Sri Lanka arrests 19 Indian fishermen

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Colombo, March 27 (IANS) The Sri Lankan Navy has arrested 19 Indian fishermen for poaching, a navy spokesman said Thursday.

Navy spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya said that the fishermen were arrested off the northern seas of Mannar Wednesday night and four boats used by them were seized, Xinhua reported.

Wednesday night’s arrest took place just days after the cancellation of second round of talks between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen in Colombo.

Last week, the navy arrested 75 Indian fishermen and seized their boats after they had illegally entered Sri Lankan waters.

Sri Lanka had released 140 fishermen who belonged to the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu to facilitate the proposed talks between the fishermen’s representatives and officials of the two countries in efforts to solve the dispute arising out of fishing in the Palk Straits.

But the talks scheduled for this week were cancelled after Tamil Nadu insisted that the 75 fishermen be released first.

Fisheries ministry spokesman Narendra Rajapaksa said that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha had demanded the release of Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody for the Colombo talks to take place.

He said the government had maintained that only the local court would decide what to do with the Indians as they had violated maritime laws by poaching in Sri Lankan waters.

While the first round of talks between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen took place in India in January this year, the Colombo talks were originally scheduled for March 13 but had to be postponed after Jayalalitha made a similar demand even then.

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