In an attempt to find a solution to the issue of Indian fishermen allegedly engaging in illegal fishing activity in Sri Lankan waters, a group of Indian fishermen may come to Sri Lanka later this week to hold talks with their counterparts. The fishermen, who are reportedly awaiting the Tamil Nadu government’s clearance for the visit, are likely to travel to the north to meet fishermen in Jaffna, sources in the Sri Lankan government said. They will also meet fishermen in the south, it is learnt.
Fishermen in the north - primarily Tamils - are just about returning to their fishing trade after struggling for survival during the 30-year-old ethnic conflict. According to them, often trawlers from India are spotted very close to the Sri Lankan coast. The bottom trawling, they say, leaves virtually no fish for the Sri Lankan fishermen.
A meeting of fishermen from both sides is long overdue. The last time such a meeting took place was in March 2011, and it was chaired by Douglas Devananda of the Eelam People's Democratic Party that is part of the ruling coalition.
Indian fishermen are frequently caught by the Sri Lankan Navy on charges of crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line, and engaging in illegal fishing activity. Over the last few months, several such groups were remanded in Sri Lankan prisons, with some serving up to two months in jails.
Our Ramanathapuram correspondent adds:
Meanwhile, the fishermen in Ramanathapuram district say that unless they get clearance from the Tamil Nadu government, they would not like to visit Colombo to and hold talks.
P. Sesu Raja, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Coastal Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association, said on Sunday that the fishermen did not want to undertake a trip to Sri Lanka for talks unless the State government officially gave its approval to the proposed interaction.
“We have asked the State government to sponsor the trip to Colombo and send its officials also along with us. But, the government has not responded yet,” he said.
Mr. Sesu Raja was part of a team which held talks with Sri Lanka’s Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa during his visit to New Delhi a few weeks ago.