Sri Lanka denies it fired at Indian fishermen

B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka government on Tuesday categorically denied media reports alleging that two fishermen from Nagapattinam on the south Indian coast were killed while fishing off Point Calimere on July 11 due to firing by the Sri Lanka Navy. A third fisherman is reported to have suffered injuries in the same incident.

“When reports of this nature are received, a rigorous procedure is instituted by Naval Headquarters in Colombo, in keeping with the firm resolve of the Government of Sri Lanka to deal in a humanitarian manner with fishermen apprehended in Sri Lankan waters. The procedure includes Naval Headquarters ascertaining from the Area Commands as to whether any vessels of the Navy were involved in operations in the area of the alleged incident, as per the reported date and time. The preliminary findings in this case are that there were no Naval units operating on the Sri Lanka side of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in the area off Point Calimere on 11th July,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It did concede that there was an incident that same night at 21.10 hours at a completely different location, approximately eight nautical miles of Point Pedro when two Sri Lanka Navy fast attack craft deployed on a routine patrol detected on their radar, a boat moving in a suspicious manner at a high speed. It maintained that the night vision cameras of the Navy vessels “discerned the suspicious craft as having the configuration of an LTTE low profile boat.”

The Ministry claimed that when the suspect boat failed to respond to warnings to halt, the Naval craft were constrained to open fire and said the Government of Sri Lanka is ready to share with the Indian Naval authorities the video pictures of the suspicious boat.

The statement maintained that it is important to “remain mindful that there is a track record” of the LTTE attacking Indian fishermen and one such incident attested by the press release issued on April 27 by the Director General of Police of the State of Tamil Nadu, relates to the massacre of five Indian fishermen from Kanyakumari on March 29 by an LTTE vessel.

“The possibility of the incident off Point Calimere having taken place due to similar LTTE action cannot be ruled out, especially because the following day (12th July) there were reports of Indian fishermen in the same waters having been manhandled.

“The LTTE hopes to derive a double advantage by staging such attacks. Firstly, it seeks to place pressure on innocent fishermen to associate themselves with the nefarious activities of the Tigers. Secondly, it endeavours to falsely implicate the Sri Lanka Navy, with a view to damaging the excellent bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka. However, in view of the tragic loss of life of the two Indian fishermen, the Government of Sri Lanka is continuing its inquiries into this incident,” the Foreign Ministry said.

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