Mar 30, 2021

'Minister can't take policy decisions like allowing Indian boats to fish in SL waters' Featured

Policy decisions such as allowing Indian fishermen to allow fishing in local waters cannot be taken on a ministerial level, minister Udaya Gammanpila said.

He was responding to a question raised during the Cabinet briefing today (30), with regard to a news report published by 'The Morning' newspaper.

The newspaper had reported that the Ministry of Fisheries is currently in discussions with the Government of India for the implementation of a programme that would permit Indian fishermen to fish in Sri Lankan waters.

It had also quoted the Fisheries minister - Douglas Devananda as saying, There are two main problems we face in our waters. Indian fishermen illegally crossing the border, and engaging in bottom trawling. To settle these problems we have proposed that a limited number of Indian boats be given licenses to fish here per week.”

However, minister Gammanpila said that such policy decisions can only be taken by the Cabinet of ministers.

Noting that the minister would have to submit a cabinet paper or make an oral submission for such things, minister Gammanpila said the minister had done neither so far.

"Therefore, we have not taken such a decision as a government," he said.

'Hoping SL fishermen would be released too'

Speaking to another query raised on the arrests and releases of Indian fishermen who were caught fishing in SL waters, minister Gammanpila said that they hoped that imprisoned Sri Lankan fishermen would be released too.

He pointed out that throughout history, countries have adopted a concessionary policy regarding fishermen who had unknowingly violated local maritime borders.

"Our fishermen are being arrested in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. In many cases, we have spoken to those governments and taken steps to release them without being prosecuted. Similarly, when Indian fishermen are arrested, sometimes we do file cases. But in most cases, with the intervention of the Indian government, they have been released without being prosecuted, sometimes just after being fined ... We have worked throughout history to release them with their fishing gear, which is nothing new... When Indian fishermen are released in Sri Lanka like this, we hope our fishermen will receive a similar verdict. We look forward to such a favorable decision in the near future, ” the Minister said.