New Delhi, Colombo neglect NPC participation in resolving fisheries dispute in Historical Waters

[TamilNet, Saturday, 05 November 2016, 22:53 GMT]
The Fisheries Ministry of occupying Sri Lanka was exerting pressure on representatives of fisheries societies in North, when they were taken to New Delhi for a ‘high level’ meeting on 02 November. The fishermen representatives from North were told to cooperate with the suggestion from New Delhi of allowing Indian fishermen entry to the seas off Northern province for three consecutive years. The fishing society members were also asked to sign on a document, which they have declined. In the meantime, Colombo's ministers were discussing the issue with their counterparts at a ‘ministerial-level’ meeting in New Delhi on Saturday. In both the meetings, the Northern Provincial Council, which has a specific ministry for Fisheries, has been completely sidelined, according to the fishermen’s representatives who took part in the meeting at New Delhi on 02 November.

Tamil Nadu State Government’s Minister of Fisheries, Mr Jeyakumar, participated at the meeting along with representatives of fisheries societies in Tamil Nadu on 02 November.

On Saturday, SL Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, SL Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amraweera and Indian Minister of Agriculture Radha Monhan Singh were discussing the issue at a ‘ministerial-level’ meeting in New Delhi. Colombo-based TNA politician M.A. Sumanthiran, was also present at this meeting.

Initial proposal from New Delhi on 02 November was that the fishermen in the Northern province should agree to a plan allowing Indian trawlers to engage in fishing in the Historic Waters, at least for a 3-year-term and that the Indian fishermen would be asked to transform their means of fishing to be compatible to the practices in the waters off Northern province during the transition period.

The proposal was completely rejected by the fishermen societies from North. The fishermen representatives from North were in total objection to the techniques deployed by the Indian trawlers.

Reiterating that the war-affected Tamil-fishermen in North were not opposed to the poverty-stricken Tamil Nadu fishermen, the representatives of fisheries societies from North said Tamil Nadu fishermen who get arrested by the SL Navy in the territorial waters of Eezham Tamils should be released within 24 hours.

However, the fishing trawlers that engage environment-destructive ‘bottom trawling’ should not be returned back, they said. These vessels often belong to wealthy businessmen, who are also politicians, the fishermen society representatives said.

V. Thavachelvam, K. Subramaniyam, S Arulthas and K. Rajachandran from Jaffna district, Antony Amirnathar, Rajan Marc Jesunesan and Noor Mohammed Alam from Mannaar, Jude Constas and Mariyathas Antonypillai from Mullaiththeevu and Joseph Francis from Ki’linochchi were the representatives who were taken to the meeting in New Delhi. They were representing the fishing societies in all the four districts with coastal access in the Northern province.

While facing immense problems from the Sinhala militarisation taking place along the eastern coast from Kokku'laay to Vadamaraadchi East, the fishermen from North have been confronted by the intruding fishermen from Tamil Nadu, who engage in bottom-trawling which destroys fishing nets of Eezham Tamil fishermen along with causing extensive damage to the fishing ecosystem in the seas off Jaffna. The bottom-trawling is prohibited in the island.

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