Sirisena Moots Talks With TN Govt to Stop Intrusion of Bottom Trawlers
COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has told North Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen and MPs of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that he proposes to take up the issue of the intrusion of Tamil Nadu bottom trawlers into Lankan waters with the Tamil Nadu and Indian governments, through diplomatic channels.
“We should make the Tamil Nadu and Indian governments realize what harm, Indian trawlers are doing to the sea on our side and to the livelihood of our fishermen. I propose to do this without harming our relations with India,” Sirisena told the stakeholders here on Thursday.
Rejecting charges of inaction and subservience to India, the President said: “We have not allowed fishing in our waters for the Indians. I have given clear instructions to the navy to arrest boats or trawlers that violate our territorial waters.”
The President was receptive to the idea that the best solution would be to have the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) jointly patrolled by the Lankan and Indian navies or Coast Guards.
In a memorandum, which he presented to the President, the Northern Province Fisheries Minister, B.Deniswaran, sought the deployment of the Lankan Coast Guard at the IMBL.
The memorandum described the Indian intrusions as a “clear violation” of the boundary agreement of 1974. It also sought effective steps against the smuggling of drugs from India through the North Lankan coast.
The Lankan navy representatives at the meeting pointed out that trawlers from Nagapattinam are made of steel and can take on the Lankan naval gun boats.
The Lankan fishermen’s representatives drew the attention of the President to the empty promises made by Indian fishermen during talks in the last five years.
When talks between fishermen’s associations began in 2010, the Indian fishermen asked for one year’s time to give up bottom trawling. Later they asked for five years, and now they are asking for three years. But between 2010 and 2015, there has been no reduction in the number of trawlers whatsoever, it was pointed out.
Asked if the Lankan fishermen and government will allow ‘non-trawlers’ to fish in Lankan waters in Palk Strait and Palk Bay, TNA MP Suresh Premachandran, who attended the meeting, said that while bottom trawlers have to be stopped forthwith, “the issue of other types of fishing vessels can be discussed.”
President Sirisena is to have a larger meeting on this issue in the second week of this month to discuss the Tamil Nadu fishermen’s seven-point set of proposals. The fishermen’s associations of the two countries are to meet for the fourth time in mid-May at Colombo.