Island of Iranaitheevu: Tamil Catholics camp old church, waiting for houses (Photos)
by Melani Manel Perera

About 50 families have been living in ruins for two weeks. The houses are destroyed, the wells of drinking water no longer exist. "We only ask for houses, we can earn a living with what we have".

Iranaitheevu (AsiaNews) - "We are happy that we have the freedom to fish and live in our island again", Tamil Catholics tell AsiaNews. Two weeks ago the group were able to set foot on the island of Iranaitheevu, for the first time after 25 years of life spent as displaced by the civil war.

These families are now awaiting authorization to take possession of the land they once owned. "Our beautiful and fruitful island - they say - has become a jungle. The houses have been destroyed. This is why we are waiting for permits to rebuild and resume commercial activities. Otherwise it will be difficult to survive ".

In total, about 50 Tamil families landed on the island on 23 April. From that moment they camped in the ruined rooms of the old church, the convent of the Holy Family and the Catholic school. Anthonyayya and Vedhanayagam report: "It is very painful to see what happened to our island, the beloved church, the school and the house of the missions. We cannot conceive the negative forces that have been unleashed here ".

Displaced in 1992, throughout this period the 187 families (now grown to 400) of which 95 led by women, have never stopped asking to be able to return to the life they led before the conflict. At that time there were 125 houses, two Catholic churches, a dispensary and five wells on the island. "All we ask for - says a group - are the long-term permits to return to live here, and help to rebuild the school for our children and to identify sources of drinking water. We do not ask for anything else, we can make a living with what we have ".

Those who resettled resumed fishing which they were engaged in before leaving the island. They have already managed to earn some savings by saving fuel on boats. At least for now. On May 5, they report, "some Navy officials arrived and ordered us not to dock our boats here, but to take them over the dock. We cannot understand this request: there is so much space! ".

Photo credit: Melani Manel Perera