Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami has written to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention to secure the release of eight fishermen from the state slapped with a hefty fine of Rs. 60 lakh Sri Lankan rupees each on charges of poaching fish, the Press Trust of India reported.
Urging PM Modi to direct the Ministry of External Affairs to register “our strong protest at the highest level in Sri Lanka,” the chief minister wanted India to put forth an effective defence in Lankan courts and secure the release of the fishermen sans the fine (approximately Rs. 26 lakh per head) or jail term.
Eight fishermen from Thoothukudi district, arrested on August 21 by Sri Lankan Navy for allegedly fishing in their territorial waters, had been convicted under a new legal provision that entails heavy fine for illegal fishing, Mr Palaniswami said in his letter to PM Modi.
“They were convicted by a Sri Lankan court under the provisions of Fisheries (Regulation of Foreign Fishing Boats) Act…and imposed a fine of LKR (Lankan rupee) 60 lakh per head (approx INR 26 lakh per head),” he said.
The court has also ordered that in case the fine was not paid, the fishermen will have to serve three months prison term.
Palaniswami said he had drawn PM Modi’s attention last July to the amendments made by Lanka to the two acts and their consequences for Indian fishermen.
Sri Lanka enforcing the amendments against Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu is nothing but a “mockery” of the diplomatic efforts being undertaken by the Centre to sort out the sensitive issue, the AIADMK leader said.
“This has created a sense of panic in the minds of fishermen of Tamil Nadu,” he said.
The Tamil Nadu chief minister requested the prime minister to ensure immediate action to secure the release of the eight fishermen and eight other fishermen languishing in Lankan jails.