Sri Lankan fishermen stick to stand

Fishing boatSticking to their uncompromising position against the use of mechanised bottom trawlers in Sri Lankan waters, fishermen federations across the island have conveyed to the Sri Lankan government their “unanimous rejection” of demands of Tamil Nadu’s fishermen.

Albert Justin Soysa, president of the Mannar District Fishermen’s Federation in the Northern Province and a key participant in the talks with the Indian fishermen, told The Hindu on Sunday morning that presidents and secretaries of all the district fishermen’s federations met top officials of the Fisheries department twice last week and explained their stand. They also discussed the matter with Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera.

On Friday, the Sri Lankan authorities released 37 Nagapattinam fishermen, who spent 41 days in Sri Lankan jail on the orders of President Maithripala Sirisena.

A senior official in the Fisheries’ Ministry says the government has been against all types of trawling in Sri Lankan waters.

“There is no change,” he says, adding that his Ministry will follow up with other departments before a formal response is sent to the Indian government.

Two rounds of talks were held this year between the fishermen on either side of the Palk Strait. The Tamil Nadu fishermen’s chief demand was that they be allowed for fishing 83 days a year for three years.

Naganathy Ponnambalam, 78-year-old leader of the Jaffna District Fishermen’s Federation, says that even now 5,000 trawlers are active, which all come from the Indian side. “If you grant the three-year grace period, the strength of trawlers will go up, at least three times.” (The Hindu)

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