Twelve Rameswaram fishermen arrested by Sri Lankan Navy have been charged under a new Sri Lankan law that prescribes harsh punishment for fishing in Lankan waters. The fishermen were produced at a court in Mannar and the hearing was postponed to Friday. The Indian High Commissioner’s plea that the new law should not be used on them was rejected by the judge.
Meanwhile, Rameswaram fishermen are continuing their strike demanding that their counterparts be released and that compensation should be paid for the 187 boats that the Sri Lankan government has seized so far. “Our representatives met with the chief minister on Wednesday and asked that the government take suitable steps. Regarding the new Lankan law, the chief minister told us that the Indian external affairs ministry has taken up the issue with the Lankan government. We have gone for fishing only for five days after the end of the 60-day ban. They are destroying our livelihood at a time like this,” said Emrit, a fishermen leader in Rameswaram. He said fishing may resume by Saturday.
U Arulanandam, a fishermen activist of Pamban who has worked to release fishermen from Sri Lankan jails, said: “From February 2015 to now, they have seized some 187 boats. If a boat is not operated for even one week, it needs repairs. Compensation has to be given for the boats. During tsunami, some Rs 20 lakh compensation was given for each boat that was destroyed. The losses now are Rs 50 lakh per boat.”