By P. Krishnaswamy
While the Northern fishing community is up in arms against Indian poaching which deprives them of their livelihood, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne and the Provincial Fisheries Minister Balasubramaniam Daneeskaran have also come out strongly against the inhuman approach of political leaders across the Palk Straits.
As a mark of protest, the Federation of Mannar District Fishermen Societies (FMDFS) boycotted the World Fisheries Day on November 21 and presented its three-page representation to Minister Senaratne.
FMDFS President Noor Mohamed Alam told the Sunday Observer that they relied on Minister Senaratne to resolve their livelihood problem because he had taken up their cause internationally and locally.
Even after the restoration of peace over four years ago, Sri Lankan fishermen had been unable to go fishing due to problems posed by the poachers. The poachers also contributed to the depletion of fish resources, he said.
The FMDFS has called upon the Minister to secure the immediate release of the 154 Sri Lankan fishermen and their 37 fishing vessels in Indian custody. The Federation of Northern Fishermen’s Societies (FNFS) led by its General Secretary S. Sooriyakumaran also boycotted World Fisheries Day.
Minister Senaratne in a strongly-worded media communique said that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jeyaram and other political leaders there had raised human rights issues on behalf of the Northern Tamils only for their political gain while in reality, they are indifferent to their humanitarian problems.
They have conveniently ignored the loot of the Northern fishermen’s livelihood resources by their fishermen. This loot had continued for over 33 years depriving the Northern fishermen of their livelihood, he said.
Minister Daneeskaran said that poaching should be stopped and both sides should adhere to the maritime boundary lawfully declared in 1976. The Indian side has asked to be allowed to fish for one day in a week in Sri Lankan territorial waters but that too cannot be permitted considering the livelihood problem of the Northern fishermen who had lost everything and suffered untold misery for over three decades, he said.