Sept 22, Chennai: Following the arrest of another 20 Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu by the Sri Lankan Navy on Sunday, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J. Jayalalithaa has asked the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to facilitate fishermen level talks between the two sides.
In a letter to the PM, the Chief Minister proposed the talks to be held in December at Chennai and asked the PM to communicate to the relevant institutions in Sri Lanka to provide a list of participants from the island.
Jayalalithaa said the Tamil Nadu fishermen are eager to sort out the day to day issues faced by them by engaging in talks with the fishermen from Sri Lanka and despite the tense situation in coastal Districts of Tamil Nadu due to continued imprisonment of the fishermen by Sri Lanka.
The Fishermen Associations in Tamil Nadu have asked the State Government to facilitate the bilateral fishermen level talks and they have requested the Chief Minister to fix the venue and time for the meeting.
Setting conditions to the proposed talks, the Chief Minister emphasized that talks must focus on reiterating the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen to fish in their traditional fishing waters, irrespective of any artificially drawn boundaries.
She said the root of the fishermen's problem is the loss of their traditional fishing grounds in the Palk Bay and blamed the Indian government for the "historic blunder" of ceding the island of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka under the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1974.
As a consequence of this the Indian fishermen are at the mercy of the "marauding Sri Lankan Navy", said the Chief Minister adding that the permanent solution to the "vexatious issue" is to retrieve Indian sovereignty over Katchatheevu and recognize the rights of the Tamil Nadu fishermen to fish in their traditional fishing grounds.
The talks, she said, should be without prejudice to, and must not in any way, compromise the stand already taken by her in the civil writ petition regarding India's territorial sovereignty over Katchatheevu.
Any resolution passed in the fishermen level talks will be subject to the clearance of the Government of Tamil Nadu, the Chief Minister asserted.
Full Text of Chief Minister's letter