Voicing concerns over recent reports that Sri Lanka planned to erect high-mast watch towers for its Army’s surveillance and create rpt create a military base in Katchatheevu Island, about 14 km off Rameshwaram, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M Karunanidhi on Thursday said that “if such reports are true, the Government of India should not remain a mute spectator”.
Karunanidhi was replying in the Assembly here to opposition parties sponsored call attention motion, to condemn the Sri Lankan security forces resuming their attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen who happened to stray into the waters off Katchatheevu, where they have traditional fishing rights, even after the ‘Eelam War-IV’ against the LTTE had ended, and the Rajapakshe regime’s bid to expand its military base there.
Opposition members led by the AIADMK’s D. Jayakumar, Congress’ C Gnananasekharan, PMK’s G K Mani and others expressed serious concern over the Island-Government flagrantly jettisoning its obligations under the 1974 Agreement under which India had ceded ‘Katchatheevu’ Island to Sri Lanka.
Tamil Nadu fishermen had a right to dry their fishing nets there and visit it for the annual Saint Anthony’s festival, but instead are increasingly being brutally attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy, they said.
Several opposition members including the CPI floor-leader, V Sivapunniyam wanted India to get back ‘Katchatheevu’ from Sri Lanka , saying enough was enough. “Even this morning bodies of two of our fishermen have been found floating in the sea near Rameshwaram,” he said, adding, “ India is not even giving a warning to Sri Lanka .”
Broadly agreeing with the opposition’s sentiments that Katchatheevu Island should be retrieved back to India, Karunanidhi refuted criticisms that an earlier DMK regime in the early 1970s’ was a party to India “handing over Katchatheevu Island on a golden platter to Sri Lanka .”
“We opposed it even then and DMK MPs’ had protested against the ceding of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka in Parliament,” reminded Karunanidhi.
The clauses incorporating Indian fishermen’s “traditional fishing rights” in and near Katchatheevu was first made part of the Agreement “only on DMK’s insistence, but somehow later the clauses had been deleted,” regretted Karunanidhi in a helpless vein.
Asserting that the DMK Government was ready to bring in a fresh resolution in the Tamil Nadu Assembly to press the Centre to “get back” Katchatheevu from Sri Lanka in the interests of both Indian fishermen and our maritime security, Mr. Karunanidhi said he was all for such a resolution if there was a consensus among all the political parties in the State.