Chennai: Sri Lanka on Tuesday proposed a penalty of up to Rs17 crore on foreign boats that enter another country’s territorial waters for fishing, in the backdrop of a running spat with India over the latter’s fishermen straying into its waters.
Speaking at the 7th international maritime conference at Galle in Sri Lanka, fisheries and aquatic resources development minister Mahinda Amaraweera called for amending international laws to impose fine of Rs30 lakh-17 crore on boats that cross territorial waters.
The conference is being attended by representatives from 42 nations including India. Chief of the naval staff admiral Sunil Lanba, rear admiral Suraj Berry and commodore Sanjay Bhalla are representing India at the conference.
Amaraweera also suggested countries should be granted rights to expropriate boats that enter the territorial waters and take action against the owners of the boat.
The proposal by the island nation’s fisheries minister comes just weeks after ministerial-level talks between India and Sri Lanka in New Delhi when both governments agreed to the request by the fishermen’s associations that there would be no violence and no loss of life in the handling of fishermen by the navies and coast guards of the two countries. Discussions were held to find a permanent solution over the emotive issue.
“They (Sri Lankan Navy) have been shooting us down for over 30 years. But we go back again for our livelihood. The fishermen are not even owners of the boat and are just labourers who venture out into the sea for fishing,” said U. Arulanantham, president of Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF).
While two fishermen from the state were injured in alleged firing by the Sri Lankan Navy on 16 November, at least 11 Indian fishermen along with their trawlers were arrested for allegedly fishing illegally in the country’s waters on 19 November.
“There are contradictions in the Sri Lankan government’s stand over the fishermen issue. While Mangala Samaraweera (foreign affairs minister) says that there should be no harm to fishermen from both the countries, Amaraweera has always been making such controversial comments,” said Arulanantham.
“What hurts us more is that whenever there is an attack, there is not a word of condemnation from the Centre. The silence that governments at the Centre have maintained over the years on the Tamil Nadu fishermen issue is deafening,” added Arulanantham.