Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday ordered the release of all Indian fishermen in the island nation’s custody.
The announcement, termed a “goodwill gesture” by the President’s office, comes a day after India abstained from voting on the U.S.-backed resolution on Sri Lanka at the U.N. Human Rights Council session in Geneva. Soon after the resolution was adopted on Thursday — with 23 countries voting in its favour, 12 against, and 12, including India, abstaining — Mr. Rajapaksa told news agency AFP: “I think it is encouraging that India did not vote against us.”
Until Thursday, many in Colombo — including senior government officials — seemed prepared for India’s vote in favour of the resolution. “That is what they did the last two times, and we must remember that elections are also coming where Tamil Nadu will matter,” a top government official told The Hindu a few days ago.
The release of fishermen strengthens the possibility of the two governments holding the second round of fishermen’s talks here that was earlier cancelled, reportedly due to Tamil Nadu’s refusal to send its fishermen unless those in custody were released.
Nimal Hettiarachchi, Director-General, Fisheries, told The Hindu that Sri Lanka was waiting for a positive response from India in regard to the meetings.
A total of 98 Indian fishermen are in Sri Lankan custody. They would be released over the next few days after the magistrate courts processed their release orders, Mr. Hettiarachchi said.