fishermen  A day after the State government reminded the Centre that the second round of talks between fishermen representatives of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka could take place in Colombo only if 177 fishermen and their 44 boats in Lankan custody were freed, the island nation blinked and announced their release on Wednesday.

However, since the announcement was made at the eleventh hour, the talks were postponed and could now be held later in March.

With Lanka freeing 116 fishermen and 26 boats on Wednesday, there was ample indication that Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s firm stand had forced its hand. Fishermen representatives in coastal districts welcomed the release and hailed the consistent stand of the CM. “For the talks to be held in a cordial atmosphere, release of all fishermen is necessary,” they said.

Once the release of Tamil Nadu fishermen is completed, the State is likely to take further steps to resume the talks.

The State government wrote to the Ministry of External Affairs on March 11 reiterating that the next round of talks would be held only if all fishermen in Lanka are freed immediately.

Lankan Director of Fisheries, Nimal Hettiarachchi, told Express that his government had suggested March 25 as the alternative date. According to other sources, Tamil Nadu had suggested March 18. The two sides are expected to agree on March 25.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Lankan Attorney General’s Office, which filed cases against the fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, issued orders to withdraw cases against all the 177 detained fishermen. The cases relating to 44 boats were also withdrawn. But this left little time for the Indian delegation to visit the neighbouring country. Sources said Lankan officials asked Jaffna fishermen, who were ready for the talks, to return home.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka received the list of those who would participate in the talks  from India — 18 fishermen and three officials from Tamil Nadu; and six fishermen and two officials from Puducherry. (New Indian Express)

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