The arrest of 35 Pamban fishermen comes as a shock to the community
The arrest of 35 fishermen from Pamban by Sri Lankan Navy for allegedly crossing the international maritime boundary line and fishing in the neighbouring country’s waters has come as a shock to the fisherfolk of Rameswaram island.
A. Simon, was shocked and upset when he heard that 35 fishermen from Pamban area of Rameswaram were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy for allegedly crossing the maritime boundary and fishing in the neighbouring country’s waters.
Their shock is understandable because the fishermen from this area follow disciplined fishing practices and rarely cross the maritime boundary line.
Enquiries with the fisheries department confirmed the fact that the Pamban fishermen practised disciplined fishing compared to their counterparts in Rameswaram.
“This is the first time in the last 50 years that the Sri Lankan Navy has arrested our fishermen on charges of illegal fishing,” said Mr. Simon, who is the president of the Island Fishermen Association.
There is a history, too, to their tendency to keep away from trouble. The fishermen say they have self-imposed restrictions after two of their ilk were shot dead by the Sri Lankan Navy on January 1, 1985. Mr. Simon recalled that the Sri Lankan Navy had thrown the bodies into the sea. Subsequently, violence broke out in Pamban and protesters set afire Rameswaram Express after asking its passengers to alight.
After this incident, the community decided to adhere to strict disciplinary measures and resolved not to cross the IMBL, he said. The restrictions were further tightened after another shooting incident on February 21, 2006, in which Arulanandam, a fisherman, was injured.
In the latest incident of arrest, about 250 fishermen had ventured into the sea by 30-odd boats, about 40 nautical miles south of Pamban for fishing on Sunday around 2.00 p.m.
They were fishing north of Kalpitiya in Puttalam district in the west coast of Sri Lanka, when the country’s navy arrested them on charges of trespassing into Lankan waters.
On Wednesday, fishermen staged a protest demonstration and met Collector K. Nanthakumar, and sought his help in securing the early release of their colleagues.