COLOMBO: An Indo-Sri Lankan team of fishermen is seeking a meeting with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J.Jayalalithaa, to resolve the long standing and irksome issue of fishing in the Palk Strait.
S.P.Anthonymuthu, Advisor to the Indo-Lanka Fishermen’s Welfare Forum, told Express here on Sunday, that he, along with N. Devadas of the Rameswaram Fishermen’s Association, will be writing to the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary on Monday, seeking an early appointment with Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.
“We are keen on meeting her prior to the fourth round of talks between the fishermen’s associations of the two countries. We have already finalized the names of the 10-member Indo-Lankan team comprising five persons from each country,” Anthonymuthu said.
However, Ponnambalam, President of the Jaffna District Federation of Rural Fishermen Associations, said that any talks with Indian fishermen or leaders will have to be preceded by a meeting with the Lankan Minister of Fisheries, Mahinda Amaraweera.
“We have to know the mind of the Lankan government first. And we have to first decide, amongst ourselves here, what we should say in Chennai,” he said.
Amaraweera has called for a meeting of Northern fishermen, the Coast Guard and the Navy in Colombo on October 22.
According to Anthonymuthu, in the last meeting with the Lankan Minister on October 8, the fishermen from the North said that it will be pointless talking to the TN fishermen because Lankans cannot accede to their demand for letting them fish for 83 days in a year and also to allow them to use banned methods of fishing like bottom trawling. The other complaint of the Lankan fishermen is that TN fishermen keep asking for more and more time to give up poaching and bottom trawling, but fail to keep their promises.
With over 70 TN “poachers” in Lankan custody now, parliament debated the issue recently. In the debate, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader, R.Sampanthan, called for joint Indo-Lankan naval patrolling and also for tripartite talks between the Lankan, Indian and TN governments. The Sunday Times reported that Minister Amaraweera has threatened to order the navy to destroy the nets of the poachers.