'Pull out all stops to save TN fishermen' - The New Indian Express

'Pull out all stops to save TN fishermen'

Published: 14th September 2013 08:13 AM

Last Updated: 14th September 2013 09:00 AM

Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Friday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take the most forceful diplomatic step possible to ensure the release of all Indian fishermen languishing in Sri Lankan prisons and their boats seized by Lankan authorities.

“I once again urge you to intervene personally and ensure that the matter is taken up in the most forceful diplomatic manner possible to ensure that the remaining Indian fishermen and their boats are released and a permanent solution is found to this long-simmering issue. Early decisive action by the Centre is essential and cannot be postponed indefinitely,” she said in her letter to the Prime Minister.

Observing that Tamil Nadu fishermen had been fishing in Palk Bay since time immemorial to earn their livelihood, the Chief Minister said she has been according topmost priority to their safety to ensure that their traditional fishing rights were protected.

She recalled her earlier letters of August 2, 8 and 28, in which she stressed the urgent imperative to ensure the release of the innocent fishermen who had been languishing for months together in Sri Lankan jails. In this connection, Jayalalithaa said she was shocked to learn that the remand period of 35 fishermen of Pamban from Ramanathapuram district who were secured by the Lankan Navy on August 26 had been further extended up to September 23.

She said the SL government had recently adopted a new strategy by which they release the fishermen after long periods of detention but impound their boats. Lankan government had made it apparent that it is not ready to allow the TN fishermen to earn their livelihood by fishing in traditional waters.

“Longer the detention of the fishing boats without maintenance, the more unseaworthy and unusable they become leading to an even greater loss to the poor fishermen. This cold, calculated, unethical attitude of the Lankan government needs to be condemned in the strongest terms,” she added.

Stating that continued imprisonment of TN fishermen was causing considerable tension and ill will amongst fisherfolk along the entire coastline of Tamil Nadu,

Jaya said, as of now, there were still 97 TN fishermen arrested on different dates languishing in SL jails while 21 fishermen were going through deportation process and were yet to return home. Besides, 20 boats belonging to TN fishermen had also not been released.  “This harsh and belligerent treatment is directed at denying fishermen their livelihood and to demoralise them and their dependents,” she charged.

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