Sri Lanka frees all Indian fishermen

Saturday, 19 February 2011 01:39 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The 136 Indian fishermen arrested and remanded earlier this week for straying into Sri Lankan waters were released by a Jaffna court on Friday, the Hindustan Times reported.

It was learnt that the fishermen and their 25 seized trawlers will be escorted to the international maritime border line (IMBL) later this evening by the Sri Lankan navy. From the IMBL Indian Coast Guard ships were expected to take over and escort them back home.

The 136 fishermen were intercepted in two batches by Lankan fishermen operating off the Jaffna coast on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was possibly for the first time that local fishermen themselves had taken the law into their own hands arrested the Indian fishermen and handed them over to the police in the coastal town of Point Pedro.

The Indian government was in touch with the Lankan authorities to secure their release over the last few days but the local court remanded them in 14 days of judicial custody. The procedure to release them was further hampered because of two public holidays in the middle of this week.

Meanwhile, in Jaffna, a group ethnic Tamil fishermen, said both India and Sri Lanka were interested in seeking political mileage out of the issue, the TamilNet website reported.

Quoting anonymous sources, TamilNet said: "… in Maathakal and Vadamaraadchi East (in Jaffna) intruding Indian fishermen had attacked local fishermen Thursday when they attempted to confront the poaching vessels.’’

In an earlier report The Hindu said External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has spoken to his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris to secure the release of 142 Indian fishermen arrested by the island Navy over the past few days.

"I am hopeful that the Sri Lankan Government will take all necessary steps to release all Indian fishermen,’’ he told journalists here after a telephonic conversation with Peiris on Thursday. "Both governments must sort out the issue amicably,’’ he said.

"I have also conveyed my deep regret that Sri Lankan nationals and Sri Lankan fishermen have taken [the] law into their own hands and confronted our fishermen," he said adding there was no justification for fishermen to stray into Sri Lankan waters. Sri Lankan fishermen have also to be "very cautious’’ when they are getting into Indian waters. "Nevertheless, in the light of the bilateral relationship which has always been cordial, I think it is necessary that all of us must help to defuse the situation. I have suggested that the fishermen be released."