Jayalalithaa seeks PM’s help to free fishermen (Lead)

June 21st, 2011 - 8:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Chennai, June 21 (IANS) Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa Tuesday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to secure the early release of the 23 fishermen from Tamil Nadu taken into custody by the Sri Lankan Navy.

The fishermen, from Rameswaram and Mandapam, had set out in five boats Monday and were taken into custody in the night for allegedly intruding into Sri Lankan waters, according to police.

The incident came to light when a fisherman escaped with his boat and informed the authorities.

In her letter to the prime minister, copies of which were released to the media, Jayalalithaa said she was distressed to note that Sri Lanka had again detained 23 fishermen and five boats for straying into the island nation’s waters.

“I seek your kind intervention and request you to ensure that the Sri Lankan government releases the 23 fishermen immediately,” said the actor turned politician who stormed to power in Tamil Nadu last month.

Referring to her discussions on this “vexatious issue” with the prime minister last week, Jayalalithaa said the frequent incidents of arrest of fishermen crossing the international maritime Line was “worrisome”.

It created tension and unrest amongst the fishermen in Tamil Nadu, she said.

Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka are divided by a narrow strip of sea. Fishermen from both countries often stray into each other’s waters, leading to arrests and seizures of their boats.

Sri Lankan officials say that Indian authorities are holding 78 of their fishermen and 16 Sri Lankan vessels.

In her letter, Jayalalithaa also thanked Manmohan Singh for securing the release of four fishermen arrested earlier by Sri Lankan authorities.

Tensions have mounted ever since Jayalalithaa demanded that Sri Lankan leaders should be tried for war crimes on charges of killing civilians in the war that crushed the Tamil Tigers in 2009.

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