MDMK urges Union govt. to ‘deal toughly’ with Sri Lanka on fishermen issue

TAMIL NADU (The Hindu) – Arresting fishermen from Tamil Nadu appears to be a “routine” affair for the Sri Lankan Navy along the Palk Bay region and to put a permanent end to it, the Union government should deal toughly with the island nation and ensure the livelihood of fishers from the State was protected, said Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam principal secretary Durai Vaiko on Sunday.

In a statement, he said the lives of many fishers’ had been ruined due to the frequent arrests by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel on charges of poaching. The Naval authorities had also impounded their boats, fish nets and other gadgets, which had pushed them to severe economic loss.
After languishing as remand prisoners in Sri Lanka, they managed to get bail and return home. For the daily wage earners, it had been a harrowing experience and they were unable to come out of the trauma. The families were also in great trouble and poverty stricken due to the breadwinners’ arrest.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, when many sectors had suffered, the fisheries industry too had faced setbacks. Under such circumstances, the Union government should play a bigger role in ensuring jobs for the fishers and also give an undertaking that there would not be any more arrests, Mr. Durai Vaiko said. “If retrieving Katchatheevu may be the only solution, the Union government should explore the possibilities with a fresh perspective,” he added.

When India had been very helpful to Sri Lanka, especially, after the economic crisis faced by them, the neighbour should reciprocate equally. Moreover, the Tamil Nadu government led by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin had voluntarily despatched essential goods worth several crores of rupees to Sri Lankans by sea and air as a gesture to the people who were suffering from hunger due to the crisis last year. Hence, it would be just and genuine for the Sri Lankan government to be friendly, especially with the fishermen from Tamil Nadu.

He appealed to the Union government to open up the diplomatic channels at the highest level and find a permanent solution to the issue immediately as a majority of the fishers were facing hardships and undergoing stress due to the unsafe conditions prevailing in the mid-seas. Though the Sri Lankan government had released the 22 fishermen arrested on Saturday, he called for a permanent solution.