No early repatriation, says Peiris
Sri Lanka has ruled out early repatriation of over 100 Tamil Nadu fishermen arrested by it recently for allegedly crossing into Sri Lankan territorial waters.
Some of them have been in custody for over two months, and Colombo says they would have to undergo the judicial process though the intention is not to deprive them of their liberty for long.
“But there has be some deterrence, otherwise why won’t they come over and over again?'” asked Sri Lankan Minister for External Affairs G.L Peiris who maintained that India’s transfer of Kachchatheevu island to Sri Lanka was a settled matter and cannot be reopened.
The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister said that till some time back, Indian fishermen who entered Sri Lankan waters were released quickly. But as this step was not dissuasive enough, Sri Lanka planned to prosecute the current lot of arrested fishermen so that they would not venture into its waters again.
“We are anxious to resolve this problem. Our problem is they come in large numbers – about 1,500 in 400 to 500 boats. The proportion of the problem is very disquieting and is not restricted to Palk Bay. They come as close as 700 metres from Sri Lanka’s eastern sea-board. This is a very volatile issue on our side too and the duty of the Sri Lankan government is to do something about it and not allow resources to be taken away day after day.”
Sri Lanka defended its human rights record and did not think the international community’s reservations on its handling of the military conflict with Tamil militants would come in the way of participation of member-countries in the Colombo Commonwealth Summit in November.
Here to formally invite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the Commonwealth Summit, which Tamil parties and human rights organisations are calling on India to boycott, Mr. Peiris admitted the people of northern areas, where some of the most vicious fighting took place, were “bitter, angry and disillusioned.”
But the Sri Lankan government had achieved more rehabilitation and reintegration in its Tamil-majority areas than other post-conflict societies in Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia, he said.
As was the case with Minister for Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, Mr. Peiris also ruled out an early fix to the demand for greater political powers to the Northern Province, which will go to polls later next month. He also indicated that the Parliamentary Select Committee that is looking into giving greater political powers to provinces will go ahead with its deliberation next week without representatives of Tamil parties attending.
Keywords: Colombo, Sri Lankan Minister for External Affairs G.L Peiris, Indian fishermen, Tamil Nadu fishermen, judicial process, Kachchatheevu island, Minister for Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa