Concerned over the arrest and harassment of Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan navy, government on Wednesday said it would continue to engage with the island nation to get them released from Sri Lankan prisons.
“We share the concerns of the members over the situation faced by the fishermen. A large number of fishermen have already been released (by Sri Lanka). We will continue to engage with Sri Lanka to ensure that no more arrests are made and ensure all those arrested are released,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said in Lok Sabha.
His response came after Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and members from AIADMK, DMK and Congress raised the issue. Even after Mr. Nath’s statement, AIADMK members walked out, apparently unsatisfied with the government’s response.
Attacking the government for its “inaction” over the “intensified hostile actions” by Sri Lankan Navy against the fishermen, AIADMK leader M Thambidurai said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had written several letters to the Prime Minister on the matter but no concrete action has been taken yet.
Maintaining that about 125 fishermen were still in the Sri Lankan prisons and over 500 killed in the last several years, he also attacked DMK, a former UPA partner, for “not persuading the Prime Minister to take action... Sri Lankan Navy is acting with impunity...why can’t the Indian Navy save our fishermen and prevent the arrests?”
The AIADMK leader also said the issue of Katchathinvu still remained to be resolved and Sri Lanka was “taking advantage” of Parliament not passing a resolution in the matter.
Associating with Mr. Thambidurai, Ms. Swaraj said a mechanism for resolving the issue of fishermen existed, under which officials of India and Sri Lanka would meet on a regular basis to sort out such issues. “But no meeting has taken place for several years now. What to do with such a mechanism?”
She demanded immediate intervention of the government to get the arrested Indian fishermen released and activate the Indo—Sri Lankan mechanism.
DMK leader T R Baalu said such attacks had become a “daily routine” and the Sri Lankan Navy was also intruding into Indian waters, snatching fishermen’s nets and damaging their boats.
He said governments of both countries should sit together and find ways to stop recurrence of such incidents.
S S Ramasubbu (Cong) defended the government saying it was concerned over these continuing incidents.