The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement to clarify recent written responses to Indian Parliamentary questions regarding incidents involving fishermen from Tamil Nadu.
These responses claim the involvement of the Sri Lanka Navy in attacks and killings of the fishermen. In this context, the Ministry wishes to draw attention to the following:
(a) There have over the years been increasingly heavy incursions by Indian fishing vessels across the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) into Sri Lanka waters.
The monthly observations of crossings of the IMBL by Indian fishing vessels, amounts to not less than 5,000. The LTTE uses the cover of the presence of these fishing vessels for their illicit activities, including to launch attacks on naval and coastal units of the Sri Lanka Security Forces. Despite the grave constraints thereby created, the Sri Lanka Navy applies and will always continue to apply an absolutely humanitarian stance vis-a-vis the Indian fishermen:
(b) Whenever there are reports alleging the involvement of the Navy in incidents involving Indian fishermen, Navy Headquarters in Colombo institutes the most diligent and scrupulous inquiries. The procedure involves firstly determining if any Sri Lanka Naval craft has been deployed in the vicinity of the alleged incident.
If any craft has been deployed, an assessment is made as to whether ammunition has been expended. The outcomes of all the inquiries have established absolutely no involvement by the Sri Lanka Navy. As a further step, the findings of the inquiry and the process of investigation leading to the conclusion, are shared with the Indian High Commission in Colombo;
(c) Sri Lanka has at the highest levels of governance made it a point to reiterate to the Indian authorities the Navy`s policy of humanitarian treatment of Indian fishermen crossing the IMBL. Practical proposals have also been presented concerning ways and means whereby the incursions could be contained, in the best interest of the two nations;
(d) The Director-General of Police of Tamil Nadu issued a Press Note dated 27th April 2007 identifying on the basis of investigations of `six Sri Lankan Tamils belonging to the LTTE`s Sea Tigers Wing` by the `Q Branch Police` of Tamil Nadu, the complicity of the LTTE boat `Maria` in the killing of five fishermen from Kanyakumari on 29th March 2007. Prior to the issue of this Press Note, there had been irresponsible speculation alleging the involvement of Sri Lankan Navy.
It would be seen from the above that there is absolutely no evidence to link the Sri Lanka Navy with attacks on Indian fishermen. Moreover, the policy followed by the Government of Sri Lanka and her Security Forces towards fishermen from India with which Sri Lanka has longstanding and close ties, is designed to preclude any such happening.