(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Sri Lanka Navy today (07) rejected the Indian media reports which alleges that Navy personnel lethally shot an Indian fisherman Monday night (06), while he was fishing a short distance off the Katchatheevu islet.
Amid allegations that the Sri Lankan Navy shot down a 22-year-old fisherman from Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, its Spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Chaminda Walakuluge categorically rejected the allegations and denied any such shooting had occurred in the area.
“No Navy personnel has the permission to shoot at poaching fishermen. The Navy is instructed only to arrest the poachers, not to fire,” Lieutenant Commander Walakuluge emphasised upon query by Lankapuvath National News Agency.
He further stressed that, “Navy personnel cannot open fire without a clearance from the Navy Commander. They only have permission to round up trawlers found poaching, and arrest the fishermen to produce them before Court.”
According to The Hindu, late Monday, a group of fishermen returned to the Rameswaram jetty with the body of 21-year-old fisherman K. Bristo, and pointed to an apparent bullet injury on his neck. Fishermen leaders based in Tamil Nadu said he was among the 6 fishermen on board a mechanised trawler that the “Sri Lankan Navy targeted”.
In 2011, a similar shooting incident claimed 2 Tamil fishermen’s lives at the Palk Bay. Tamil Nadu fishermen accused the Sri Lankan Navy of opening fire, which the Navy denied.
The issue of Tamil Nadu fishermen allegedly poaching in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters has been an ongoing conflict, with Sri Lanka’s Northern fishermen repeatedly raising concerns over their falling catch and the serious environmental damage caused by trawlers originating from India.
As of Tuesday, as many as 85 Indian fishermen charged of poaching are in Sri Lankan custody. A total of 146 trawlers seized by the Navy have also been held, officials said.
Meanwhile, the External Affairs Ministry of India said the Indian High Commissioner has taken up the issue and reached out to the highest leadership in Colombo.
“The Government of India is deeply concerned at the killing of an Indian fisherman. Our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka has taken up the matter with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Navy has promised a full and thorough investigation,” sources in the Ministry of External Affairs the media even as reports came of public outrage in Tamil Nadu’s coastal region.
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