Following a massive protest in Jaffna this week against Indian fishermen’s poaching in Lankan waters, a delegation of fishermen from the North is due to meet the Fisheries Minister tomorrow to voice their concerns and difficulties they are facing due to the activities of Indian trawlers, a fishermen’s organisation leader said.
Jaffna Fishermen’s Association leader Naganathy Ponnambalam told the Sunday Times that his association members will be reiterating their decision to boycott the next round of talks between the fishermen of the two countries.
He said since the local fishermen can’t find a good catch due to excessive trawling by Indian fishermen, they are hoping to request the minister to give them rations in the meantime to support their families.
The issue of poaching figured during recent talks between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi. The Indian Premier wanted the issue to be resolved between the fishermen of the two countries.
At least ten leaders of fishermen’s organisations representing the fisherfolk in the region will be taking part in the talks with Fisheries Minister Amaraweera tomorrow morning.
Fifteen fishermen’s organisations of Jaffna District staged a protest on Wednesday demanding the Government act immediately to protect their livelihood from illegal poaching by Indian fishermen.
The protest which started from the Office of the Fisheries Department Additional Director marched towards the Government Secretariat and ended in front of the Indian Consulate General in Jaffna. Around 3,000 took part in the protest.
The fishermen had handed over a memorandum to the Indian Consul General A.Natarajan and Jaffna Government Agent N. Vedhanayagam.
In that petition the fishermen asked the Indian Government to make sure that Indian fishermen should not poach in Lankan waters which is the only primary source for the Lankan fishermen.
According to the fishermen the Indian Consul General told them that he will take up the matter with the officials in New Delhi.
When the protest was scheduled to be held on Wednesday, the Navy arrested six Indian fishermen from Nagapattinam along with two boats for poaching in the early hours.This arrest comes days after the arrest of another batch of fifteen Indian fishermen and seizure of their two boats.
The fifteen fishermen were remanded till October 6 by the Point Pedro Magistrate while the six fishermen were produced before the Kayts Court Magistrate and remanded till October 8.
Days after the arrests of the Indian fishermen Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa wrote a letter to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take “positive and concrete steps” to secure the immediate release of the arrested fishermen.
The Chief Minister asked Prime Minister Modi to “find suitable mechanisms to resolve this long pending fishing dispute between India and Sri Lanka by retrieving Katchathivu and restoring the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen.”
“As I have reiterated on several occasions my Government strongly believes that the unconstitutional Indo-Sri Lankan Agreements of 1974 and 1976 should be nullified and the traditional rights of our fishermen restored at the earliest.” she said in the letter.
Fisheries Ministry Director General M.C.L.Fernando told the Sunday Times that the Government stand on the Palk Bay conflict is that it will continue to try to find a reasonable solution with the help of the fishermen of the two countries.
“We understand our fishermen’s recent decision to boycott the next round of talks. The Indian side has to initiate the talks since they are very much part of the issue,” he said.
Mr. Fernando said while both governments are viewing this issue from a humanitarian perspective, both governments should consider the political angle to find a lasting solution