Attack on Indian fishermen
By Vindya Amaranayake
Ministry Secretary Palitha Kohona said yesterday that the Indian
Navy has agreed with the Sri Lanka Navy’s stance on what led to
the deaths of four Indian fishermen last Thursday.
Initial reports in India had said that the fishermen had died
due to firing from the Sri Lanka Navy, statement which the Sri
Lankan authorities strongly object to.
India’s Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta was
quoted by The Hindu as saying that they did not rule out the
involvement of the LTTE in the incident of firing at Indian
fishermen in order to create misunderstanding between the two
Basing his views on assurances given by the Sri Lankan Navy
Chief, Admiral Mehta had said the purpose could be to create a
rift between the two countries.
“I had personally spoken to the chief of the Sri Lankan Navy
five days back [following another incident of firing on Indian
fishermen] and he assured me that his men had no intention of
harassing fishermen in this manner. The Sri Lankan Navy has also
issued strict instructions asking its personnel not to open fire
on Indian fishermen who had strayed into Lankan waters,” he told
journalists on Friday.
At a recent meeting between top officers from the Sri Lankan
security establishment and the Indian High Commission in
Colombo, the Sri Lankan Navy chief had shown maps to prove that
his ships were nowhere in the vicinity when incidents of firing
on Indian fishermen took place.
“It could be a tactic by the LTTE to create a rift,” he
observed. The navy chief also regretted that the State
Government was not doing enough to warn fishermen about the
perils of entering Sri Lankan waters at a time when conflict was
raging in and around the island nation. “There are some systems
that should have been put in place.”
With about 3,000 boats crossing into the international waters
everyday, Admiral Mehta wanted the boats to carry some kind of
instrument to identify the position of the boats so that the
Indian authorities could be aware of their whereabouts and could
alert the forces of the other side in case they inadvertently
crossed over into the waters controlled by Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile Dr. Kohona, who was on a visit to New Delhi to attend
SAARC Foreign Secretaries meeting has placed the SL Navy version
of the incident before the Indian Central Government.
After considering the facts, the Indian Government and the navy
have cleared the Sri Lanka Navy of the charge.
Indian media initially reported that the incident took place off
Kalpittiya, 80 nautical miles north of Colombo. However, it was
later realised that the incident had occurred in the Indian
waters, 30-40 miles south of Kanyakumari.
With the initial reports there were varying responses emanating
especially from Tamil Nadu. It was reported that Chief Minister
had expressed his condemnation over the incident and had hoped
the Central Government would react sternly.
Subsequently, the Sri Lanka Navy issued a statement to the
effect that the fleet units of Sri Lanka Navy do not fire at
fishermen and instructions have been issued to those units to
adhere to the Standing Operational Procedures when dealing with
On the other hand, the surviving injured fishermen have
accounted that the men on the boat who fired at them were not
wearing any uniform, therefore the identity was not definite.
The search for the trawler that the fishermen have said they
were fired from continues.
However, Kohona is of the view that these reports were issued
with the expectation of straining the relationship between the
two countries prior to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to
India to attend the SAARC summit.
Kohona added that despite these occurrences, the diplomatic
relations between India and Sri Lanka remain friendly and strong