July 22, Chennai: The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J. Jayalalithaa has written to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi again to express her disapproval to a proposal that suggested installing buoys on the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) between India and Sri Lanka as a measure to address the fishermen issue.
India's Department of Border Management, Ministry of Home Affairs, with assistance from the Director General of Lighthouses and Lightships have taken measures to prepare a feasibility study on the possibility of installing buoys on the IMBL as a measure to prevent Indian fishermen from entering into Sri Lankan waters and getting arrested by the island's Navy.
Welcoming the Indian government's action to address the fishermen issue, the Tamil Nadu CM has however expressed opposition to the proposal since she is of strong belief that the center of the problem is the ceding of Katchatheevu Island to Sri Lanka by the Indian Supreme Court and the central government should take it back from Sri Lanka.
She noted in her letter to Modi that she has requested him to retrieve India's sovereignty over Katchatheevu islet which was "unconstitutionally and illegally" ceded to Sri Lanka under the Indo-Sri Lankan agreements of 1974 and 1976.
She said that the Government of Tamil Nadu and she have filed a suit in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the ceding of Katchatheevu islet and the matter that is still pending in the Supreme Court will have a bearing on the location of the IMBL.
"The Government of Tamil Nadu has not accepted the IMBL as a settled issue. Given that the issue is sub judice, it would neither be appropriate nor feasible to install buoys along the IMBL at this point in time," she wrote.
Jayalalithaa further said that in the fishermen level talks between the fishing communities of both countries, there has been a clear recognition that fishing by fishermen of both countries could co-exist in the traditional fishing waters with both sides agreeing on the fishing days and a thrust given to sustainable fishing practices like use of gill nets and long liners.
This approach has also been deliberated upon in the Indo-Sri Lankan Joint Working Group and needs to be intensively pursued, she suggested.
However, Sri Lankan fishermen have vehemently opposed the idea put forward by India to share the fishing rights in Sri Lankan waters in the Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar.