COLOMBO: Tied up in knots over critical political and constitutional issues, Sri Lankan leaders appear to have no time for the Indo-Lankan fishermen’s question. With even Tamil Nadu being preoccupied with the killing of 20 Tamil woodcutters in Andhra Pradesh, there is no unease here over the detention of 37 TN fishermen since early this month.
After talks between the fishermen’s associations of India and Sri Lanka at Chennai on March 24, Lankan fishermen were to have a meeting with their colleagues and the government to discuss the 7-Point Set of Proposals submitted by Tamil Nadu fishermen. But till date, there is no indication that such a meeting is being planned.
“We have not heard anything from the government on this matter,” said K.Rajachandran, President of the Ambal Fishermen’s Cooperative Society of Karainagar, Jaffna.
“The government is preoccupied with the 100-day program and the proposed constitutional changes,” explained S.P. Anthonymuttu Advisor to the Indo-Lanka Fishermen’s Welfare Forum.
Another fishermen’s leader, who did not want to be identified, said that the problem is not being solved because Lankan political leaders are not truly committed to the cause of the North Lankan Tamil fishermen and that they only want to make statements which will fetch votes in the next parliamentary elections expected to be held in June.
“This is the intention behind Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s declaration that the navy would shoot Indian fishermen if they intruded into Lankan waters. The same applies to President Sirisena’s statement that he has asked the navy to arrest intruding Indian fishermen. By these undiplomatic statements, the two leaders have vitiated the atmosphere in Tamil Nadu. Lankan leaders should not spoil relations between Lanka and India or between Lanka and Tamil Nadu if the problem is to be solved,” the leader said.
In contrast to Lanka’s present leaders, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was more diplomatic, he recalled.
“Rajapaksa never blamed Indian fishermen for crossing the boundary. He would always say, ‘fishermen will go where fishes are’. And he never said intruders will be arrested or shot! The current leadership is lacking good advisors on the fishing issue.”