Will continue to engage with India on fishermen issue: Lanka



Colombo, Jun 1 Days after rejecting India's proposal to allow its fishermen to catch fish in Lankan waters, Sri Lanka has said it will continue to engage with India on the vexed fishermen issue in the spirit of "goodwill and understanding" to seek short-term and long-term solutions.

"There is full appreciation on both sides of the livelihood and humanitarian dimensions of the (fishermen) issue and the two governments will, in the spirit of goodwill and understanding that exists, continue to engage in dialogue on this issue, to seek satisfactory short-term and long-term solutions," Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mahishini Colonne said here yesterday.

"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," Colonne said in a statement.

The statement was in response to questions raised by the media in relation to the remarks by Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera last week, rejecting India's proposal to allow its fishermen to catch fish in Lankan waters for 65 days a year.

"Not 65 days, we will not agree for even 65 hours," Amaraweera had said.

Colonne said, "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, she said.

"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," she added.

Consultations between the two governments on these issue have taken place at various levels over time and discussions are continuing, Colonne noted.

Referring to the round of talks between fishermen's representatives of the two countries in Chennai on April 24, Colonne said the request made by the Indian fishermen at this meeting to engage in fishing in Sri Lankan waters 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, she said.

Amaraweera is a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

The new Sri Lankan government is seeking improvement of ties with India.


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