Today's Paper

No LTTE transgression: Coast Guard

CHENNAI DEC. 24. Coast Guard today said there was no instance of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) transgressing the international maritime boundary into Indian waters and taking hostages. Nevertheless, it maintained round-the-clock vigil.

Addressing presspersons at the Coast Guard Air Station here, Uday Narayan Chitnavis, who has assumed charge as Commander, Coast Guard Region (East), said there was a "fair deal of interaction" between the Sri Lankan Navy and the Indian Coast Guard and Navy. It was for the political leadership to decide on joint exercises or joint patrolling. The Indian and Sri Lankan sides regularly exchanged information on missing fishermen and other events.

However, there was no contact with the Sea Tigers of the LTTE and the issues between the outfit and the Sri Lankan Navy were "internal matters," Commodore Chitnavis said.

Asked how Coast Guard received information on the number of people and boats held by the LTTE, he said it was an informed guess which invariably turned out to be correct. The Fisheries department knew about the number of boats which were put to sea and the number which returned.

As there was close coordination with the Sri Lankan Navy, the authorities there communicated to the Indian side immediately if any Indian fisherman was apprehended or vessel seized. With figures from both these sources, it was possible to identify the number of fishermen or vessels - if any - held by the LTTE, he said.

T.S. Balasubramanian, Coast Guard Deputy Inspector-General, said that often, Indians were apprehended by the LTTE because they strayed close to the land on the other side. Fish-rich areas were on the other side, hence, it was natural for the fishermen to cross over there.

Though Coast Guard had taken up awareness campaigns, along the coast transgression of the maritime boundary continued.

Commodore Chitnavis said the Indian fishermen crossing over to the other side was a matter of concern to authorities on both sides.

The brown water force had made a few suggestions including developing industries along the coast and enriching inland fishing resources.

Another idea being floated was conferring of some kind of authority on Indian fishermen to fish in Sri Lankan waters. "This could be in the form of a licence which is given after payment of a fee to the Sri Lankan authorities."

Thanks to greater interaction between the Sri Lankan Navy and the Indian Coast Guard, the lives of three missing Sri Lankan fishermen could be saved, he said.

Earlier, Commodore Chitnavis inspected a guard of honour at the air station. He interacted with senior officers of the region and reviewed the operational preparedness of district headquarters and stations.

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