Facebook icon
Twitter icon
e-mail icon

Devananda's plan for Tamils to be ‘sea guards’ alongside Sri Lankan navy faces backlash

Sri Lanka’s fisheries minister and government-aligned paramilitary leader Douglas Devananda has faced backlash over a cabinet paper that proposes Tamil civilians in the North-East being recruited to a force that patrols the sea alongside the Sri Lankan navy and wards off Tamil Nadu fishermen.

The force – known as the “sea guards” – will see Tamils monitor and assist the Sri Lankan navy in warding off Indian fishermen who have been accused of illegally fishing in Northern waters.

The civilians recruited for the force are to be members of the fisherfolk community in the North-East and will be recruited to the voluntary force through fishermen unions. 

Former Tamil parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran was one of the voices who expressed his skepticism over the plan adding that it will unnecessarily endanger the lives of innocent fishermen in the homeland. Speaking at a press conference held at the Jaffna Press Club, he told reporters this would cause a clash between Tamil Nadu and Tamil Eelam fishermen at sea, which is a grave risk. 

“The Ministry must find a solution to this and prevent the Indian fishermen from poaching in [Northern] territorial waters,” he said. “Instead is the Minister trying to create a defence force and let these fishermen clash with each other in the high seas?”

He went on to state this would cause unwanted conflict. “This is an attempt to make the Tamil Nadu fishermen renegade and fight against North-East Tamil fishermen,” he added.

“Do not create unnecessary problems by getting civilians to do the work that the navy should be doing.”

The latest announcement comes as the Sri Lanka Navy said it seized a total of 16 Indian poaching trawlers and 125 Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters in 2024, and subsequently handed them over to authorities for legal proceedings. During the latest such incident, a fisherman was admitted to Jaffna Teaching Hospital for treatment, after he said the Sri Lanka Navy had assaulted him. 

Tamil Nadu fishermen have reported instances of abuse, torture, and extrajudicial killings by Sri Lanka's Navy for years. 

Across the North-East too, Tamils have routinely faced massacres, abductions and torture and the hands of the Sri Lankan navy.

We need your support

Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Tamil journalists are particularly at threat, with at least 41 media workers known to have been killed by the Sri Lankan state or its paramilitaries during and after the armed conflict.

Despite the risks, our team on the ground remain committed to providing detailed and accurate reporting of developments in the Tamil homeland, across the island and around the world, as well as providing expert analysis and insight from the Tamil point of view

We need your support in keeping our journalism going. Support our work today.

For more ways to donate visit https://donate.tamilguardian.com.