COLUMBO: Sri Lanka will release all the 87 Indian boats in its custody before President Maithripala Sirisena’s three-day visit to India beginning on February 15, informed sources told Express here on Tuesday.
The judicial process is already on in the courts at Kayts, Mannar, Point Pedro and Trincomalee. On Thursday, the Attorney General, who had filed cases against the fishermen for poaching in Lankan waters, is expected to tell the courts that he has no objection to the release of the boats. The courts would then order their release.
There are 81 boats in the Northern Province and six in the Eastern province. However, some 15 boats anchored in Mannar have reportedly suffered heavy damage. It remains to be seen if these too will be repatriated.
India, on its part, has agreed to release the 22 Lankan boats in its custody, the sources said.
There is much bonhomie between the Sirisena government in Colombo and the Modi regime in New Delhi, and the former’s willingness to release the boats is an expression of the friendship.
When Mahinda Rajapaksa was President, government’s policy was to release fishermen after appeals from India. But it had always said a firm “no” to the release of boats. It was thought that the detention of boats would be an effective deterrent to poaching. But in fact, it had failed to stop the influx of Tamil Nadu and Puduchery fishermen. Only a few days ago, the Tamil fishermen of the Northern Province had shown torn nets to the media to underline their case that TN fishermen had begun to invade Lankan waters again.