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SL expecting Modi to resolve fishing issue - Deputy minister

2014 May 23

Chamikara Weerasinghe

Pointing out that illegal fishing by Indian fishermen in Palk Bay has been a major threat to the livelihoods of the Tamil fishing community in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Deputy Minister Sarath Kumara Gunaratna said they expect India's Prime Minister elect Narendra Modi to take up this matter seriously and take steps to prevent poaching by Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan territorial waters.

Deputy Minister Gunaratna said the people of India has given Modi a victory with an absolute majority enabling him to form a strong government. This is similar to the mandate given by the people of Sri Lanka to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, he said. Since Modi has an absolute majority, Tamil Nadu's influence on the Centre will be a thing of the past, he said.

It is obvious that the Tamil Nadu state government has been encouraging Indian fishermen to fish in Sri Lankan waters which is in violation of the laws of the delimitation of the International Maritime Boundaries, the deputy minister said.

"We are certain that the incoming Indian Prime Minister will intervene and ensure justice to the fishermen of the North, who are the rightful owners of those fish that are being taken away by Indian fishermen. This is but one side of the story. It is the economic bounty of the Tamil fishermen in Sri Lanka that is being stolen by the Indian government," Gunaratna said.

"These Tamil Nadu fishermen come in their thousands. How can they come in such such large numbers without the knowledge of the authorities concerned?" he asked.

"They have already destroyed crabs and lobsters in their seas with bottom trawling which is a banned fishing method in Sri Lanka. They are now doing this in Sri Lankan seas. Bottom trawling is banned in Sri Lanka for it destroys not only fish species but also corals and valuable sea vegetation," he said.

"We believe that there will be no tension between India and Sri Lanka that have long been friends reflecting a common bond in terms ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic ties, over this fisheries issue," the deputy minister said.
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