CHENNAI: The latest arrests of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy is an attempt to derail diplomatic efforts between the two countries, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said on Tuesday. For, they were artisanal fishermen on a small boat using traditional fishing tools and not on a mechanised boat, he reasoned in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Palaniswami urged the Centre to immediately secure the release of fishermen and equipment now in Lankan custody.
Late on Sunday night, Lankan Navy detained five fishermen who had set off from the Pamban fishing base in Ramanathapuram. While fishermen who use mechanised boats are often charged with poaching in Sri Lankan waters, these were “artisanal fishermen who were fishing in a small traditional (vallam) boat, in their customary fishing grounds in the Palk Bay.” They were taken to Jaffna and reportedly remanded in judicial custody.
“Such incidents can only be seen as an act to derail the attempts to sort out the issues relating to fishing in the traditional waters of Palk Bay through diplomatic efforts of the respective governments,” Palaniswami said.
Pointing out that this demoralised the community here, the Chief Minister said it was important that the Centre puts the message across to the neighbour, “in firm, clear, unequivocal and unambiguous terms that these trends have to be reversed”.
There are now 134 boats in SL custody, Palaniswami said expressing disappointment that no decision had been taken on releasing them even during the recent meeting between the PMs of two countries. The indefinite detention of equipment had seriously affected the livelihood of fishermen, he said requesting Modi to direct the ministries concerned to sanction at the earliest the comprehensive special package that the State had sought.
The Centre should also annul the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1974 to restore the traditional fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in the Palk Bay, he said.