Talks can take place only after release of TN fishermen: Jayalalithaa

Chennai, Mar 20: Seeking immediate intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the release of 74 Tamil Nadu fishermen arrested by Sri Lankan Navy, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today said the proposed second round of talks between fishermen associations from the state and the island nation in Colombo could be held only after their release.

“I am dismayed to report that in two separate incidents on March 19, the Sri Lankan Navy has apprehended 74 fishermen and their 18 boats. This latest incident, coming on the eve of the fishermen level talks, is an extremely unfortunate episode,” she said in her letter to Singh.

Mentioning that the action taken by Sri Lankan Navy has caused tremendous “anxiety” and “agitation” among fishermen in Tamil Nadu, she said “…the action of Sri Lankan Navy has come as a rude shock”.The Chief Minister said the incident has occurred at a time when the state government was taking “assiduous” and “decisive” steps in order to defuse the tense situation prevailing in the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu and also to create a conducive atmosphere for smooth conduct of the fishermen level talks.

Strongly urging Singh’s personal intervention on the matter, she said, “I exhort you to take concrete and decisive action to ensure the immediate release of the 74 fishermen along with their 18 boats. Only such a decisive action, taken at the earliest, would facilitate the smooth conduct of the talks between the fishermen of the two countries, scheduled to be held on March 25.”

She said to ensure that the talks were conducted in a “conducive atmosphere”, all the “apprehended” Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody should be released.

“The talks can take place as scheduled on March 25 (in Colombo) only if all our fishermen and their boats are released before that date,” she said.