They resolve to set sail to Sri Lanka on June 22 if arrested fishermen are not released by then

Following the recent arrest of 49 fishermen, including a 13-year-old boy, by the Sri Lankan navy, fishermen in Rameswaram on Thursday decided to reschedule their fishing operations to stay out of trouble.

However, the fishermen resolved to set sail to Sri Lanka on June 22 if the arrested fishermen were not released by then.

In an emergency meeting chaired by Minority Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association president S. A. Magathuvam at Rameswaram, leaders of 11 Fishermen Associations and boat owners unanimously adopted two resolutions - to change the fishing timings and to set sail to Sri Lanka.

Mr. N. J. Bose, president of the Rameswaram Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association, said:

"If the arrested fishermen are not released by June 20, the fishermen will sail to Thalaimannar in more than 750 trawlers, flying white flags, and ask the Island government to protect our livelihood and allow us to enjoy our traditional fishing rights."

Mr. P. Sesu Raja, District Secretary, Tamil Nadu Coastal Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association, said as per the decision taken at the meeting, fishermen would venture into the sea at 2 pm, instead of 6 am.

This was one of the decisions arrived at during a conciliatory meeting held between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen some years ago, he added.

Meanwhile, Mr U.Arulanandham, President of the Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF), said Mr Jos Robert and Ms Priya Banot from the Indian Consulate, Jaffna, visited the arrested fishermen in the two courts.

Mr Robert visited the arrested in the Mannar court, while Ms Banot visited the fishermen in the Kayts island court and arranged for their lunch.

They distributed water bottles, T shirts, sarongs, towels, washing and bathing soaps, tooth paste, tooth brushes, biscuits and snacks, he said.

No fisherman complained of any health problem, Mr. Arulanandham said quoting Mr Robert.

Mr Arulanandham said the detention of 49 fishermen raised the total number of fishermen arrested by the Lankan authorities to 140 since January this year.

On February 27, the Lankan Navy had arrested 16 fishermen from Tuticorin and seized three trawlers. They were released on March11.

Later, the Navy arrested 19 Rameswaram fishermen with their four trawlers.They were released after a month on April 13.

On April 5, the Navy arrested 26 fishermen from Karaikal, along with four trawlers.The next day, 30 fishermen from Rameswaram were detained, along with five boats. The Rameswaram fishermen were released a month later on May 8, and the Karaikal fishermen on May 20, he said.