She suggests negotiations can be held in Chennai in December

Endorsing the request of Tamil Nadu fishermen for talks with Sri Lankan fishermen, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has suggested to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to facilitate discussion between the fishermen communities of the two countries which, she said, could be held in Chennai in December.

In her letter of September 20, Ms Jayalalithaa set the broad contours of the proposed talks. She wanted the talks to focus on the commitment made in the previous rounds of fishermen-level discussion held in August 2010 and March 2011 regarding abjuring from violent attacks on the Tamil Nadu fishermen on high seas and desisting from unfriendly acts such as abduction, detention and long periods of incarceration in Sri Lankan jails, and the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen to fish in their traditional fishing waters in the Palk Bay, irrespective of any “artificially drawn” boundaries.

She wanted the proposed talks to discuss ways and means for speedy and smooth repatriation of the Indian fishermen “abducted by the Sri Lankan Navy,” apart from preventing seizure and confiscation of their boats/fishing equipment by the Sri Lankan authorities.

Ms. Jayalalithaa also made it clear that the talks should be “without prejudice to, and must not in any way, compromise the stand already taken by me in W.P. (Civil) No.561/2008 regarding India’s territorial sovereignty over Katchatheevu.” She stressed that the resolution passed in the fishermen-level talks would be subject to the clearance of her government.

Referring to the Tamil Nadu fishermen’s request, Ms Jayalalithaa stated that “our fishermen, in an accommodative frame of mind, are eager to sort out the day-to-day issues faced by them by engaging in talks with the fishermen from Sri Lanka even though the situation is tense in the coastal districts [of the State].”

Pointing out that 754 fishermen from Tamil Nadu were, in 39 separate incidents over the last two and a half years, apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy, the Chief Minister said various institutional mechanisms – India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission and the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries – had “miserably failed” to deliver the desired results. Ninety-seven fishermen were still languishing in various Sri Lankan jails, she said. Quoting information furnished to her on September 19, she said the Sri Lankan Navy arrested 19 Tamil Nadu fishermen.

She said that since May 2011, fifty-seven incidents of attack, injuring 36 fishermen, were reported. She had written to Dr. Singh 26 times.

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