Jan 13, Colombo: Sri Lankan authorities today ordered the release of 161 fishermen detained in the island's jails ahead of the ministerial and fishermen level talks between the two countries on the fishermen's issues.
Sri Lanka Naval personnel on separate occasions have arrested the Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu state for illegally fishing in the country's territorial waters.
According to an Indian fishermen association, the magistrate court in Mallagam in Jaffna ordered to release a total of 50 Indian fishermen from Jegathapattinam, 20 of them arrested on November 20 and 30 on December 11. Out of them, 20 will be released on Monday and the others on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Trincomalee magistrate court has ordered to release 111 fishermen of Nagapattinam arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on December 11 for illegally fishing in Sri Lankan waters off Foul Point in Trincomalee.
India's Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said in a Twitter message that India, Sri Lanka had begun the process of releasing fishermen. He said the first batch 20 was released.
However, India has not announced release of any Sri Lankan fishermen yet although the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Sunday directed the state officials to release 179 Sri Lankan fishermen detained in the state's jails by January 13 as a gesture to create a favorable atmosphere for the upcoming talks between the fishermen of the two countries and asked Sri Lanka to reciprocate the action.
India has detained 213 Sri Lankan fishermen - 179 in Tamil Nadu and 34 in Andhra Pradesh - while Sri Lanka has 275 Indian fishermen in custody.
Sri Lanka's Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne will leave for New Delhi tomorrow to hold discussions with the Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar, under whose purview the fisheries come. The ministerial level talks are scheduled for January 15.
Following the ministerial level talks on the fishermen issue, representatives of the fishermen's associations in Sri Lanka and India will meet on January 20 in Chennai to iron out a solution among themselves to share the resources in the seas between the two countries.
The two countries expect to find an amicable solution to the nagging issues of fishermen from both countries crossing into each other's territorial waters and subsequent arrests of the fishermen by the authorities on both sides.