19 fishermen in custody for last few months to be freed on April 11, says Sri Lankan Minister
The Sri Lankan navy arrested 26 Indian fishermen and seized five trawlers in Sri Lankan waters on Friday.
According to a Sri Lankan Navy official, the fishermen were arrested off Kovilam Point and later taken to Kayts Island, off Jaffna peninsula, and handed over to Fisheries Department authorities.
Meanwhile, a local English newspaper, Daily Mirror, quoted Sri Lankan Minister for Rural Community Development Armugam Thondaman as saying that the 19 Indian fishermen in custody for the last few months would be released on April 11. They were part of a group of over 50 fishermen who were arrested in Sri Lankan waters on March 13.
Despite an agreement that seeks to expedite return of fishermen who stray into each other’s territory, the last few incidents of incarceration of Indian fishermen point to Sri Lankan officials hardening their stance on Indian fishermen caught fishing in Sri Lankan waters.
The fishermen of both countries getting caught has been recurring frequently in the last few months. Currently, eight fishermen are in Sri Lankan prisons for over a year.
Of those, five were caught in Sri Lankan waters on the night of November 28, 2011, and charges of carrying a banned substance were slapped on them.
Soon after, Indian officials handed over proof to their Sri Lankan counterparts, emphasising that the five fishermen were innocent.
The Tamil Nadu government has allocated finances for fighting the case against the five in Sri Lankan courts.
The Sri Lankan Navy detained at least 20 Rameswaram fishermen with five of their boats, when they were fishing near Thalaimanner on Saturday night
Staff Reporter adds from Karaikal:
The 26 fishermen who were apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy on Friday hailed from two hamlets, Pattinacherry and Karaikalmedu. They had set out in six boats on Wednesday. They included 22 fishermen from Pattinacherry and the rest from Karaikalmedu. They were apprehended while they were allegedly fishing across the international maritime boundary line.
According to the Assistant Director of Fisheries, the administration was informed of the arrests and that it was expected that the fishermen would be produced in the court on Monday.
The fisherfolk here will make a representation to the Union Minister of State in the PMO, V.Narayanasamy.