Will release 5 fishermen only if they are not guilty: Lankan official

Rameswaram, Nov 30 : The Sri Lankan government would release the five Tamil Nadu fishermen, who were arrested on drug peddling charges a year ago, if they were found not guilty, Basil Rohana Rajapaksa, senior Advisor to the Lankan President said to a three-member Indian fishermen delegation.

Announcing this to reporters here today, B Seshuraja, Secretary of Tamil Nadu Coastal Mechanized Boats Fishermen Association, who was one among the three-member Indian fishermen delegation which visited Srilanka to take part in the 'World Fisheries Day' celebrations said Basil gave this assurance to the Indian fishermen delegation, when they met him and seek his intervention for the early release of the incarcerated fishermen. The other two members of the delegation were S Emerit, President of the Mechanized Boat Fishermen Association and N Devadoss, Rameswaram Harbour Mechanised Fishing Boat Owners' Association.

The Indian delegation told Basil, who is also the Srilankan Minister of Economic Development that the five fishermen were innocent and were wrongly charged with drug peddling case. The family members of the fishermen were starving and hence the Lankan government should arrange for their early release. Basil accepted the views of the Indian delegation that 'fishermen have no boundaries and the decades-long fishing rights should be resolved through meaningful dialogue involving the fishermen of both the countries.'

The Indian delegation appealed to Basil to put an end to the frequent attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by Srilankan navy and protect their livelihood. Seshuraja said, "Basil, however, expressed his dissatisfaction over the inordinate delay caused by the Indian government in releasing Srilankan fishermen arrested on the charges of cross-border fishing. But, our (Srilanka) government releases the Indian fishermen without any delay." The Indian delegation also met the incarcerated fishermen, who were languishing at Welikada prison in the Island nation and consoled them.

Though the fishermen were treated well by the Srilankan authorities, they were upset over their arrest for an uncommitted offence. Seshuraja appealed to the Indian government to take up the issue with the Srilankan government and help early release of all the five fishermen from Srilankan prison. Emerson (36), Augustus (33), Wilson (42), Prasath (32) and Langlet (22), hailing from Thangatchimadam coastal hamlet in Rameswaram were arrested by the Srilankan navy under the drug peddling charges on November 28, 2011. The hearing in the case had been adjourned 29 times and the next hearing would be held on January 16.

- Agencies

Published On : Nov 30, 2012