Fishermen protest killing of colleague by Lankan Navy, Palaniswami writes to PM

Lanka rules out Navy’s involvement in shooting
Report by: 
Agencies
Chennai/Rameswaram
7 Mar 2017

Hundreds of fishermen today staged a demonstration in Rameswaram island to protest the killing of an Indian fisherman allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy, as chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami dashed off a letter seeking the Centre's intervention. Tamil Nadu opposition parties also condemned the killing and sought action from the Centre. The 22-year-old Indian fisherman was shot dead yesterday allegedly by Lankan Navy personnel while he was fishing in a mechanised boat at a short distance off Katchatheevu islet. The protesting fishermen at Thangachimadam in Rameswaram and the bereaved family have refused to accept the body of the fisherman unless a Central Minister visits the island and gives them an assurance that such incidents would not happen again, Rameswaram Fishermen Association President S Emiret said. Police said during the autopsy, an AK-47 bullet was found lodged in the neck of the deceased. In a letter to the Centre, Palaniswami said the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India should be summoned forthwith and "the strong feelings of the Government of India and government of Tamil Nadu about the unprovoked firing on fishermen and non-adherence to earlier agreements on this issue should be conveyed in no uncertain terms."  Lanka resorting to "such inhuman and barbaric tactics" completely belies all the diplomatic efforts that have been undertaken including the understanding reached in several meetings between the two countries, including the recent one at Colombo, Palaniswami said in the letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said at the ministerial level meeting in Colombo in January, "it was clearly agreed not to use force against bona fide fishermen at sea."  While the fishermen were fishing in their traditional waters of Palk Bay, at about 9.30 pm (yesterday), "a fleet of four Sri Lankan Naval vessels surrounded the fishing boat and opened unprovoked and indiscriminate fire on the unarmed fishermen," he said. "Two fishermen received bullet injuries and while Bridgo died while being brought to the shore, Saran has been admitted in hospital," he added. "Even as action is taken on longer term issues like retrieval of Katchatheevu (islet) and on diversification to deep sea fishing, under no circumstances can the present escalation of actions by the Sri Lankan side be ignored or tolerated," the Chief Minister said. He urged Modi to intervene "personally in this sensitive livelihood issue of our fishermen and use all means at the command of the government of India to curb the unacceptable aggressive actions of the Sri Lankan Navy in the Palk Bay, and to protect the life, limb and liberty of our innocent fishermen". In another statement, Palaniswami condemned the killing and announced a compensation of Rs five lakh for the victim's family. He also announced Rs one lakh to the other fisherman, who was injured in the attack, and directed that the best medical treatment be offered to him. DMK Working President and Leader of Opposition in state Assembly, M K Stalin, called for diplomatic action by New Delhi on the issue. Meanwhile, speaking to reporters in Nagercoil, Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan expressed regret over the firing incident. He said, "The Sri Lankan Navy should not have resorted to firing when talks are underway to resolve the issue of fishing in the Palk Strait."  He further said the issue of fishing in the Palk Strait is a dispute between the fishermen of the two countries. The gunning down of the Indian fisherman named Bridgo was an unfortunate incident and the Sri Lankan government should express regret over it and ensure that such incidents do not recur, Radhakrishnan said. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government today said that an initial probe report has ruled out its navy's involvement in the killing of an Indian fisherman, an issue raised by India with Sri Lanka's prime minister. The 22-year-old Indian fisherman was shot dead yesterday while he was fishing in a mechanised boat at a short distance off Katchatheevu islet. Local fishermen alleged that he was killed by the Sri Lankan navy while another was injured. In New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry said, "Government of India is deeply concerned at the killing of an Indian fisherman. Our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka has taken up the matter with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (Ranil Wickremesinghe). The Sri Lankan navy has promised a full and thorough investigation."  Sri Lankan Navy Spokesman Lieutenant Commander Chaminda Walakuluge in Colombo categorically denied any involvement of the navy in the fisherman's killing, saying the navy does not open fire at poaching fishermen and only arrests them. In a statement, Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka said, "the initial investigations had indicated that the Sri Lankan navy was not involved."  "Irrespective of the parties involved, if in fact a shooting has taken place, it is a matter of grave concern and all possible action will be taken in cooperation with the relevant Indian authorities to investigate into this incident utilising GPS technology as well," it added.(PTI)