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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2705

Call for the removal of restriction to fish in the Palk Bay region

Colombo, 11 August, ( Call for the immediate removal of the restriction to fish in the Palk Bay sea region is gathering momentum, as the security situation along the country’s Northwest coastline is gradually stabilizing immediately after Mannar district falls under the Government control. The restriction to fish in the Palk Bay region was imposed on 27 March 2006, and the sea region was declared a security Zone.

Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services Abdul Risath Bathiutien, who is also the District MP for Vanni representing Mannar, while congratulating President Mahinda Rajapakse for liberating the entire Mannar district from the LTTE’s clutches, also appealed to the President to allow the fishermen in the region to fish in the Palk Bay regions for their livelihood support.

Many fishermen organizations and fishermen cooperatives in the region are also appealing to do away with the restrictions and to allow fishermen to fish in the Palk Bay waters. They all pointed out as the security situation has stabilized to a great extent, fishermen should be allowed to fish while Navy could provide the required security in the Sri Lankan waters.

It is pointed out that by allowing the fishermen to fish in the Palk Bay would serve a dual purpose.

1. Allowing the fishermen to fish under safe conditions would provide livelihood support for thousands of fishermen and to their families.

2. Also would prevent the infiltration of foreign fishing vessels in Sri Lankan waters, especially vessels belonging to Tamil Nadu fishermen, as well as the movements of LTTE boats, which are in a big way involved in smuggling of war related materials.

Fishermen organizations said since the Palk Bay region was declared a security zone, Lankan fishermen hitherto were unable to have a descent living economically because of the conflict situation in the North.

According to a statistics there are more than 1 million people involved in the fish related trades and out of them nearly 300,000 are fishermen involved in fishing for their livelihood. In Puttalam district as well as in the Northern Province, statistics reveal that there are more than 50,000 people involved in fishing for their livelihood.

At present, the island nation of Sri Lanka, which is surrounded all sides by sea rich in prawns, shrimps, squids, crabs and fishes, is spending annually to import fish around USD 170 to 200 million.

Though Sri Lanka Government has declared Palk Bay region a security zone and forbidden Sri Lankan fishermen to fish, however the Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu unmindful of restriction continues to poach in the Sri Lanka’s Palk bay sea region.

Indian fishermen used to cross into Sri Lankan waters and are seen poaching in the seas near point Pedro coast, Mannar and Delfts, depleting the rich fish resources available in the Sri Lankan waters.

It is said if the Navy is able to give the security cover for Sri Lankan fishermen who are presently surviving on government handouts such as dry ration subsidies, this would in great way help to diffuse tension in the North

Minister Abdul Risath Bathiyutheen speaking to Asian Tribune said it is high time we also look into the concerns and wishes of our own fishermen. He added once the Northern fishermen are allowed to fish in the Palk Bay region this would be in a big way dissuade the Tamil Nadu fishermen to enter into Sri Lankan waters and poach.

Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai P.M. Amza when contacted told Asian Tribune that since January 2006 to date, nearly 306 Indian fishermen were arrested for poaching in the Sri Lankan waters and majority of them were released without even filing charges against them in the courts and even those who were charged were released by withdrawing their cases on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.

But on the contrary, it has been pointed out that, at present there are about 26 Sri Lankan fishermen arrested by Indian authorities and are held in the Madurai jail. Regarding their plight, the Joint Interrogation Committee headed by the Collector of Tuticorin has recently considered to take legal action against those Sri Lankan fishermen who are languishing in the Madurai Jail.

So far Tamil Nadu Government led by pro-LTTE Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi has failed to reciprocate the goodwill gesture shown by the Sri Lanka Government.

Srimal Pinto, who is the coordinator of the Association for the Release of Innocent Fishermen of Sri Lanka, in an interview has pointed out that regarding the Sri Lankan fishermen languishing in the Madurai Jail, he has met Tuticorin Collector Palaniyandi and appeal for their release. He said the Collector was highly indifferent and was very antagonistic. He also said that he has also met the Director of Fisheries of the Tamil Nadu Government and appealed in vain for the release of Sri Lankan fishermen. He also added he made several attempts to meet K.P.P. Samy, Minister of Fisheries of Tamil Nadu state, but so far he was not afforded with an appointment for the meeting.

- Asian Tribune -

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