NAGAPATTINAM/KARAIKAL/COLOMBO: As many as 126 fishermen detained by Sri Lankan navy in the past two months are set to return home. However, their homecoming news was not a pleasant package for the anxious families here as the released fishermen would not be celebrating Deepavali with their families on Tuesday.
Reliable sources here asserted that the 126 fishermen would be released in step-by-step judicial procedures after being produced in four different courts of Lanka before Monday night. According to Indian Consul General in Jaffna, A Natarajan, the fishermen are likely to be repatriated on Friday. “The sea is too choppy for immediate repatriation,” Natarajan told Express in Colombo.
The Attorney General’s decision to withdraw the cases against the fishermen, including 10 persons against whom there were assault charges, was communicated to the relevant authorities in the Northern Province. But only 116 were actually released on Monday. The ten men against whom there were assault charges could not be released because the court at Palai had not received the necessary communication. The formalities are expected to be completed on Tuesday and the ten men will be released immediately. The released fishermen would be under the care of the Indian Consulate General in Jaffna till repatriation, Natarajan added.
Fisheries department officials in Nagapattinam maintained that they are yet to get the official communication about the release from their Lankan counterparts. “We were informed by the Lankan fisheries department that the 126 fishermen would be officially released by the Lankan courts in four locations before Monday night. However, their homecoming is not possible immediately until the rough sea settles down to normalcy,” said a source in fishing hamlet.
Though the Lankan government a week ago had announced that the 126 fishermen belonging to various hamlets in Nagapattinam, Pudukkottai, Ramanathapuram, and Thoothukudi districts would be released before Deepavali, the delay due to unspecified reasons in repatriating the jailed fishermen have certainly affected the festive mood of coastal hamlets in Nagapattinam. “The official formalities paving way for the release of 126 fishermen could have been initiated a little earlier to let the fishermen spend the festival of lights with their families,” lamented a fishermen representative.
Sources added that in a phase-by-phase release, courts in Kalpitiya, Point Pedro, Mannar, and Kayts are likely to release the 126 fishermen including 49 from Nagapattinam before Monday night. However, the fate of 55 vessels detained along the 126 fishermen remains uncertain.