Jan 08, Colombo: Sri Lanka Navy today hit back at the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa for her allegation that the "repressive" Sri Lankan Navy is establishing its authoritarian presence in the Palk Bay by chasing and arresting Tamil Nadu fishermen.
Responding to the Chief Minister's claim that Indian fishermen were peacefully fishing in their "traditional fishing waters" in the Gulf of Mannar, the Navy spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya said that no country can speak about "traditional fishing waters" in Sri Lanka's territorial waters other than Sri Lankans.
The Navy spokesman said it is following the United Nations Conventions of the Laws of the Sea ratified in 1992 and there is no such term as traditional fishing waters in those documents.
He explained that according to the law, the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka is divided into two with the International Maritime boundary line in between and Sri Lanka has all sovereign rights of the sea area that comes within its territorial waters.
Commander Warnakulasuriya said the Navy is establishing their authoritative presence in the territorial waters of Sri Lanka and taking measures to protect the same area from illegal fishermen for the benefit of Sri Lankan fishermen, especially those of the North and East.
According to the Spokesman, the Navy is also establishing its presence in the same waters to prevent all illegal transactions, drug trafficking, smuggling, human smuggling that affect not only Sri Lanka but also the entire region.
The Navy is never repressive in establishing its authoritative presence in the territorial waters but abides by international standards and human rights. The spokesman said.
He also noted that the Navy never handles fishermen's cases as they are civilians and always hands over the arrested fishermen immediately to the police for legal measures
"The Sri Lankan Navy is only acting upon powers vested on it like any other Navy in the world, to protect the resources in the territorial waters for the benefit of the country," the spokesman said.
The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, who writes to the Indian Prime Minister after each arrest of the fishermen by the Sri Lanka Navy, asked the PM to use the diplomatic channels of the Indian government in a "concrete and decisive manner" with the Sri Lankan authorities to secure the immediate release of the fishermen in Sri Lankan Jails.