By Manjula Fernando
Increasing incidents of poaching by Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters have become a volatile issue with tensions running high among local fisher-folk who were recently given fishing rights in the Northern waters. This issue has become a contentious issue for South Indian politicians.
In this backdrop, last week over 100 Indian fishermen were indicted by Courts in Jaffna and Trincomalee in the North and Eastern provinces.
The Indian media described the action as a ‘marked change in the attitude maintained by Sri Lanka towards Indian fishermen’, because earlier fishermen and the boats were released within several days sans any legal action.
The decision to prosecute fishermen maybe a tactic to deter the rising numbers of fishermen breaching territorial waters in the Palk Straits. This has already created ripples within the local fisher community.
External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris when confronted by the media in India recently said ‘ We are anxious to resolve this problem. Our problem is they come in large numbers – about 1,500 fisher men in 400 to 500 boats.’
The Hindu quoted him as saying ‘They come as close as 700 metres from Sri Lanka’s eastern sea-board.’ And also saying that prosecutions have been looked into as an option to dissuade poachers since arrest and release after several days have proved ineffective.
The External Affairs Ministry Secretary, K. Amunugama told the Sunday Observer the Government did not wish to strain bi-lateral relations over this issue, but it was a volatile one where local fishermen have sought government intervention to resolve it. More....