The Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday categorically conveyed to the Central government that the next round of fishermen level talks between representatives of fishermen of Tamil Nadu and Lanka would take place on March 13 only if the 177 fishermen and their 44 boats now in Lankan custody are released.
S Vijayakumar, Tamil Nadu Fisheries Secretary, in his letter to the Ministry of External Affairs, said the State government had not received any information regarding the release of the fishermen from Lankan custody though he had conveyed in his letter dated March 2 that the next round of fishermen level talks would be held subject to the release of the Tamil Nadu fishermen.
Reiterating the Tamil Nadu government’s stand on this issue, the Fisheries Secretary said that the Tamil Nadu fishermen and their boats would have to be released prior to the talks, to enable the talks to take place. He also urged the MEA to indicate the action taken by the Central government on the request of Tamil Nadu.
Meanwhile Colombo said it is ready to host the second meeting of fishermen’s representatives from India and Sri Lanka on March 13, but Tamil Nadu is yet to submit a list of participants from its side. The Lankan Director of Fisheries, Nimal Hettiarachchi, told Express on Tuesday, “Puduchery has submitted the names of its delegates, but TN is yet to do it. I have checked with the Indian High Commission here and they too said that they had not received a list from TN,” Hettiarachchi said. “However, we are hopeful that the talks will take place as scheduled. We believe that the Tamil Nadu government has given the green signal for it. We still expect the names to arrive as we have a day to go,” the Lankan official said.
A few days ago, doubts were cast on the talks when the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying that if the 177 TN fishermen and over 44 boats detained by the Lankans were not released, Tamil Nadu would not agree to the talks.
Reacting to this, the Lankan Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne questioned the basis for talks when TN fishermen were brazenly violating undertakings given at the January 27 parleys in Chennai. He pointed out that promises from the TN fishermen hundreds of TN bottom trawlers had been poaching during this period.