Chennai: Seeking to create a favourable atmosphere for the proposed meeting of fishermen associations of India and Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today directed the release of Lankan fishermen lodged in prison in the state and sought that their Indian counterparts jailed in that country also be freed by January 13.
The state government had already sought the Centre to press Sri Lanka to release Tamil Nadu fishermen languishing in jails in that country to ensure a favourable atmosphere for the January 20 talks, she said in a statement here.
Tamil Nadu government had in a letter on December 23 last year told the Centre that the meeting could be arranged in Chennai, besides sending the list of participants from state government and the fishermen representatives in the meeting.
"I had mentioned this and told Prim Minister Manmohan Singh in a letter dated December 30, 2013 that when effots were being made (in the state) for ensuring a favourable atmosphere for the talks, arrest of Indian fishermen (by Lankan Navy) was not proper and sought for their release," she said.
The Centre was subsequently making arrangements for the meeting now, she said, adding, state fisheries officials had held dicussions with the central government authorities and pressed for release of Indian fishermen.
The Centre had informed the state government officials that Sri Lanka will take steps for the release of the fishermen from January 13 and sought a similar gesture and release 179 Lankan fishermen apprehended by the Coast Guard and jailed in Tamil Nadu, she said.
"Therefore, I have directed the authorities to take steps for the release of the Sri Lankan fishermen. Based on this, 275 Tamil Nadu fishermen will be released in a day or two. In this favourable situation, talks between fishermen of India and Sri Lanka will be held in Chennai on January 20. My government will as usual work towards ensuring the traditional rights of fishermen," she said.
Jayalalithaa recalled she had earlier written to Singh seeking approval for conducting such a meeting in Chennai even as she said the Centre was yet to disclose the results of a similar meeting held in 2011.