Minister of External Affairs Prof. G. L. Peiris expressed the necessity to find a practical solution to the issue pertaining to the apprehension of Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters.
During his visit to India recently, the Minister explained Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh that 400-500 Indian fishing boats consisting of approximately 1500 Indian fishermen continue to cross over to Sri Lanka territorial waters during the fishing season on a daily basis with no reduction in numbers.
Explaining the serious impact of this practice on the livelihoods of Tamil fishermen in the North of Sri Lanka, Minister Peiris said that the matter is aggravated by the fishing methods used by the Indian fishermen such as use of multi-day fishing boats and nylon nets and bottom trawling which cause damage to the sea bed and marine eco system. Moreover, the Indian fishermen no longer confine themselves to the Palk Bay area but venture close to the eastern seaboard, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Point Pedro.
Sri Lanka is therefore compelled to put in place an effective deterrent as the Government of Sri Lanka has a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the fishermen in the North of Sri Lanka. The deterrent mechanism involves apprehending fishermen, producing them in court and charging a fine. There is no intention whatsoever to harass or oppress fishermen or keep them in custody for long periods. Due care will always be given to treating fishermen in a humane manner.
Describing the process involving the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, Minister Peiris said that Sri Lanka is in compliance with its obligations in terms of the Indo-Lanka Accord which includes specific provisions on linguistic and cultural aspects. In this context the Minister referred to the Tamil language being given its due place. The Minister explained as well, the provision which specifies the uniform application of administrative structures in all provinces. Prof. Peiris expressed the view that the participation of all parties in the PSC process, particularly the Tamil National Alliance, would be useful and that solutions to matters that pertain to people living in Sri Lanka should be found within Sri Lanka.