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Sri Lankan fishermen expect talks in January

Published on : 25 December 2013 17:16

Sri Lankan fishermen expect talks in January

A meeting between fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka is likely in the second week of January, 2014.

President of Federation of Mannar District Fishermen Associations, Justin Soysa, told TOI over phone that they expect the talks to be held in the second week of January. A meeting was hosted by the Sri Lankan fisheries minister in Colombo last Friday where the Lankan fishermen, who expressed concern about Indian trawlers fishing in Lankan waters, were assured that talks would be facilitated with their Indian counterparts, Soysa said.

The fishermen alleged that though trawlers are banned in the northern part of the island, Indian trawlers cross the international maritime boundary line and undertake destructive pair trawling fishing. They cited the recent incident of Indian fishermen arrested from near Trincomalee as proof of Indian trawlers poaching in Lankan waters.

Tension has been brewing in the waters that separate Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka for a long time with the navies of both nations frequently arresting fishermen of the other country. Clashes between fishermen too have become frequent.

Fishermen in Nagapattinam had gone on hunger strike against arrest of their colleagues and called off their protest only on Tuesday after a delegation got the assurance from chief minister J Jayalalithaa that steps would be taken to get more than 100 fishermen, who were recently arrested by the Lankan navy, released.

Fishermen from Rameswaram too are optimistic that a solution to the festering problem would be worked out soon. “The chief minister assured us help from the state government”, said S Emerit, who was part of a delegation that met the CM. The fishermen now want the Centre to take measures to organize talks between representatives from India and Sri Lanka.

U Arulanandam of Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) said the Centre is better placed than the state government in organizing inter-state talks. “The Centre must take up things more aggressively and talk to the Lankan government,” he said.

Fishermen leaders in Rameswaram had received an invite to visit Sri Lanka for talks in October and they have been seeking an appointment with the chief minister. They got to meet her only on Monday. However, the situation has changed since the invite in October as many Lankan fishermen have been arrested for trespass into Indian waters since. ARIF leaders said the arrests of Lankan fishers could hamper the talks.

Soysa said families of the arrested Lankan fishermen have urged Colombo to take measures to get them released. He claimed that, unlike Sri Lanka, India was very slow in disposing of these cases and ordering release of the arrested men.

Nagapattinam fishermen call off strike

The fishermen who have been on an indefinite hunger strike for the past three days called off the protest on Tuesday after the chief minister assured that their grievances would be addressed. Several representatives of fishermen associations had met the chief minister in Chennai on Monday. She told them necessary steps would be taken to get all the fishermen and their boats released from the custody of Lankan navy.

At least 3,000 fishermen from Akkarapettai were on protest outside the head post office over the high handedness of the Sri Lankan Navy in arresting fishermen from the district. Recently at least 107 fishermen from the district were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy.

The fishermen also met DMK leader T R Baalu, who according to Manoharan of Akkarapettai panchayat, has promised to arrange a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 27. Clashes between fishermen from the two countries have become too frequent and the fishermen now want a permanent solution for the problem. - TOI

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