Sri Lanka arrests 24 fishermen

The number of arrested fishermen has gone up to 78

Twenty-four more Indian fishermen were arrested by the Sri Lanka Coast Guard and Navy near Talaimannar on Monday night for allegedly entering territorial waters of Sri Lanka and fishing illegally.

Four fishing boats have been impounded.

With this, the number of arrested fishermen has gone up to 78 and that of impounded boats to 38.

On the eve of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to India a month ago, 16 Indian fishermen were released by the Sri Lankan authorities.

Debate in Parliament

Only on Friday last, the Sri Lankan Parliament debated the alleged poaching by Indian fishermen, and members, cutting across political affiliations, expressed their dismay over the damage being caused by the use of trawlers.

A group of representatives of fishermen’s organisations from the Northern Province argued that after the end of the Eelam War in May 2009, the illegal entry of Indian trawlers created problems for the fishing community of the province on a “big scale.”

In a statement, Noor Mohamed Alaam, Anthonipillai Emilaspillai and Joseph Francis, chairpersons of fishermen’s cooperative societies of Mannar, Jaffna and Killinochchi districts respectively, claimed that on an average, 1,000 to 1,500 Indian trawlers were engaged in illegal fishing for three days a week, and they had taken away marine resources to the tune of several hundreds of crores of rupees.

3 teenagers

D.J. Walter Scott reports from Rameswaram

The fishermen who were arrested on Monday had ventured into the sea from the jetty here along with other fishermen in 657 boats. They were fishing off Katchatheevu when the Lankan Navy arrested them around 8.30 p.m., reports received here said.

Twenty-one fishermen and three teenagers aged between 13 and 14 years were produced before a Magistrate court in Mannar on Tuesday and remanded in judicial custody till October 28, U Arulanandham, president of the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) said.

The fishermen were lodged in a prison in Vavuniya, while the boys in a school for juveniles, he added. Those arrested included Sesu Arulanandam, who owned one of the four confiscated boats, he said.

Expressing concern over the latest arrest, leaders of 11 fishermen associations met here and adopted a resolution, urging the State and Central governments to secure the release of all the fishermen and their boats from the Sri Lankan custody at the earliest.

They have resolved to strike work and launch an agitation against the Modi government if the fishermen were not released with their boats at the earliest, P Sesu Raja, a fishermen leader said.