Members of the delegation of Tamil Nadu fishermen who met President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo on May 12 have denied the charge that one of the members of their team was a smuggler, the New Indian Express reported.
“Do you think the fishermen’s delegation could have met the President of Sri Lanka without the members’ antecedents being thoroughly checked by his security staff?” asked delegation member B. Jesuraja, Ramanathapuram District Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Mechanized Boat Fishermen’s Association.
“We did not go to Lanka as Kalla Thonis (illegal immigrants). We went with the full knowledge of the governments of Tamil Nadu, India and Lanka, and with valid visas. Even the TN Q Branch was briefed,” he told Express over phone.
“ We will sue the paper which published the story in the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday. The source of the story is dubious because the allegation is not attributed to any identifiable source. On May 23, we are planning a massive agitation on the issue,” Jesuraja said.
He regretted that in the current hullaballoo, the achievements of the delegation have been forgotten. “We got the Lankan President to release 37 of our fishermen and agree to hold the fourth round of talks between the fishermen’s associations of the two countries,” he said.
S.P.Anthonymuthu, Advisor to the Colombo-based Indo-Lanka Fishermen’s Welfare Forum, who arranged the meeting with Sirisena, said that it was for the first time in history that an unofficial meeting with the Lankan President had resulted in the release of TN fishermen. He attributed the allegation to “jealously and rivalry between media houses in TN.”
M.Ilango of the Puducherry-based National Fish Workers Forum said that he disapproved of non-traditional fishermen heading fishermen’s associations. Some of the members of the delegation were not from the traditional fishing community, he pointed out.
“I have asked for an investigation into the media allegation to clear the name of genuine fishermen,” he said.
K.Rajachandran, President of Ambal Fishermen’s Cooperative, Karainagar, Jaffna, said that non-fishermen leaders of fishermen’s associations play a “double game”.
“We will not participate in meetings in which such leaders participate,” he said.