Sri Lankan Navy arrests 21 Indian fishermen for alleged poaching

Colombo, Feb 1 (PTI) The Sri Lankan Navy has arrested 21 Indians along with two fishing trawlers for allegedly poaching in the country’s territorial waters after being alerted by local fishermen, the Navy said here on Tuesday.

The development came as the local fishermen in the North have been protesting for over a week to stop the Indians from entering the Sri Lankan waters for fishing.

The two Indian boats were noted by the local fishermen off the coast of Point Pedro within the Sri Lankan side of the international waters around midnight on Monday.

Navy spokesman captain Indika Silva said the Indian fishermen and the two boats were handed over to the custody of the police at Kankesanturai by the fishing inspectorate for further action.

The local fishermen claimed that two of their colleagues had gone missing in the northern seas and feared they had been harmed by the Indian fishermen.

The bodies of the two Sri Lankan fishermen, who had ventured into seas off the coast of Vadamarachchi in the Jaffna district, had been found in the Maradankeni beach in Jaffna, the local people said.

Last week, a Sri Lankan court ordered the release of 56 Indian fishermen who were detained for allegedly fishing in the island nation’s territorial waters.

Both Sri Lankan officials and the Indian diplomatic sources noted that with the release there were no more Indian fishermen in the island nation’s custody.

The two governments were in touch on the issue in the backdrop of continued talks between Colombo and New Delhi Delhi over India’s immediate economic relief to its southern neighbour.

India last month announced an economic relief package to Sri Lanka to help its southern neighbour tackle its worst foreign exchange crisis.

India announced a USD 400 million currency swap facility to improve Sri Lanka’s gross reserves and deferred the Asian Currency Union settlement of USD 515 million which the local analysts said stopped the bleeding of reserves.

New Delhi also announced a billion-dollar assistance package in addition to other balance of payment support for the island nation.

The billion-dollar loan credit facility is to be used to avert a food crisis while allowing for the import of items and medicines. Additionally, there will be USD 500 million for importing fuel from India.