Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam Saturday said the state government has been informed that Sri Lanka has agreed to free 66 fishermen in its custody but not their boats and asked the Centre to take up the issue with the island nation.
The External Affairs Ministry informed the state government that when the latter's offer to release 30 Lankan fishermen from Tamil Nadu prisons along with their boats was conveyed to the island government, it agreed to release 66 fishermen from the state but not their 81 boats, Panneerselvam said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Lankan government was pursuing a "sinister" strategy of depriving fishermen families in Tamil Nadu of their source of livelihood, he said and urged Modi to immediately take up once again the issue of release of the fishing boats.
However, Tamil Nadu government would go ahead with the release of all 30 Sri Lankan fishermen and their 19 boats, currently in its custody, on December 22 "in view of the approaching Christmas festival in a spirit of accommodation and magnanimity and as a humanitarian gesture," Panneerselvam said.
It requested the Centre to ensure that the island government also released the state's fishermen and their boats so that they can also return home in time for Christmas.