The on-going issue of South Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters took a new turn yesterday when six Indian nationals without any travel documents were escorted into Sri Lankan territorial waters by the Indian Navy ignoring Sri Lankan immigration procedures.
They came to Jaffna to attend a funeral of a relative who had died under mysterious circumstances off the northern waters earlier this week.
They arrived at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital later for the identification and postmortem proceedings of the fisherman who had gone missing with three others early this week.
|Kayts’ Acting Magistrate S.A.E Ekanathan conducting the inquiry on the death of the Indian fisherman whose body was found floating in Sri Lankan waters. Also in the picture are some of the dead fisherman’s relatives who came to Jaffna without going through the normal immigration procedures. Pic by N. Parameswaran
The relatives had been handed over by the Indian Navy to the Sri Lankan Navy off the Delft islet before they were escorted to the hospital by the Sri Lanka Police to remove the body. They were due to take the body last evening with them. But they decided to cremate the body in Jaffna due to the state of decomposition.
The episode brought about heightened tension in the northern capital as poaching by Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters has become a volatile issue in the area in recent weeks.
The dead fisherman was identified as Xavier Victorz.
Immigration Controller Chulananda Perera told the Sunday Times that no permission had been granted to either the Indian Navy or the Indian fishermen to enter Sri Lanka without valid documents. “I am not aware of this arrangement. If they come without a visa, it is a violation of our immigration laws,” he said.
No action has been taken however by the Sri Lankan authorities against the intruders, the Sunday Times learns.
The visit by the Indian nationals came as politicians in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu this week expressed concerns about the four missing fishermen and blamed the Sri Lanka Navy for their disappearance, a claim denied by the Navy.
The issue of Indian fishermen being killed by the Sri Lanka Navy has become a major campaign topic in Tamil Nadu on the eve of the hotly contested state assembly elections on Wednesday.
Ruling Indian Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi campaigning in the state for the party's regional ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) lashed out at Sri Lanka for previous killings of Tamil Nadu fishermen as well as the treatment of Sri Lankan Tamils by the Sri Lankan government. Colombo has decided to ask for a clarification on the statement from New Delhi.
“It is the Navy which found the body. We were not involved in the incident,” a senior Sri Lankan naval officer said yesterday.
The fisherman’s body was found five nautical miles off Sri Lanka’s northern coast by a Navy patrol and handed over to the Kayts Police which in turn handed over the body to the Jaffna hospital for a postmortem.
Kayts Magistrate Joy Mahadeva who earlier visited the Kayts hospital for the Magisterial inquiry was informed by the Jaffna police that a group of relatives from India were coming to identify the body. The postmortem examination was conducted by Jaffna JMO S. Sivaruban.
According to initial tests, the body had injuries, including nail mark injuries, on the upper part. Vital organs of the body are due to be sent to Colombo for pathological tests.
The victim's brother Xavier Luma told the magisterial inquiry yesterday that on April 2 the day on which his brother went missing, he was also at sea, and saw a large boat approaching the boat in which his brother was fishing.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Navy has so far failed to locate four of its sailors who went missing two weeks ago off Chalai in the northern waters. “We have not been able to get any clue about the missing sailors,” a senior officer at Navy headquarters said.The four Indian fishermen from Rameshwaran had gone missing some 10 days after the four sailors had gone missing.
The Navy’s Northern Commander S.M.B. Weerasekara has been transferred to take over as the Commandant of the Volunteer Naval Force.