The Government says Sri Lanka and India will, in the spirit of goodwill and understanding that exists, continue to engage in dialogue on the fishermen issue, to seek satisfactory short-term and long-term solutions.
The Foreign Ministry, in a statement today, said that it is aware of media reports of remarks made by the Minister of Fisheries on 26 May. The Minister had said that he had rejected a proposal by India to resolve the fishing issue.
The Foreign Ministry today said that Sri Lanka recognises that the issue of Indian fishermen fishing in Sri Lankan waters is one that requires the careful attention of the authorities on both sides, especially in view of the impact on livelihoods of both Sri Lankan fishermen in the North of the country as well as Indian fishermen.
The Sri Lankan fishermen in the North have recommenced their livelihood after many years of conflict and their concerns therefore, require special attention.
The issue is one that has environmental implications as well for Sri Lanka, arising from the methods of fishing used, especially bottom trawling.
The matter of Indian fishermen apprehended in Sri Lankan waters is approached from a humanitarian perspective in view of the livelihood dimension involved. All efforts are therefore taken to ensure their expeditious release.
Consultations between the two Governments on these issue have taken place at various levels over time and discussions are continuing.
Following discussions during the high level visits that took place this year, namely, the visit of President Maithripala Sirisena to India in February and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Sri Lanka in March, the two Governments facilitated a further round of talks between fishermen’s representatives of the two countries in Chennai on 24 April 2015. The talks provided an opportunity for the two groups to discuss issues and share their views, extensively.
The request made by the Indian fishermen at this meeting to engage in fishing in Sri Lankan waters for 83 days per year for three years had been duly considered, but rejected by the Sri Lankan fishermen. This decision of the Sri Lankan fishermen was duly conveyed through the Indian Government, the Foreign Ministry said. (Colombo Gazette)