By S. Rubatheesan
As Tamil Nadu fishermen called off their planned protest in the Palk Strait, Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne declared that neither the 93 Indian fishermen in custody nor their boats would be released. “They will have to go through the legal process in Sri Lanka,” he told the Sunday Times. His remarks came as an estimated thousand fishermen and their families planned to come close to the international maritime boundary line, the waters thatseparate Sri Lanka and India, for a protest demanding the release of the fishermen and the boats.
Navy spokesman Kosala Waranakulasuriya said navy patrols were stepped up yesterday because of the planned protests. However, there was no such activity, he said.
Dr. Senaratne said those who were arrested for illegal poaching had to go through the legal process but the confiscated Indian boats would not be released.Tamil Nadu Fishermen’s Association leader T. Sesuraja said they temporarily called off the protest after Indian Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan gave them an assurance that their concerns would be addressed within four days.
“He had promised us that India would get all the fishermen and their boats released and we are expecting to meet Indian External Ministry officials next week. If they failed to help us, we are planning to invade the Indian parliament,” he warned.. “Our boats are in the custody of Sri Lanka. We can’t engage in fishing without our boats. Politicians in both countries are playing with our lives. How can we support our families?” he asked..
Sri Lanka’s Fisheries Ministry Spokesperson Narendra Rajapksha said 93 Indian fishermen and 62 trawlers were in Sri Lankan custody. Meanwhile, Minister Senaratne said they had got positive response from the Indian Government and the proposed third round of fisheries talks would be held at the end of this month in New Delhi.Fisheries Ministry secretary D.M.R.B. Dissanayake said the ministry was processing the legal procedures with the Attorney General’s Department to introduce a fining system for illegal poaching.