Northern fishermen denounce baits that promote mid-sea violenceView(s):
- Say India and Sri Lanka should hold immediate talks to find lasting solution to longstanding fishing dispute
By S. Rubatheesan
Their comment came in response to recent clashes between the fishermen of the two countries. The incidents took place a month after Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda made a statement on the occasion of donating seized Indian trawlers to Sri Lankan fishermen. He said the vessels were being given to the northern fishermen so that they could catch the poachers “if the Navy failed to do so.”
Since then at least two violent incidents have been reported with Indian fishermen claiming they were attacked by Sri Lankan fishermen.
“The Fisheries Minister is trying to gain political advantage by triggering mid-sea violence between Sri Lankan fishermen and Tamil Nadu fishermen. If not, how can he encourage local fishermen to take the law into their hands and attack Tamil Nadu fishermen when they enter Sri Lankan waters? What is the Navy doing?” asked A. Annarasa, leader of Kayts Fishermen Federation Jaffna.
One such incident took place when a Nagappatinam-based country craft that sailed with a crew of six was allegedly attacked by Sri Lanka’s northern fishermen on February 20. The Indian fishermen alleged ten Lankan fishermen who came in three boats attacked them and took away their equipment.
The Indian High Commission said it “has strongly taken up the recent attacks on Indian fishermen with Sri Lankan authorities. It has also asked the Sri Lankan government to investigate the matter and ensure that use of force and violence in any form are not resorted to against the fishermen.”
The matter was also raised when Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry met his Indian counterpart Dr S. Jaishankar early this week in New Delhi on the sidelines of an international conference.
Speaking at a meeting held at the Jaffna District Secretariat, Minister Devananda said that his Ministry in coordination with the Navy and Sri Lanka Coast Guard had decided to form a “Volunteer Unit” that consists of fishermen to ensure no poaching activities of Indian fishermen and other illegal activities in the Northern Sea.
Mullaitivu fishermen leader S. Arulnathan, a candidate contesting the upcoming polls from Mr. Devananda-led Eealm People Democratic Party said they had already forwarded names of twenty individuals for the unit.
Vadamarachchi North Fisherfolk Union Federation Chief N. Varnakulasingam told the Sunday Times that instead of playing with the lives and livelihood of fisher communities with politically loaded statements, both governments should intervene in this matter immediately and find a lasting solution.
“When we held talks in Kachchativu last year, the minister told us that he would find a solution to this issue before the next feast festival (2023). This time the minister came with his supporters, even his party candidates contesting the upcoming local polls, for talks. This was not acceptable to us,” he said.
Meanwhile, fisheries officials said that so far this year no Indian bottom trawlers or fishermen had been arrested.
In a related development, a group of Northern Parliamentarians took a collective decision last Sunday to oppose any attempts to allow Indian fishermen into Sri Lanka’s territorial waters when the war-affected northern fisherfolk were still struggling to put food on the table in the midst of the current economic crisis.
The decision was taken at a meeting organised by northern fishermen unions from Mullaithivu, Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mannar to urge them to take up their concerns in Parliament. The meeting was also attended by civil society representatives.
Tamil National Alliance parliamentarians M. A. Sumanthiran, S. Sritharan, D. Siddarthan, Selvam Adaikalantahan, and Jaffna district Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) parliamentarian Angajan Ramanathan took part in the meeting. It was decided at the meeting to write to President Ranil Wickremesinghe explaining why the Northern fishermen were opposed to Mr. Devananda’s controversial proposal to allow small Indian boats to engage in fishing in Sri Lanka’s waters under a licence system.
“We have also decided to request the government to implement laws related to the recently amended Regulations of Foreign Vessels Act. In addition, it was decided that the Northern MPs write a collective letter to Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister explaining the issue,” said Ahilan Kadirgamar, political economist and Jaffna University senior lecturer who took part in the meeting.
Drawing attention to the previous meetings of the Indo-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries and its decision that bottom trawling — an illegal fishing method banned in Sri Lanka and used by Indian fishermen — should not be permitted, the Northern fishermen stressed that any future talks should be held based on the decision reached by the two countries.
During the fifth meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group held on March 25 last year through virtual mode, “both sides discussed cooperation between Navy and Coast Guard of both countries in patrolling, the existing hotline between the Coast Guards and related operational matters including cooperation in tracking poaching, and prevention of environmental damage due to bottom trawling.”
The MPs’ collective statement also highlighted the initiatives taken by India’s Central and State governments to diversify livelihood options and reduce fishing pressure in the Palk Strait. It also noted that infrastructure has been created to facilitate deep-sea fishing and the promotion of alternative livelihood through seaweed cultivation, mariculture and several aquaculture activities.
The statement proposed a faster transition to sustainable fishing in the Palk Strait and also suggested that India could help Sri Lanka develop the aquaculture sector and the associated infrastructure in Northern Sri Lanka.
The best way to say that you found the home of your dreams is by finding it on Hitad.lk. We have listings for apartments for sale or rent in Sri Lanka, no matter what locale you're looking for! Whether you live in Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Matara, Jaffna and more - we've got them all!