Charles Nirmalanathan, a parliamentarian with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) expressed his strong concerns regarding the Sri Lankan government’s inaction over the plight of Tamil fishermen and demanded that the Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda resign from his position.
Speaking to the press at his office in Mannar on Monday, Nirmalanathan said that encroachment of Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu has risen since the end of the armed conflict in 2009.
“During the last government, many Indian boats were captured and controlled following intense pressure from us. But now, Indian boats affect fishermen in areas like Mannar and Mullaitivu,” he emphasised.
Nirmalanathan attributed the Rajapaksa government’s supposed inaction to its fear of India. “I have spoken to the Fisheries Minister about this,” he said referring to Devananda, who also heads the paramilitary Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP). “I have made several statements regarding the matter in parliament. But neither the government nor the fisheries minister has taken any action regarding the issue,” he added.
He went so far as to demand that Devananda resign his post and pass on the office to someone belonging to Sinhalese ethnicity.
Nirmalanathan justified his statement by saying that, “Despite someone from the Northern Province being the Fisheries Minister, the fishermen in the North continue to be affected whilst the minister keeps quiet. Instead of that, some control (of the situation) could be achieved through our pressure if the minister was a Sinhalese.”
He also accused the Fisheries Ministry of “lack of self-confidence” as a result of which “Northern fishermen are impacted adversely by Indian tug-boats.”
During the press conference, Nirmalanathan also exhorted the Sri Lankan government to pay attention to the plight of the farmers and urged it to grant fertilisers so as to help boost agricultural activities.
“Had they granted fertilisers early on, there would be no need to import rice now,” he added. Furthermore, he also addressed issues related to the Northern Provincial Council elections and inflation during the conference.