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TNPF leader questions why Sri Lankan Navy allowed Indian trawlers to bring narcotics into the North-East

Addressing a Jaffna District Coordination Meeting recently, leader of the Tamil National People's Front (TNPF) Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam questioned why the Sri Lankan navy had allowed Indian trawlers laden with narcotics to enter the island's territorial waters. 

“The Sri Lankan government has to ensure that its sea area is secured and intruders are not allowed in,” he said.

“It can be a boat or a trawler, it does not matter, but why is the government allowing those boats to come in, some laden with narcotics and others engaging in trade as well.”

Jeevan Thondaman, General Secretary of the Ceylon Workers Congress and Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure who was recently in Jaffna, met with 23 fishermen who were arrested and detained in a prison in Jaffna.

All of the fishermen told Thondaman that they wished to return home to their families as soon as possible. 

“After inquiring about their well-being I told them that I would discuss their issue and we hope this can be resolved swiftly and through diplomatic means. I believe that a solution should be developed for this long-standing issue,” he said. “The fisherfolk in the North-East are Tamil who’ve been victims of the war and make a living with small boats. We must ensure their livelihoods are also not destroyed," Thondaman said. 

Meanwhile, fisherfolk from Rameshwaran have initiated a protest against the Sri Lankan Navy’s arrests by boycotting fishing and hoisting black flags instead. The fishing associations demand that the Tamil Nadu government intervene to secure the swift release of the jailed fishermen and to retrieve the impounded boats. 

The Tamil Nadu fisherfolk have announced they would keep away from all fishing activities and would also boycott the annual Kachchathivu festival due to their grievances not being resolved. 

The announcement, on Saturday, February 17, 2024, was made after an emergency meeting was convened in Rameswaram, at which fishermen and their families participated in large numbers. The families of the jailed fishermen pleaded with officials to ensure the release of their family members who are presently behind bars in Jaffna. 

Last year the Sri Lankan government sentenced 21 Indian fishermen to 21 years for poaching in Sri Lankan territorial waters. The 22 fisherfolk were arrested on June 21st, by the Sri Lankan Navy that was patrolling near Delft island. They were produced to the Kayts Magistrate court the following day by the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. 



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