Sri Lanka Navy’s Commander Vice Admiral Ravindra C Wijegunaratne on Monday expressed willingness to have joint patrolling with India to tackle the problem of alleged poaching by Indian (Tamil Nadu) fishermen in Sri Lankan waters.
“I have no objection,” he told The Hindu in reply to a question. Every three months, the Navies of the two countries, along with Coast Guards of India and Sri Lanka, have been carrying out flag meetings. “This is equivalent to joint patrolling,” he explained.
The issue was discussed in the past too but there had been no progress. In 2007 when the Eelam War was on, the Indian Navy had expressed its reservations over any move to carry out joint patrolling.
An observer who has been studying the problem of fishermen says India should now agree to the idea.
The revival of the idea comes in the wake of the latest arrest of six persons by the Sri Lankan authorities on Saturday night , taking the number of arrested persons to 126.
During a debate in Sri Lankan Parliament in early October on the issue of alleged poaching, Leader of Opposition R. Sampanthan had suggested that apart from the Sri Lankan Navy patrolling the international boundary, the Indian Navy or the Indian Coast Guard should also join the exercise .
A former Congress legislator of Tamil Nadu, who represented Ramanathapuram, K. Hasan Ali , during his recent visit to Colombo, also reiterated the proposal.
The Commander also gave an account of the annual joint naval exercise by the two countries which concluded in Trincomalee on Sunday. The exercise, lasting six days, saw the participation of six vessels of Sri Lanka and three of India.
The purpose was to equip the Navies of the two countries to respond swiftly to disaster or emergency, he added.
As for the reported incident of damage caused allegedly by a group of Indian fishermen last week to the Sri Lankan Navy’s vessel, Vice Admiral Wijegunaratne said this took place when the fishermen were resisting arrest. This was why a complaint had been lodged with the police. “It is now a legal matter,” he said.
However, he said “the entire issue [of the release] will be sorted out today.” The authorities, on getting appropriate advice from the office of Attorney General, would move the court concerned for securing the release of the fishermen.