Ahead of Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to New Delhi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to raise two broad issues – the retrieval of Katchatheevu and the aspirations of the Tamil-speaking people in the neighbouring Island.
A copy of the letter was shared with the media.
Meanwhile, DMK MPs have requested the Union Ministry for External Affairs to arrange for a meeting with the Sri Lankan president during his visit to the national capital, sources said.
Mr. Wickremesinghe’s visit to India on July 21, is to be his first visit since he assumed his current responsibilities last year.
In his letter, Mr. Stalin recalled the history behind ceding the Katchatheevu islet to Sri Lanka in 1974, “without the State government’s consent”, and contended that it has deprived T.N. fishermen of their rights and adversely impacted their livelihoods. He also underlined resolutions adopted in the T.N. Assembly towards the retrieval of Katchatheevu, emphasising the strong position of T.N. in this regard.
“Our fishermen face highly restricted access to traditional fishing grounds, increased harassment by the Sri Lankan Navy, and arrests by the Sri Lankan Navy on trespassing charges. Restoring the right to fish in the traditional fishing grounds of Palk Bay has always been among the top priorities of the Government of Tamil Nadu,” Mr. Stalin said and urged the Union government to initiate diplomatic efforts to revisit the agreement transferring the islet.
Pointing out the demands of the Tamil Nadu government and the DMK for upholding the rights and aspirations of the Tamils in Sri Lanka since 1956, Mr. Stalin contended: “It is imperative to protect the social, political, cultural and economic rights of the Tamils in Lanka so that they can lead dignified lives as equal citizens of Lanka. For this purpose, there must be adequate and meaningful devolution of powers to the provinces, which fulfils the genuine and unresolved aspirations of the Tamils in the island nation.”
Highlighting the “frequent harassment” and apprehending of Tamil fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, Mr. Stalin recalled the T.N. government’s constant demands that the government of India “decisively use diplomatic channels” to secure the immediate release of apprehended T.N. fishermen and prevent the recurrence of such incidents.
Regular patrolling, establishment of communication channels, and installation of warning systems could significantly reduce the incidents of harassment and apprehension, Mr. Stalin suggested. He also proposed regular meetings and consultations of the Joint Working Group reconstituted in 2016, which he said would help in building trust, facilitate effective communication and ensure smooth fishing operations.