Thirty five Pamban fishermen set free by the Puttalam district Magistrate court in western Sri Lanka on Monday after 29 days of their incarceration are likely to be repatriated later this week without their boats, according to reports received here. After District Magistrate Barati Vijayaratna ordered their release, the fishermen were released from the Negombo jail on Monday evening but taken to the Mirihana camp near Colombo, where immigration law violators were detained, according to S.Armstrong Fernando, President of the Nesakarangal Charitable Trust.
Mr Fernando, who was present at the Puttalam court on Monday, told The Hindu over phone that the fishermen pleaded with the court to release their four trawlers as well, but the Magistrate posted the case to November 18, stating that the boat owners could secure the vessels after producing necessary documents. Quoting official sources, he said the fishermen, who were shifted to the detention camp in Colombo are likely to be repatriated on Friday or Saturday. The fishermen were in good health and they were given new dresses and eatables on behalf of the Trust and Indian High Commission, he said.
Sources in the Mandapam station of the Indian Coast Guard here said the repatriation of the fishermen could take place on September 26. However, there was no written communication to this effect, the sources added.
The fishermen were fishing in the Gulf of Mannar region when they were arrested by Lankan navy at the wee hours of August 26. After they were lodged in the Negombo prison, their judicial remand was twice extended up to September 9 and then till Monday.
“It is a matter of concern that the fishermen could not return home immediately,” U.Arulanandham, President of Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) said. He also expressed regret that the court has not ordered the release of the trawlers.