22 fishermen from Nagapattinam, 18 from Karaikal in Sri Lankan custody

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s immediate intervention for the release of 22 fishermen from Nagapattinam district and 18 fishermen from Karaikal in Puducherry. They were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy near Pulmoddai in Sri Lanka's east coast on December 3.

In a letter to him on Wednesday, Ms. Jayalalithaa said the fishermen were engaged in fishing in the Bay of Bengal in five mechanised boats. The boats and fishermen were reportedly taken to the Trincomalee harbour for further investigation and it was now learnt that they had been remanded till December 10. The Indian Navy has confirmed the arrest.

Such incidents of apprehension and harassment of innocent Indian fishermen had become a regular occurrence in the past few months, creating a feeling of insecurity and fear among fishermen, she said pointing out that the Sri Lankan boats and fishermen who poached in the Indian EEZ were warned and sent back whenever such incidents occurred in the vicinity of Tamil Nadu.

“No apprehension of Sri Lankan fishermen has occurred in the Tamil Nadu waters in the recent past. The Sri Lankan authorities should reciprocate the gesture of goodwill and release the Tamil Nadu fishermen immediately, after ascertaining the genuineness of these apprehended 40 fishermen,” Ms. Jayalalithaa said.

The action of the Sri Lankan Navy in detaining fishermen would only escalate the tensions between the two countries, besides causing immense anxiety and unrest among the fishing community, the Chief Minister said. She asked the Prime Minister to use his good offices to prevail upon the Sri Lankan authorities to immediately release the 40 fishermen and their five boats without filing any cases.