Chennai, Sep 22 IANS | 2 years ago

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has suggested to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the suggested bilateral talks between fishermen in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu can be held in Chennai this December, subject to certain conditions.

In a letter to Manmohan Singh Sep 20, the text of which was released to the media Sunday, referring to the proposal to facilitate a dialogue between fishermen's associations in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, Jayalalithaa said: "I propose that arrangements may be made to have the next round of talks between the fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu and their counterparts in Sri Lanka at Chennai."

According to her, the talks should focus on the commitments made in the previous discussions like abjuring violent attacks on Indian fishermen, abduction, detention and long periods of incarceration in Sri Lankan jails.

She said the talks should reiterate the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen to fish in their traditional fishing waters, irrespective of any artificially drawn boundaries, and discuss ways to facilitate the repatriation of Indian fishermen abducted by the Sri Lankan Navy without subjecting them to harassment and jailing.

"The talks should be without prejudice to, and must not in any way, compromise the stand already taken by me in W.P. (Civil) No.561/2008 regarding India's territorial sovereignty over Katchatheevu," she said.

The Katchatheevu islet in the Palk Straits was ceded to Sri Lanka by the Indian government in 1974 and Jayalalithaa is contesting the legality of the transfer in the Supreme Court, as the move was not approved by parliament.

"The resolution passed in the fishermen level talks will be subject to the clearance of the Government of Tamil Nadu," she added.

She said during the past two-and-half years, in 39 separate incidents, 754 fishermen from Tamil Nadu have been apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy.

"Various institutional mechanisms set up to deal with this issue and to facilitate the expeditious release of our fishermen and their boats, like the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission and the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries (JWG), have all miserably failed to deliver the desired results," she wrote.

According to her, 97 Indian (Tamil) fishermen are still languishing in various Sri Lankan jails for months together.

Referring to her 26 letters to Manmohan Singh since May 2011 seeking his personal intervention to secure the release of Indian fishermen, Jayalalithaa said the Indian government remained a mute spectator and has done precious little to ease the pain and suffering of Tamil Nadu fishermen.

"Even as I am writing this letter to you, information has reached me that the Sri Lankan Navy has, on Sep 19, 2013, apprehended 19 fishermen from Tamil Nadu along with five mechanised boats in the high seas of Palk Bay," she wrote.

Jayalalithaa said the genesis of the entire problem is the ill-advised decision of the government of India to recognize the island of Katchatheevu as a part of Sri Lanka under the India-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1974.

This historic blunder of the government of India has spawned the problems faced by Indian fishermen in the Palk Bay, which remain unresolved even today, the chief minister said.

(Posted on 22-09-2013)