Lanka seeks early release of detained fishermen


The authorities yesterday were hopeful that some 11 Sri Lankan fishermen being held in India would be released at the earliest after the Government decided to free 23 Indian fishermen arrested earlier this week while poaching in the country’s territorial waters.

A top Fisheries Ministry official said the Lankans were being held at a detention centre in Andhra Pradesh after they had been released from jail on June 02 and July 13. They paid a fine of Rs. 370,000 to secure their release.
“But they continue to be detained at this centre because the authorities in Delhi are yet to give the final approval for their release. We hope the Indian authorities will expedite their release and reciprocate Sri Lanka’s gesture,” he said.
An Indian High Commission spokesperson, however, said the release was being delayed because there were procedures to be followed.

He said that unlike in Sri Lanka, laws and regulations differed from state to state and therefore their were complications and delays.

Prasad Kariyawasam, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in New Delhi, was quoted in the Indian media as saying the two countries should get involved in joint sea patrols in the Palk Straits to overcome this sensitive issue of poaching on both sides of the Palk Straits.

He said that those protesting over the recent arrest of Indian fishermen caught poaching in Sri Lankan waters must understand the seriousness of the issue instead of seeking political mileage.India’s National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon joined a host of South Indian politicians in calling for the release of the Indian fishermen on humanitarian grounds citing the friendly ties between the two countries.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jeyaram Jayalalitha accused the Sri Lankan navy of harassing Indian fishermen on a regular basis and urged the centre to take stern action.

Navy spokesperson Kosala Warnakulasuriya said officers on the patrol boats had been given clear instructions to deal only with the poachers and smugglers.

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