Sri Lanka may release 96 fishermen by Pongal

Mahinda Amaraweera

Even as a Mullativu magistrate has initiated steps to free eight fishermen, the Sri Lankan government is mulling the release of the remaining 96 fishermen by Pongal, who have been arrested for alleged acts of poaching in Sri Lankan waters.

Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, in a chat with The Hindu , confirmed that such a move was on the cards, even as the government is not receptive to the release of boats, numbering 66.

The eight fishermen, who were originally arrested a few days ago along with 12 Sri Lankan fishermen on the basis of complaints levelled by both sides against each other, are being released in the wake of the two sides deciding to withdraw their complaints, according to a spokesperson of the police department.

The fishermen are at present kept in Vavuniya before being sent to Colombo where they will be handed over to Indian High Commission, say officials of the High Commission.

On the proposal to release the apprehended fishermen, W.M.M. R. Adikari, Secretary, Sri Lankan Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, said her government has no desire to keep the fishermen in its custody as it knows very well that the arrested persons are not the owners of fishing boats or trawlers and they indulge in this kind of activity for livelihood.

But, the issue is that Sri Lankan fishermen, belonging to the Northern Province, have been “adversely affected” by acts of fishermen hailing from Tamil Nadu.

She says that given the conditions in the North, fishing is the only sustainable economic activity for them and “our fishermen have resumed fishing after 30 long years of civil war,” the Hindu reports.