Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to facilitate a dialogue between fishermen organisations of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, to find a solution to the continued run-ins between Tamil Nadu fishermen and the Sri Lankan Navy. Noting that she had written to him about the problems of Tamil Nadu fishermen 26 times since she came to power in 2011, Jayalalithaa suggested that the dialogue between the fishermen’s associations be held in Chennai in December.
The Chief Minister raised these demands in a letter to the PM dated September 20. She blamed the current problems faced by TN fishermen squarely on the Centre’s decision to recognise the island of Katchatheevu as part of Sri Lanka. She termed this decision a “historic blunder” of the Centre.
“Disappointingly, the government of India has remained a mute spectator all this while and has done precious little to ease the pain and suffering faced by the Tamil Nadu fishermen,” read Jayalalithaa’s letter, in which she noted that 754 fishermen had been detained by the Sri Lankan Navy in 39 separate incidents. About 97 of these fishermen continue to languish in Sri Lankan jails, she added. “The response of the government of India to the repeated instances of attacks on Tamil Nadu’s
fishermen on the high seas has been disappointingly meek,” she added.
Jayalalithaa also pointed out that initiatives like the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission and the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries have failed to address the objectives for which they were exclusively created. She added that the hardships faced by Tamil Nadu fishermen had seen a sharp increase since 2009, following the brutal end to the civil war in Sri Lanka.
Jayalalithaa also said that the previous fishermen-level talks that had been held in Chennai in 2010 and 2011 had been sidetracked due to the involvement of Sri Lankan ministers, and asked the Centre to share the minutes of the second round of talks with the Tamil Nadu government. She also demanded the rights of TN fishermen to fish in their traditional waters be ensured.