Fishermen’s arrest unacceptable, India tells Sri Lanka

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NEW DELHI - India Wednesday expressed serious concern over the fate of its fishermen, allegedly apprehended by Sri Lankan Navy, and said it has been conveyed to the Sri Lankan government that such actions by its navy were unacceptable.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told TV channels’ editors during an interaction here that the arrest of 118 fishermen on 18 trawlers by the Sri Lankan Navy has been taken up with Colombo and it was also conveyed that this sort of behaviour was not acceptable among neighbourly nations.

“We are taking up this matter with the Sri Lankan government. We take a serious view (of what has happened),” he said.

“I think only this month the foreign secretary was sent to make a strong demarche to the Sri Lankan government that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable among neighbourly countries,” Singh added.

Later in the day, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, responding to a query on the attacks on Indian fishermen, said the issue was a matter of concern for the government and that it was constantly monitoring the situation.

“Our government is very much concerned about the fate of Indian fishermen,” Antony told reporters on the sidelines of a South Asian security conference.

“We are constantly monitoring the developments there. We are taking the issue with Sri Lankan government. We are in constant touch with Colombo,” he said, when asked about the recent killing of Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu when they entered the Sri Lankan waters.

“We will do everything possible to protect the interests of Indian fishermen,” he said.

At another event, navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, replying to a query on the same issue, said: “The issue was highlighted during the visit of the Sri Lankan president also. The joint working group on fisheries is supposed to address these issues and that is the way to resolve it.”

Sri Lanka has said it took the Indian fishermen into custody after they strayed into Sri Lankan waters.

The arrest of the fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy has turned into a major political issue in Tamil Nadu, with the ruling DMK, a component of the United Progressive Alliance government, holding a massive protest in Chennai and over 2,000 party workers courting arrests, seeking the fishermen’s release by Sri Lanka.

The DMK protest march towards the Sri Lankan consulate in Chennai was stopped by the police, who also arrested over 2,000 party workers, including MPs and legislators.

Among those arrested were DMK Rajya Sabha member Kanimohzi, daughter of party president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, and Lok Sabha member T.K.S. Elangovan.

Condemning the arrests of fishermen that allegedly took place Tuesday night, Kanimozhi said attacks on Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka continued despite several steps taken by the Tamil Nadu and the central governments.

She demanded the immediate release of the detained fishermen.

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