BY SULOCHANA RAMIAH MOHAN
Most of the mechanised fishing boats that poach in Sri Lankan waters are owned by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) TR Baalu and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s resident friend Sasi Kala, claimed Bharatiyia Janata Party (BJP) senior politician Dr. Subramanian Swamy.
Dr. Swamy has made that observation in a letter to Prime Minister Narenda Modi yesterday upon information that Jayalalithaa in distress had sent a letter to Modi on Tuesday claiming that Dr. Swamy had in a televised media interview stated it was he who advised the Sri Lankan Government not to release the boats of Tamil Nadu fishermen.
Dr. Swamy’s letter stated, “Since fishermen’s association in Tamil Nadu had given me a petition seeking the release of fishermen from Tamil Nadu caught in Sri Lankan territorial waters, the reason I did not press for the release of those mechanized fishing boats that encroached the Sri Lankan waters, was because they are mostly owned by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) TR Baalu and Jayalalitha’s resident friend Sasi Kala.
Dr. Swamy’s letter further stated, “Since they are empowered and rich persons and did not petition me anyway, I concentrated on the release on poor unprotected fishermen.” “My success in doing so has rattled Jayalalitha who had made a business of the plight of fishermen by doing nothing about it writing letters to you, and earlier to Manmohan Singh, and releasing it to the press,” Swamy added.
Swamy added, “She also sees this success as threatening her political position in the Assembly elections due in 2017.”
“In the past elections, she had appropriated to herself dishonestly as her achievement my hard work such as on Mulla Periyar Dam, Thevar Statue in Parliament and the 2G Spectrum Scam. She has even claimed that she saved the Rama Setu! The disinformation let loose in her controlled media was successful because I did not challenge her on this misappropriation of credit for the work I had done.” Swamy urged Modi’ to see that BJP fights the 2017 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu alone as we did in West Bengal and make the flag of India fly high in the State again after the Shri Kamaraj tenure’.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a copy of which was released to the media, the Chief Minister Jeyalalitha pointed to a televised interview of the BJP leader on 1 September. “It is particularly distressing that a senior member of the BJP has, in a televised media interview, stated it was he who advised the Sri Lankan Government not to release the boats of Tamil Nadu fishermen. This statement of Swamy has given rise to resentment and angst not only among the fishing community but also among people of Tamil Nadu,” she said.
She expressed confidence that Swamy’s remarks were not the official views of the BJP or the Union Government. State BJP Chief Tamilisai Soundararajan said Swamy’s comments pertaining to release of Indian fishermen’s boats were ‘spoiling the efforts’ of the party and the Centre to resolve the problems of fisherfolk. “I have reported the matter to the party high command,” she said adding, Swamy’s statement is not the official line of the BJP. “We have made progress in the fishermen’s issue as meetings have been held and the PMO has also stepped in to facilitate talks between officials from both countries”.
In the last two months, 319 fishermen from Tamil Nadu were arrested by the Lankan naval personnel, who seized 62 fishing boats as well. “Due to the efforts of your government at the Centre, all 319 fishermen have been released. Unfortunately, the 62 fishing boats continue to be in Sri Lankan custody,” the Chief Minister said. The Sri Lankan Government’s inhumane and cruel strategy of not releasing the boats is causing loss of livelihood to fishermen and their families. The desperate fishermen are resorting to protests and strikes, the Chief Minister said.
The Tamil Nadu Government raised the issue of these boats at the recent meeting held on the Indo-Sri Lanka joint committee on fisheries in New Delhi on August 29. Jayalalithaa also urged the Prime Minister to intervene and secure the safe release of 15 fishermen arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy in the last two days, and all 63 boats, including the one seized on Monday.