32 Indian poachers held by Mannar fishermen
[TamilNet, Monday, 01 December 2003, 21:59 GMT]
The local fishermen of Vidathaltheevu in Mannar district have arrested 32 Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters Saturday night, and are holding them in their custody, but the detained fishermen will soon be released, sources said.
The Vidathaltheevu coast is located in an area controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Mr. Sebastiampillai Mathi, the leader of the Vidathaltheevu fishermen’s society, said that fishermen from Tamil Nadu poach in Mannar waters and use banned nets with very small openings to catch all marine resources in Mannar. The poachers’ trawlers damage and then snatch the fishing nets of the local fishermen, thus causing heavy financial losses—more than Rs. 50 lakhs-- to the Mannar fishermen.
The detained fishermen are to be handed over to the Sri Lanka Police through the Government Agent (GA) of Mannar, police sources said. They said however that as of Monday evening, the Indian fishermen have not been handed over to them.
Mr. Mathi said though his society has appealed to the Mannar GA and the LTTE several times about the poaching by Indian fishermen, no constructive action has been taken so far, and that his society had to take action and arrest the poachers.
He said the fishermen are being kept safely at the “Matha” Church in Vidathaltheevu and are being taken good care of. He said that the local fishermen have no intention of harming the Indians or keeping them for long.
Though the fishermen’s society has decided to release the poachers, the society is not prepared to release the trawlers, Mr. Mathi said, adding that the society has contacted the political division of the LTTE to send the fishermen safely back to their homes in India.
Meanwhile, in an interview to the BBC ‘Thamilosai’ Tamil service, Mr. Sekhar, one of Indian fishermen arrested and being kept at Vidathaltheevu, said that the arrested fishermen were ordinary fishermen who had no need to enter the Mannar waters, but their employers forced them to enter Sri Lankan waters to fish in Mannar.
Mr. Sekhar, who is from Tamil Nadu in India, said that only now he understood the losses incurred by local fishermen as a result of the Indian poaching and if released the arrested fishermen would never enter the Sri Lankan waters again.
Moreover, the Tamil Nadu fisherman said that he would inform the local situation clearly to his own fisheries society and government officials in Tamil Nadu; he would also inform them that according to the local fishermen, if any poachers are caught in the future, they would not be allowed to return to India.