Sri Lankan PM hopeful of resolving fishing issue with India
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Thursday expressed hope that the fishermen issue with India would be resolved as talks were going on at different levels, even as more than 40 Indian fishermen have been arrested by Lankan Navy this month.
Colombo: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Thursday expressed hope that the fishermen issue with India would be resolved as talks were going on at different levels, even as more than 40 Indian fishermen have been arrested by Lankan Navy this month.
Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayake asked the Prime Minister if moves were underway to allow fishing by Indian trawlers limited to a number of days per week or by a restricted zone in the north eastern seas.
Wickremesinghe, while answering an opposition query in the parliament, said that around 1,000 Indian trawlers were illegally fishing in the country's waters using bottom trawling techniques which is very harmful to the fishing resource.
"We have received various proposals to end this dispute. The main objective is to put a stop to bottom trawling. We cannot allow our fishing resources to be plundered. At the moment there are around 130-140 boats in our custody. We may return the fishermen but we can't release their boats.
"We will seek the views of the northern fishermen as to how we could resolve this issue. We can't be seen to be doing anything against their wishes," Wickremesinghe said.
Foreign Ministers of India and Sri Lanka had discussed the issue while the Navies of the two countries have also tried to resolve the issue through their periodical talks. The Joint Commission meeting between the two countries was also to take up this issue as a priority, Wickremesinghe said, adding that talks were going on at different levels.
Dissanayake was unhappy with the Prime Minister's explanation that family ties between the two countries among the people in the area had led to this issue. He was citing the restrictions placed by India to curb the Pakistani illegal fishing on the Indian side of the waters and demanding such action from the Sri Lankan government vis a vis India.
Sixteen Tamil Nadu fishermen were arrested by Sri Lankan naval personnel yesterday when they were fishing near Katchatheevu, the fourth such incident this week. With this, the number of fishermen arrested for allegedly fishing in Lankan territorial waters have gone up to 44 since July 3.
On July 5, 17 fishermen from Nagapattinam were arrested for allegedly fishing in Lankan territorial waters, while six fishermen from Pamban in Ramanathapuram district were arrested the previous day. Five fishermen were arrested on Sunday.