COLOMBO:Legal hurdles both in Sri Lanka and India are apparently holding up the release of 120 Tamil Nadu fishermen and 34 Lankan fishermen currently in detention in Lanka and India respectively.
A highly placed Lankan source told Express on Sunday that the Lankan authorities are hamstrung by the fact that 11 out of the 120 TN fishermen in their custody have cases of assault against them. While the Lankan Foreign and Fisheries Ministries favour early release all the Indian detainees, the Defense Ministry wants to pursue the cases of assault against 11 because they had allegedly attacked Lankan navy personnel while being apprehended.
On the Indian side, 29 of the 34 Lankan fishermen in custody have cases for catching sea cucumbers, which is banned in Indian waters. The other factor is that both Lanka and India are insisting on wholesale reciprocal release and not piecemeal release.
The initial aim of the two countries was to bring about the release before November 10, Deepavali day. But in later October, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa issued a statement saying the release would take place on October 28. This raised hopes but only to be dashed soon. Meanwhile, the Lankan Minister of Fisheries, Mahinda Amaraweera, has been making controversial statements to the dismay of people who are working for the smooth and quick release of fishermen.