Colombo: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena is expected to ask Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop Indian trawlers from entering Lankan waters when he meets the latter in New Delhi on February 16.
The Lankan line on the fishing issue was discussed at a high level meeting held here on Thursday, in which the participants were President Sirisena, Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran, Northern Province Governor HMGS Palihakkara, Eastern Province Governor and Austin Fernando, Deputy Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene, the Navy Commander and B.Deniswaran, Northern Provincial Minister of Fisheries.
Deniswaran told the media that Sirisena will point out that trawlers from Tamil Nadu and Puduchery have been denuding the Palk Strait and Palk Bay of aquatic resources and denying North Lankan Tamil fishermen their livelihood. They should therefore be banned from coming here.
Wigneswaran said that India should take steps to ban trawling in the shallow sea between the two countries and encourage its fishermen to take to deep sea fishing in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
On the persistent Indian suggestion that Indian boats be “licensed” to fish in Lankan waters with a view to regulating them, the Northern Province’s view was that no intrusion, whether licensed or not, should be allowed.
On Releasing Boats
North Lankan fishermen have not taken kindly to the release of 87 detained Indian boats.
“It is only a political drama to improve ties between Lanka and India. It will not solve our problem, which arises from massive poaching and trawling. Before releasing the boats, the intruders should have been warned that if they came again, their boats would be seized and not returned,” said Rajachandran, President, Karainagar Ambal Fishermen's Co-Op Society.
“We should release the poor fishermen on board, but detain the boats. After all, TN trawlers are owned by big capitalists. They need not be let off the hook,” argued Subramaniam, President, Madakal West Grameeya Fishermen's Society.
Politics of the Issue
This is the first time the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is taking up the issue of Northern Tamil fishermen vis-à-vis Indian intruders. So far, only the Eelam Peoples’ Democratic Party (EPDP) led by Douglas Devananda has been voicing their concerns. The TNA has been wary of taking up the issue so as not to alienate India and Tamil Nadu.
But with Lankan parliamentary elections due in June, the TNA feels the need to expand its base. While it took up the issue of “genocide” to take the wind out of the sails of the radical Tamils, it has taken the issue of fishermen to take the wind out of the sails of the EPDP.
The Sirisena government is going along with the TNA on the fishermen’s issue to cement its new-found ties with it, ahead of the parliamentary elections.