Douglas says talks on allowing Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters will go ahead


 COLOMBO – Confusion over a proposal to allow Indian fishermen to engage in fishing in Sri Lanka continued, with Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda contradicting co-cabinet spokesman, Minister Udaya Gammanipla, who on Tuesday (30) morning maintained no decision had been to permit Indians to fish in Sri Lankan waters..

Devananda however said he would be holding talks with the Tamil Nadu government about a limited number of Indians to engage in fishing in Sri Lankan waters on a weekly basis subject to a considerably large levy. Nelson Edirisinghe, Media Secretary Ministry of Fisheries said Devananda’s proposal envisions a licence scheme for a limited number of Indian fishermen to engage in fishing using “normal methods” (as opposed to bottom trawling) on a staggered basis – meaning that fishermen who enter Sri Lanka’s territorial waters one week would not be permitted to re-enter the following week.

However, at the weekly cabinet press briefing on Tuesday, Minister Gammanpila said no decision has been made to licence fishermen from India to fish in Sri Lankan waters.

According to Edirisinghe, Minister Devananda has proposed the licensing scheme as an alternative solution to the diplomatic problems caused by the long-drawn issue. Under the proposal, he said, bottom trawling will be strictly prohibited.

“What the minister said was that the two major fishing problems in Sri Lanka are the illegal crossing of Indian fishermen into Sri Lankan waters and the bottom trawling. A few other similar solutions are also being discussed between the two governments (when negotiating the release of detained fishermen),” Edirisinghe explained

The alleged robbing of Sri Lankan resources by Indian fishermen has become a serious diplomatic issue between the two countries and Minister Devananda sees his proposal as one solution to address it, he added.

Fishing vessels from South India had routinely strayed over the Indo-Lanka maritime border during the 30-year -civil war when Sri Lanka fishermen were banned from entering the Northern waters.

Last week Sri Lanka Navy seized several boats and took into custody 54 Indian fishermen. They were later released, reportedly at India’s request.

Since December 2020, 99 Indian fishermen have been apprehended by the Sri Lanka Navy along with 11 boats. The Indian High Commission in Colombo last Wednesday (24) called for a humanitarian approach to resolving the crisis.


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