Sri Lanka on Monday said it was not interested in detaining Indian fishermen for long but would put in place a strong deterrent, likely to be a fine for the 114 persons in custody, some of them for over two months.
This was conveyed by the island’s Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who sought the release of the fishermen on humanitarian grounds.
Mr. Peiris was here to invite Dr. Singh to the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit to be held in Colombo in November — the first time it is being held in Asia after 24 years.
The Sri Lankan Minister said on Sunday the detention-and-release system failed to deter Indian fishermen from entering his country’s waters, sometimes as close as 700 metres from the coast of Mullaitivu, Mannar and Point Pedro.
With Tamils from Sri Lanka’s Northern Province calling on Colombo to do something about the situation, the government decided to prosecute the arrested fishermen — a small proportion from those swarming into Sri Lankan waters daily.
Unmindful of satellite photos that show hundreds of Indian fishing boats crossing over the International Maritime Boundary Line, parties in Tamil Nadu have portrayed Indian fishermen as the aggrieved party who are set upon by the Sri Lankan Navy as they set out to the sea.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka says Indian fishermen got used to plying their trade in Sri Lankan waters during the decades when its Tamils of the Northern Province were not allowed to fish. Clashes started once Sri Lankan fishermen were allowed into the waters after the military defeat of the Tamil militants. Colombo says not only do Indian fishermen try to elbow Sri Lankans from their own waters, the matter is aggravated by the use of nylon nets and bottom trawling which cause damage to the seabed and the marine ecosystem. (The Hindu)