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Sri Lanka Releases 22 Fishermen After Sitharaman Steps In

MADURAI: Sri Lankan authorities on Saturday night released 22 dhow (country boat) fishermen from Tamil Nadu detained by them earlier in the day on charges of poaching in their territorial waters after Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman intervened in the matter. The two dhows seized by the Lankan side were also released and the fishermen allowed to sail back on their crafts.

Sitharaman had come to Rameswaram on Saturday night to distribute welfare measures under the Prime Minister’s SVANidhi (The PM Street Vendors’ Atmanirbharnidhi) the next day. Knowing about it, fishermen leaders led by the district president of Country Boat Fishermen Welfare Association SP Rayappan met her and urged her to intervene in the matter.

Sitharaman contacted officials of the external affairs ministry and urged them to step in. “She called important people, including some in Sri Lanka, on Saturday night itself and assured us that the arrested fishermen would be released. We were doubtful in the beginning but our fishermen called from Sri Lanka around midnight to tell us that they were released. We can’t thank her enough,” said Rayappan.

The Sri Lankan side, which usually doesn’t harass country boat fishermen fishing in their traditional fishing grounds in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay, decided to release them as a goodwill gesture on Sitaraman’s intervention. The Sri Lankan Navy brought the released fishermen to the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and handed them over to the Indian Coast Guard.

The fishing boats arrived at Pamban on Sunday afternoon much to the relief of boat owners Francis Cassier and K Raj as well as the fishermen’s families. Local BJP functionaries received them at the coast

Earlier, MDMK chief secretary Durai Vaiko condemned Lanka for arresting the 22 fishermen and demanded the central government’s intervention to release them as well as bring an end to the repeated arrests

Source: The Times of India