Delhi, Colombo in row over Indian fisherman's death

Issue creates uproar in TN Assembly
Last Updated : 13 January 2011, 18:23 IST

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The fisherman, Veerapandian, from Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam area was at work on Wednesday with a few others approximately 14 nautical miles off Jegathapattinam near Pudukottai district, when the group came under firing by the island’s navy.

The shootout, notwithstanding an understanding between the governments of India and Sri Lanka that the latter’s navy should not open fire at Indian fishermen who by mistake stray into their waters, forced the fisher-folk of Jegathapatinam to block roads in the district.

The matter created an uproar in the state Assembly on Thursday, following which Chief Minister M Karunanidhi sent a telegram to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing deep pain at the firing. “The atrocities of the Lankan navy are continuing unabated, in spite of repeated assurances by both the government of India as well as the Lankan government,” Karunanidhi said in his letter to Singh.

The state government also ordered immediate cash compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the deceased’s family besides agreeing to give Veerapandian’s sister a government job.

Report sought

After Karunanidhi’s SOS to Manmohan Singh, Union External Affairs Minister S M Krishna sought a report from the Indian envoy in Sri Lanka, Ashok K Kantha, who discussed the matter with authorities in Colombo.

New Delhi told Colombo that “resorting to firing in such situations had no justification and called on the Sri Lankan authorities to desist from use of force.”

“We have consistently emphasised to the Sri Lankan government to refrain from firing on our fishermen and scrupulously adhere to the October 2008 understanding reached between the two governments. We call on the Sri Lankan navy to exercise maximum restraint and avoid use of force in such situations,” the MEA said in a statement.
Though Sri Lanka denied that its navy ever fired at the fishermen from India, New Delhi prodded Colombo to order an enquiry to unearth the truth.

The ministry officials also called Sri Lanka’s envoy to India, Prasad Kariyawasam, to the South Block and pointed out that firing by the island nation’s navy was in violation of the October 2008 understanding between the governments of the two countries.

Sri Lankan High Commissioner in New Delhi, however, said the navy of his country clarified that it had no presence in the area where the incident was purported to have happened and that its personnel never opened fire on the fishermen from India.

“Our enquiries reveal that the Sri Lankan navy is not involved. The navy is under strict orders never to fire at fishermen (from India) even if they cross the International Maritime Boundary Line. However, since we have been formally informed about the incident, Sri Lankan Government will look into it and an inquiry will be conducted,” Kariyawasam said, adding an enquiry should be conducted on the Indian side, too.

Published 13 January 2011, 12:16 IST

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