Aug 19, Colombo: Sri Lanka's External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris today handed over a letter of invitation from Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November and said the Sri Lankan government looks forward to Prime Minister Singh's participation in the summit.
The visiting Minister called on the Indian PM this morning in New Delhi and held discussions on a range of matters such as cooperation with regard to the economy, development and the rehabilitation process.
The Minister apprised the Prime Minister of the arrangements that are being made for the CHOGM as well as for the Business Forum in which there has been considerable interest by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
However, Tamil political parties in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu have urged the Prime Minister Singh not to participate in the CHOGM meeting in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan Minister informed the Indian Premier that arrangements have been made to hold elections to the Northern Provincial Council on 21 September.
While 11 political parties, 9 independent groups and 350 candidates are contesting elections, election observers have been invited from the Forum of Election Management Bodies of South Asia chaired by the Chief Election Commissioner of India, V. S. Sampath as well as the Commonwealth to ensure a free and fair poll.
Discussing the issue of Indian fishermen constantly entering the Sri Lankan waters and their arrests by the Sri Lankan authorities, Prof. Peiris expressed the necessity to find a practical solution to the issue.
He explained that 400-500 Indian fishing boats consisting of approximately 1500 Indian fishermen continue to cross over to Sri Lanka territorial waters during the fishing season on a daily basis with no reduction in numbers.
Apprising the Indian PM of the serious impact of this practice on the livelihoods of Tamil fishermen in the North of Sri Lanka, Minister Peiris said that the matter is aggravated by the fishing methods used by the Indian fishermen such as use of multi-day fishing boats and nylon nets and bottom trawling which cause damage to the sea bed and marine eco system.
The Minister informed that the Indian fishermen no longer confine themselves to the Palk Bay area but venture close to the eastern seaboard, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Point Pedro.
"Sri Lanka is therefore compelled to put in place an effective deterrent as the Government of Sri Lanka has a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the fishermen in the North of Sri Lanka," the Sri Lankan Minister has explained.
Minister Peiris told Prime Minister Singh that the deterrent mechanism involves apprehending fishermen, producing them in court and charging a fine.
There is no intention whatsoever to harass or oppress fishermen or keep them in custody for long periods. Due care will always be given to treating fishermen in a humane manner, he assured.
Speaking of the amendments to the 13th Amendment to the constitution, Minister Peiris said that Sri Lanka is in compliance with its obligations in terms of the Indo-Lanka Accord which includes specific provisions on linguistic and cultural aspects and the Tamil language has been given its due place.
The Minister explained to the PM the provision which specifies the uniform application of administrative structures in all provinces.
Prof. Peiris expressed the view that the participation of all parties in the PSC process, particularly the Tamil National Alliance, would be useful and that solutions to matters that pertain to people living in Sri Lanka should be found within Sri Lanka.
Later, Minister Peiris also had wide ranging discussions with his Indian counterpart External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and extended an invitation for him to visit Sri Lanka in October which he has accepted.
Minister Peiris was accompanied to both meetings by High Commissioner Prasad Kariyawasam and the Director General of South Asia of the Ministry of External Affairs.