Tamil Nadu fishermen yesterday demanded direct talks with the Sri Lankan government and fishermen from the north in order to seek a permanent solution to the fishing issue, days after Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said he would take stern action against Indian fishermen poaching illegally in local waters.
The Indian fishermen also insisted they are not prepared to accept decisions reached at a political level without the participation of Tamil Nadu fishermen, after the matter was raised by Rajapaksa with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi in a virtual summit held over the weekend.
The Sri Lankan government has already sought talks with Tamil Nadu on the fishermen issue after serious concerns were raised last week by local fishermen who informed the Prime Minister that they faced an annual loss of 40 million dollars due to illegal poaching by Indian fishermen.
Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda said that a proposal has been put forward to discuss the matter with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami.
However, speaking to Daily Mirror, Tamil Nadu Fishermen's Association President S. Emiret said that they are not prepared to accept decisions reached only at talks between politicians as they had lost all confidence in discussions held between political leaders to resolve this long-standing issue.
“We have been seeking talks for several years. Some discussions were held between both sides in 2014. It ended in failure. But we are willing to continue negotiations. But those talks must include us,” he said.
However, Emiret said that Sri Lanka must also agree to give Tamil Nadu fishermen some time to withdraw from fishing in Sri Lankan waters and said that since this issue had been ongoing for several years it needed to be addressed through a humanitarian approach and not a confrontational approach. Prime Minister Rajapaksa has already called for the arrest of Indian fishermen who enter Sri Lankan waters illegally and has instructed authorities to immediately look into the matter. (JAMILA HUSAIN)