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SLN firing on fishermen: Delhi protests, Colombo denies

[TamilNet, Friday, 14 January 2011 08:41 No Comment]

India registered a ‘strong protest’ Thursday over the Sri Lanka Navy’s firing on Tamil Nadu fishermen, killing one, but Colombo flatly denied the accusation. Three fishermen, who put out to sea from Puthukkoaddai, came under indiscriminate fire from Sri Lankan Navy about 14 miles off the hamlet, Indian fisheries officials said. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi sent a telegraph to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, reports said.

"The navy totally denies its involvement (in the incident). We have checked. No such thing happened," an SLN spokesman told reporters, adding the SLN had recently rescued and repatriated four Indian fishermen adrift.

Although Sri Lanka’s navy has regularly fired on Tamil Nadu fishermen, with Delhi taking the matter up in the states’ bilateral relations, India’s response this week has an unusually higher profile.

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner was reportedly summoned within fifteen minutes of the occurrence of the incident to discuss the matter, NDTV reported, adding Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna had written a formal protest to the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry.

The Hindustan Times said the swiftness with which the Indian High Commission in Colombo also took the matter up with the Sri Lankan external affairs ministry forced the authorities in Colombo to refer the matter to defence secretary and the navy chief.

Meanwhile, in Tamil Nadu, the incident provoked friction between the ruling DMK and main opposition AIDMK.

Chief Minister Karunanidhi had written to Premier Singh that atrocities by the Sri Lankan Navy on the fishermen were continuing unabated despite repeated assurances given by the Indian and Sri Lankan governments that such incidents would not recur.

Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin, Karunanidhi’s son, told Tamil Nadu’s parliament "We have been taking up the issue time and again with the Centre, which in turn had been taking it up with the Sri Lankan Government."

The AIDMK slammed the DMK for contributing to the killing of Tamil Nadu fishermen, and asked "whether the state government will just stop with writing letters to Centre or would take any action."

The below is the text of Indian External Ministry’s statement on the indicent:

"We have received reports of the death of an Indian fisherman due to firing by Sri Lankan Navy personnel. Our High Commissioner in Colombo has immediately taken up this matter with the Sri Lankan Government and expressed our deep concern and regret at this incident. We have emphasized that resort to firing in these situations has no justification and called on the Sri Lankan authorities to desist from use of force. The welfare and the safety of our fishermen in the waters between India and Sri Lanka have received very high priority by Government. We have consistently emphasized to the Sri Lankan Government to refrain from firing on our fishermen and scrupulously adhere to the October 2008 Understanding reached between the two governments. We call on the Sri Lankan Navy to exercise maximum restraint and avoid use of force in such situations.

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