Sri Lankan court orders release of 116 Indian fishermen

The much-anticipated meeting between fishermen of India and Sri Lanka, which was to be held here on Thursday, has been postponed, the Fisheries Department here said on Wednesday.

The date for the next meeting is yet to be fixed, officials said. “We had made all arrangements but the Indian side wanted more time,” Nimal Hettiarachchi, Director-General, Fisheries, told The Hindu. Though there was an element of uncertainty about the meeting — Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had demanded the release of all fishermen and trawlers before the talks — the meeting looked nearly certain on Wednesday, especially after the Sri Lankan government ordered the release of all 172 Indian fishermen in its custody, along with their 44 trawlers that had been seized.

The reason for postponing the meeting remains unclear. A report from Rameswaram, quoting a fishermen’s representative, later said the meeting had been postponed to March 18.

Meanwhile, fishermen from India and Sri Lanka will go to the much-contested Katchatheevu this weekend for the St. Anthony’s festival — an annual dedicated to St. Anthony, whom the fishing community believes is the guardian angel of fisher folk.