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Sri Lankan PM justifies shooting of Indian fishermen

Colombo

07-March-2015

Amid diplomatic moves to forge closer ties, the festering fishermen's issue between India and Sri Lanka on Saturday threatened to snowball into a major row with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe justifying his country's navy shooting intruding Indian fishermen.

Wickremesinghe told a television channel that his country's law has a provision to "shoot" anyone trying to "break into my house" -- referring to Indian fishermen intruding into his country's waters, as he met Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here on Saturday.

The Indian minister is here to prepare the ground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's bilateral visit next week, the first by an Indian prime minister since 1987.

Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that India will take up the fishermen issue with Colombo during talks between Sushma Swaraj and the Sri Lankan side.

"This is an ongoing dialogue between India and Sri Lanka; the external affairs minister will certainly take up this matter today (Saturday) both with her Sri Lankan counterpart and with the Sri Lankan prime minister. We want to ensure both India and Sri Lanka are able to work together," the spokesperson said.

Sushma Swaraj also held delegation level talks with her counterpart Mangala Samaraweera during which all bilateral issues were discussed.

In an interview to Thanthi TV, a Chennai-based news channel, Wickremesinghe said his government was willing to make a "reasonable deal" with India with respect to fishing rights.

To a question if shooting at intruding Indian fishermen can be justified, Wickremesinghe said: "If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed... Law allows me to do that... On the fishermen issue, as far as I'm concerned, I have very very strong lines. This is our waters... Fishermen of Jaffna should be allowed to fish. We stopped them from fishing. That's why the Indian fishermen came in... they are willing to have a deal... Let's have a reasonable deal.. But not at the expense of the income of the northern fishermen...No..."

Wickremesinghe continued: "Why are you coming into our waters? Why are you fishing in our waters...? Stay on the Indian side... There will be no issue...No one will shoot anyone else... You stay on the Indian side, let our fishermen stay on the Sri Lankan side... Otherwise don't make accusations of human rights violation by the navy. You came in there."

He also took a pot shot at India for filing murder charges against two Italian Marines over the killing of two Indian fishermen in 2012.

"... Why do you all pick up the Italian sailors? You say you are friendly with Italy, show that same magnanimity to Italy that you want us to show."

To Thanti TV saying that the marines had killed two Indian fishermen, he said: "Look... If you want us to show that magnanimity to your fishermen, India should show the same magnanimity to Italian sailors."

He also said that Indian fishermen could not be allowed to trawl the seas in his country's territorial waters.

His comments came even as armed Sri Lankan fishermen allegedly abducted seven Indian fishermen late on Wednesday, demanding a ransom from their families, Xinhua reported on Friday.

The seven Indian fishermen later returned to Tamil Nadu, a leader said on Saturday in Rameswaram.

"Seven fishermen were allegedly abducted by some armed Sri Lankan fishermen on March 4. They were later released by their captors after confiscating their catch, mobile phones and other equipment," G. Arul, a fishermen's leader in Rameswaram town, told IANS on Saturday.

According to the Sri Lankan media, the Indian Coast Guard has detained six Sri Lankan fishermen on the charge of poaching in Indian waters, 128 nautical miles off Nagapattinam coast on Thursday.

Senior Tamil journalist R. Rajagopalan has said that Sushma Swaraj should issue a statement condemning Ranil Wickremesinghe's "provocative" speech regarding the Indian Tamil fishermen. - IANS