Dr. Kelegama stresses on dialogue to resolve Indian fishermen death row

Thursday, 6 November 2014 00:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters:  Sri Lankan expert Dr. Saman Kelegama said yesterday (5) that bilateral talks can settle the issue of death penalty given to five Indian fishermen in a drug smuggling case. Five Indian fishermen were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy in 2011 on charges of smuggling drugs and on October 30, the Colombo High Court held the five Indian fishermen guilty of drug trafficking. The arrest of the Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy has been a major topic of debate between the two nations. Kelegama said that the fishermen row has created conflict between India and Sri Lanka. “This is a thing that concerns both countries so we have to bilaterally settle this issue. You see neighbours always have problems whether in South Asia or in Latin America or wherever. This is a typical problem between two neighbours, which needs to be discussed bilaterally about fishermen crossing the maritime border and fishing in each other’s territory. It has to be sorted out,” said Kelegama in New Delhi. Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa earlier wrote several letters to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and present Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling for pressurising the Sri Lankan authorities to free fishermen detained in the country. Jayalalithaa in her letter to PM Modi had insisted on laying down a time-bound action plan in a bid to achieve a long-term permanent solution to the problem, reports said. Meanwhile, State Unit President of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tamil Nadu, Tamilisai Soundararajan said that the High Commissioner was in touch with the fishermen. “The Government is taking legal steps to release the fishermen and also on humanitarian grounds our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka has met them personally and has assured them they can talk with their relatives, given some clothing to them. When they requested that they have to meet relatives, it was assured that arrangements will be made,” said Soundararajan. India shares an expansive oceanic border with Sri Lanka without any perceptible demarcation and fishermen on both sides ignore rules while netting their catch. Fishermen from both the countries frequently stray into each other’s territory and end up spending years in their jails. Sri Lanka says poaching and illegal fishing by Indian fishermen depletes the catches of its own fishermen and the arrests have caused friction with Tamil Nadu.