Sri Lanka yesterday rejected a demand by the Tamil Nadu government for the early release of 23 fishermen arrested by the Navy off Mannar and called for a ‘reciprocal’ response to consider the early release of the Indians.
Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne told the Sunday Times the Tamil Nadu government’s request could be considered only if 62 Sri Lankan fishermen languishing in Indian custody were released.
“Whenever Indian fishermen are arrested in Sri Lanka there are protests by Tamil Nadu, but our fishermen have never held protests demanding their early release. If our fishermen start protesting will they respond?” Dr. Senaratne asked.
He said that some of the Lankan fishermen had been in custody for more than a year and they were facing court cases. “If the Indian government shows a gesture of goodwill, we are also ready to respond in a similar manner,” he said.
On Friday India released 16 Lankan fishermen after they were held for two months.
The minister’s remarks came against the backdrop of angry demonstrations by fishermen in the southern Indian state and the state’s Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa sending a protest note to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding the speedy release of the fishermen.
The 23 Indian fishermen arrested by the Navy have been remanded till July 1.
This week security was stepped up around the Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commission office in Chennai, SriLankan airlines office, the Bank of Ceylon and the pilgrims rest in Chennai.
Meanwhile this week a Tamil Nadu Court further remanded five Sri Lankan fishermen who had intruded into Indian waters.