Cardinal: Bridge project poses danger to sovereignty and Independence of Sri Lanka

The Catholic Church has opposed the proposed India-Lanka land bridge connectivity project, warning that it will endanger Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence.Colombo Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, speaking to the media at Ruwanwella on Friday, said that if implemented, the project would make Sri Lanka part of Tamil Nadu.

“Our history is full of instances where invaders came from South India from time to time to capture parts of this country to rule them. On each occasion, the Sinhala kings had to mobilise armies to get rid of them and liberate those areas. Now, the government in power is proposing to build a land bridge connecting Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. This certainly would end up with this country becoming a part of Tamil Nadu,” the Cardinal said.

The Cardinal’s criticism of the bridge project came days after President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s announcement that a pre-feasibility study for a land connection between Sri Lanka and India had been completed, and a full feasibility study would be conducted in the near future. The President said so when he met Rev. Dr. Fidelis Lionel Emmanuel Fernando, the Bishop of Mannar, Diocese of Mannar, at the Mannar Bishops House on 16 June, according to a statement issued to the media by the President’s Media Division subsequent to the visit.

The Cardinal said: “Who needs this bridge? It is clear that the idea has been mooted following a request from foreigners not because of a request from the people here. This government is resolute in carrying out all directives coming from outside without thinking whether they are good or bad for us. We must be careful not to carry out what is not beneficial to us. Otherwise we will end up in a worse crisis than what we already have. We must not do anything that harms our sovereignty and independence.”

Meanwhile, the Indian media have reported that in July 2023, during a visit to India, Wickremesinghe discussed the development of a land bridge between the two countries in a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The proposal for land connectivity had come from Sri Lanka, New Delhi at that time.

Creating land connectivity across the Palk Strait, which is as narrow as 25km (15 miles) at certain points, would provide India access to ports like Trincomalee and Colombo. This initiative aims to fortify the millennia old relationship between the two neighbouring countries. The Palk Strait, a narrow strip of water separating Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka, serves as a rich fishing ground for both countries. Incidents of fishermen from both nations being arrested for inadvertently trespassing into the waters are common.