Monk calls off fast after telephone call from Perth

Presidential secretary gives assurance that prompt action will be taken to secure the release of 6 fishermen languishing in an Indian jail for 20 months
By Padma Kumari Kankanamge

A telephone call from a senior government official attending the Commonwealth summit in Perth, Western Australia has prompted the four Buddhist monks in Kalpitiya to call off a five-day fast unto death.
Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga spoke to Kalpitiya’s Samudrasanna Viharaya Chief Incumbent Ven Bendiwewe Diyasena Thera, who initiated the fast five days ago and asked him to call it off assuring him that prompt action would be taken to secure the release of the six Sri Lankan fishermen being held in Indian custody.

The call that was made to the mobile phone of North Western Province Fisheries Minister Sanath Nishantha, who was present at the scene of the fast was handed over to Ven. Bendiwewe Diyasena Thera.

Mr. Nishantha told the Sunday Times that Mr. Weeratunga promised to secure the release of the fishermen within the next three months, adding that he would join the protest if the promise was not fulfilled.

Ven Bendiwewe Diyasena Thera and another monk began their fast on October 25. Two other monks along with villagers also joined them on Friday.

The six fishermen from Kalpitiya have been held in India for the past 20 months, for entering Indian territorial waters while fishing off the seas of Trincomalee in January, 2010.

Ven. Bendiwewa Diyasena Thera said that he wanted the authorities to intervene to have these people released as soon as possible, as they had not committed an offence that warranted this kind of punishment.

The fishermen Sanath Prithi Kumara (31), his brother Muthukumara (30), J.A. Sheron (26), W.R. Sri Lal (21), Sanjiva Fernando (23) and Ajith Appuhamy (44) are all married and have 21 dependents among them.

Sanath’s wife Enoka said that they had appealed to everyone from a Pradeshiya Sabha member to the President about the plight of the fishermen but nothing had been done to bring the men home. She said the men were being held under very poor conditions.

The owner of the boat, R.P. Rathnaweera said that, although he had sent two men to India to look into the welfare of the fishermen, the matter remains unresolved.

Meanwhile the families of the fishermen said they were angered by allegations made by a government politico who claimed that the monks were protesting after taking money from the families.

Denying the allegations they said although they collected money to enable Ven Bendiwewe Diyasena Thera to go to India in August to visit the fishermen in captivity, the monk had never demanded any money from them.

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