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BJP distances itself from Swamy's comments on Sri Lanka

Last updated: 0800 GMT

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has criticised remarks made by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy over the arrest of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy this week, as the BJP’s State Chief distanced the party from his comments.

Swamy, who recently attended a defence seminar in Sri Lanka, said the Sri Lankan government should not release the boats of Tamil Nadu fishermen that they were holding in their custody.

His comments were slammed by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, who also heads the third largest party in India, who said,

“It is particularly distressing that a senior member of the BJP has, in a televised media interview, stated it was he who advised the Sri Lankan government not to release the boats of Tamil Nadu fishermen. This statement of Swamy has given rise to resentment and angst not only among the fishing community but also among people of Tamil Nadu."

“The Sri Lankan government's inhumane and cruel strategy of not releasing the boats is causing loss of livelihood to fishermen and their families. The desperate fishermen are resorting to protests and strikes."

Swamy’s remarks led to a rebuke by the BJP’s State Chief Tamilisai Soundararajan, who said his comments were not the official line of the BJP party and that she has “reported the matter to the party high command."

Soundararajan went on to say Swamy was “spoiling the efforts” of the Indian government to resolve the issue of repeated arrests by the Sri Lankan Navy, adding,

“We have made progress in the fishermen's issue as meetings have been held and the PMO has also stepped in to facilitate talks between officials from both countries." 

Swamy though dismissed the Chief Minister’s criticism saying “she is being a cinema star, she basically speaks according to a script… she is not a BJP member”.

He went on to deny telling the Sri Lankan President not to release Tamil Nadu fishermen, saying he had instead agreed to the continued holding of fishing boats by the Sri Lankan Navy. Swamy said,

“He [Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa] said he would not release. I said yes that’s fine with me because they have not petitioned me. They are owned by rich people they can afford to buy another boat.”

See more of his comments in a video here.