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Indian Minister slams Rajitha

2014 Jan 16

VasanIndia’s Union Shipping Minister G K Vasan has hit out at Sri Lankan Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne for putting forth conditions for the release of Indian fishermen, a week before the Indo-Lanka talks on January 20 to resolve the fishermen row.

Senaratne had stated that all the 275 Indian fishermen would be freed only after India sent back all their fishermen, including 34 lodged in Andhra Pradesh.

The New Indian Express quoted Vasan as saying the conditions put forth by Senaratne could vitiate the atmosphere ahead of talks. Terming the statement ‘one-sided’ and ‘irresponsible’, Vasan said, “Political leaders and officials should refrain from making such statements as everyone wants to bring home the fishermen and their boats immediately and safely.”

The reciprocal release of Indian and Lankan fishermen on Monday is the first step towards freeing of all fishermen held by the two countries.

The Pongal-eve release sets the tone for cordial discussion between the fisheries ministers of the two countries to be held in New Delhi on Jan 15. It also sets the tone for the forthcoming meet of fishermen associations to sort out problems of fishing in the Palk Bay and Palk Strait, including the use of destructive fishing methods. “Charges of intrusion and poaching slapped against the fishermen were dropped to enable the courts to release them,” an official said.

Currently, there are 240 fishermen and 78 boats from TN in Lankan prisons, while 189 Lankan fishermen and 46 boats are in the custody of governments of TN and Andhra Pradesh.

Asked when they would be repatriated, the official said it would depend on the navies or coast guards of the two countries and it might take a few days. (Colombo Gazette)

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