Colombo: Dismissing opposition's claim that his government has given fishing rights to Indians, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has said he has issued clear instructions to the navy to seize boats that violate the country's territorial waters.
"We have not allowed fishing in our waters for the Indians. I have given clear instructions to navy to arrest boats or trawlers that violate our water limits," Sirisena told a gathering of fishing industry and political representatives on Thursday night.
Opposition group National Freedom Front had alleged that the government had given fishing rights to Indians in Sri Lankan waters as an appeasement policy towards India. Responding to the claim, Sirisena said, "I discussed at length the fishing issue between our two countries during my visit to India (in February). I want to resolve this issue without hurting our long standing bilateral relations with India."
"We have asked the Indians to stop bottom trawling," Sirisena said. The President said he was looking forward to a constructive role by the Tamil-ruled northern provincial council to resolve the dispute.
"I hope they can exercise their legislative powers to tackle the issue even by consulting the Indian High Commissioner (Ambassador)," Sirisena said. The two countries held fishermen-level talks in Chennai last month. The Indian fishermen had reportedly called for 83 days per year for three years to fish in the Palk Strait, the narrow sea strip separating the two countries.
The Indian groups had assured they will fish five nautical miles off the Sri Lankan coast. However, there was no official communique on the talks.