP
    popularity is waning and there is a possibility that Mr. Modi, may need Jaya’s
    help to form the next govt. Jaya, as you all know, has once again become
    supreme leader of Tamil Nadu, after winning the court case and she will be a celebrity and sure to get all federal seats in Tamil Nadu. (30 plus) and in all probability, there will be a electoral pact between them and Katachativu may become one of the conditions as Its only the TN govt. stalwarts are more interested in fishing in troubled waters.

    This should be an eye opener to the SL govt. to close this case as early as
    possible before we get into a situation of discussing with TN, on this issue..

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