‘Indian Consulate in Jaffna interfered in judicial process’ - Consular General denies allegation


by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Indian Counsel General in Jaffna V. Mahalingam had interfered in the judicial process following the seizure of 112 Indian fishermen along with 18 trawlers in the general area north of Point Pedro on Tuesday night, sources told TheIsland. The Indian Counsel General had raised the issue with the Point Pedro Magistrate Mrs. Sirinidhi Nandasekeran and sought an early release of the fishermen and their boats, sources said adding that in spite of Indian pressure, the Magistrate on Wednesday (16) had remanded the fishermen to judicial custody for 14 days. Responding to a query by The Island, yesterday Mahalingam denied the allegation. He said India would take up the fishermen’s issue with the Sri Lankan government.

India set up a Consulate in Jaffna on Nov. 27, 2010. Sources said that some of the fishermen in custody had told the Point Pedro Magistrate that Tamil Nadu authorities had told them to go ahead with fishing in Sri Lankan waters.

Amidst on-going Indian efforts to secure the release of 112 fishermen and their boats, the Sri Lankan police yesterday produced 24 Indian fishermen, arrested the previous day off Madagal, before the Mallakam Magistrate. Mahalingam said that they were watching the situation. The Jaffna fishermen also seized seven more trawlers and handed them over to SLN ‘Agbo’ base. Investigations are being conducted by Illawali police.

Navy headquarters said that Jaffna fishermen had carried out both round-ups of Indian fishermen amidst growing anger in Jaffna over continuing poaching by the Tamil Nadu fishing fleet.

The Mallakam Magistrate yesterday remanded 24 fishermen for two weeks in judicial custody. Prior to being produced before the Magistrate, they underwent medical examination at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital.

Sources based in Jaffna told The Island that Tamil Nadu administration shouldn’t deprive the long suffering Jaffna fishermen of their livelihood. Since the conclusion of the war, the Tamil Nadu fishing fleet have stepped-up operations in Sri Lankan waters.

Speaking on behalf of the UNP, National List MP D. M. Swaminathan recently accused the government of failing to stop continuing incursions by the Tamil Nadu fishing fleet. Swaminathan alleged that for want of government inaction, vis-à-vis large scale poaching by Indians, the northern fishermen hadn’t been able to enjoy peace dividends.

Indian High Commission spokesman Birender S. Yadev yesterday told The Island that they were in touch with local authorities in Jaffna and the Sri Lankan government to secure the release of detained fishermen as early as possible. He emphasised that New Delhi was seriously concerned about a section of the Sri Lankan nationals taking the law into their hands. Yadev went on to say that the Indian Government Spokesman would comment on the issue later in the day.

Political sources said that Wednesday’s protest led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s party had been planned ahead of protests launched by Opposition leader J. Jayalalitha in a bid to thwart an Opposition attempt to take political advantage ahead of forthcoming TN polls.

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