He is a proud Christian (along with Union Minister KV Thomas) who will not apologize for standing by his fellow christian fishermen who were murdered in cold blood (unlike church leaders who should know better).
chief minister Oommen Chandy on Friday urged the Centre not to release
the Italian marines accused of murdering Indian fishermen, even if the
United Nations intervened.
Asking the Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh not to give in to the pressures of Italy, he said reports in a
section of media that UN general assembly President John Ashe might take
up this demand with India during his visit to the country, raised
concerns about the future of the case.
Freeing the marines
without trial under Indian laws would be legally prejudicial and lower
the image of the judicial system in the country, the chief minister said
in a letter to the Prime Minister.
He said people in Kerala were anxiously awaiting the trial and subsequent phases in the case.
Two Indian fishermen were killed off the Kollam coast of Kerala when
the two marines aboard Italian ship Enrica Lexie fired at them on
February 15, 2012.
Ever since the arrest and detention of the
marines — Massimilano Latoree and Salvatore Girone — Italy has been
opposing their trial under Indian laws and exerting pressure for their
This is what Major Archbishop Mar George Alencherry had to say about the whole incident in 2012:
“I am and will remain in close contact with the Catholic ministers of
Kerala and I hope that they will help to pacify the situation. In particular, I
trust in the work of the Tourism Minister, the Catholic K.V. Thomas, who
participated in the consistory in Rome in the past days and attended the mass
with the Holy Father and the new cardinals. He is a man of great moral stature
and of significant influence, both in the local and Central Government, and he
assured me his maximum effort. I guarantee, in the next few days, my constant
involvement with the Indian authorities on the matter,” Agenzia Fides
quoted him as saying.
“I learned the story of the Catholic fishermen killed;
it is very sad. I immediately contacted the Catholic ministers of Kerala urging
the government not to act precipitatedly. In the episode, of course, there were
errors, since the fishermen were mistaken for pirates. But the point is
another. It seems that the opposition party wants to take advantage of the
situation and exploit the case for electoral reasons, speaking of ‘Western
powers’ or the ‘will of American dominance’,“ the Vatican agency quoted
The archbishop’s reported remarks have kicked up a furore
because most of the state’s fisherfolk, including the two slain persons,
belonged to the Latin Catholic Church. Kerala is stunned by the killing. The
state police have arrested the two marines on charges of murder and have also
seized the ship. These measures have been opposed by the Italian officials who
maintained their crew can be tried only under international law. “I like
to believe that the cardinal did not say such things. Hope he would understand
our family’s grief too,” says Derec, 17, son of Jelestin, one of the dead
fishermen. Besides political leaders, fishermen’s organisations and even
members from the Latin Catholic Church have expressed dismay at the cardinal’s
The cardinal has also dragged in K.V. Thomas, Union minister of state for
agriculture and food, into the controversy. Thomas was present at the Vatican
where Alencherry was ordained as cardinal. The minister denied having discussed
the issue with the cardinal. “We are all for taking the most stringent
action against the culprits,” he said.
The bereaved families are apparently under a lot of psychological pressure and have decided to forgive the killers. This of course should have no bearing on the case itself, Indian law does not recognize blood money payment as price for freedom.
“We have already forgiven the marines. I won’t get back my husband
if they are hanged. They shot dead my husband and his colleague
mistaking them for Somali pirates,” said Doramma, 40, wife of Valentine
Jelestine , 45, one of the victims.
For their forgiveness, Italy has paid a price. Doramma got Rs one crore and her two children Rs 50 lakh each. This apart, Doramma, a resident of Kollam in Kerala, has been offered
a job of a peon at the fisheries department by the Kerala Government to
keep Christian fishermen community, a major vote bank, in good humour.
The deal was negotiated by the Rome-controlled Kerala Latin Church to which the victims and their families belong.
It is yet doubtful whether the stance of the families is the true
reflection of their mind. People in their locality say since the Church
has a great influence on the families in the community, they may be jut
parroting the Church’s script. From day one, the Church, perhaps under
the pressure from Rome, has been trying for the safe exit of the marines
from India. To pave the way for it, the hefty (by Indian standard)
compensation has been paid.
But the owner of the ill-fated fishing boat which was badly damaged
in the reckless firing by marine has not been paid any compensation by
Italy despite his repeated request.