CHENNAI: Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Wednesday brought to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi the latest episode of arrest of 28 fishermen from Tamil Nadu by Lankan Navy and pointed out that this had happened just a few days after the State government indicated its willingness to Sri Lanka for the mutual release of fishermen along with their boats in their custody. He urged the PM to secure the release of 66 fishermen and 81 boats now under Lankan custody immediately.
Sources said as of now, there are 30 Lankan fishermen and 19 boats under the custody of TN. Mutual release of fishermen had taken place in January this year following which fishermen-level talks between TN and Lanka took place in Chennai and Colombo on various issues.
“The Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu, in his reply to the Foreign Secretary, Government of India on December 6, had stated that if Lankan side initiates release of TN fishermen along with their boats, Tamil Nadu would also initiate steps for the release of Lankan fishermen and their boats. “But the latest episode of arrest of TN fishermen by Lanka Navy raises apprehensions about the true intention of the Island Nation regarding the release of TN fishermen”, the Chief Minister said in his letter to Modi.
The CM also observed that the arrest of 28 TN fishermen has taken place immediately after the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution on December 5, urging the Centre to secure the release of 38 fishermen and 79 boats in Lankan custody.
Reiterating the State government’s firm commitment to the restoration of the traditional rights of TN fishermen in the Palk Bay and the retrieval of Katchatheevu, the CM sought the urgent intervention of the PM for finding a long term solution to the problems of fishermen.
Panneerselvam recalled that former CM J Jayalalithaa had, on many occasions, brought to the notice of the Centre about the ‘devious and sinister strategy of not releasing the fishing boats seized in successive incidents. This had threatened livelihood of TN fishermen as the boats remain unused for over six months. The CM also sought Centre’s early approval for Tamil Nadu’s requisition for a comprehensive special package for diversification of fisheries at a cost of Rs 1,520 crore and a recurring grant of Rs 10 crore per annum for maintenance dredging.