Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka, the country’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe has stoked a controversy suggesting that Indian fishermen may be shot if they intruded into Sri Lankan waters.
Alleging that Indian fishermen were taking away the livelihood of northern Lanka fishermen, he told Tamil Thanthi TV that, “If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed... Law allows me to do that.”
Talking about the fishermen issue, he said, “As far as I’m concerned, I have very strong lines. This is our waters... Fishermen of Jaffna should be allowed to fish. We stopped them from fishing, that’s why the Indian fishermen came in, they are willing to have a deal...Let’s have a reasonable deal. But not at the expense of the income of the northern fishermen...No.”
Asked about allegations of Sri Lankan Navy shooting fishermen with around 600 Indians killed in the last many years, the Sri Lankan PM said there has been no such incident recently with the last one being in 2011.
“Part of that earlier was during the time of the Lankan civil war, they felt some of them actually were involved in supplying of arms,” Wickramasinghe said.
“As far as we are concerned, even today the northern fishermen are shouting why the navy isn’t defending us...We have a job explaining to them, Look these are territorial waters, but we still have to go and talk to India and sort it out,” he said.
Wickramasinghe also questioned the alleged illegal fishing by Indian fishermen in Sri lankan waters, saying, “Why are you coming into our waters? Why are you fishing in our waters? Stay on the Indian side... There will be no issue... No one will shoot anyone else,” he said.
“You stay on the Indian side, Let our fishermen stay on the Sri Lankan side... Otherwise don’t make accusations of human rights violation by the navy. You came in there,” he added.
Wickramasinghe also raised the issue of Italian sailors being arrested, saying that if India is friendly with Italy, it should show the “same magnanimity to Italy that you want us to show”.
There have been several cases of arrest and abduction of Indian fishermen in the last month.
Sri Lankan fishermen have been complaining that since the advent of new government, the number of Indian fishermen breaching the country’s waters for illegal fishing have been increasing.
As many as 86 Indian fishermen were arrested and their 10 fishing boats seized by the Sri Lanka Navy for allegedly poaching in the country’s waters last month.