The arrested Indian fishermen could be released soon, a Lankan diplomat said on Thursday even as a Jaffna court remanded the additional 24 Indian fishermen to judicial custody till March 1.
Indian foreign minister, SM Krishna called up his counterpart, GL Peiris, to express New Delhi’s concern on the arrest and hoped Colombo will take necessary steps to release the fishermen. At least 138 Indian fishermen are currently lodged in a Jaffna jail after they were arrested for straying into Lankan waters on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Around 25 Indian trawlers are now in the custody of the Sri Lankan navy.
The Indian fishermen were intercepted by Lankan fishermen and handed over to the police. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the diplomat said the Lankan government was confident of finding a way out for the jailed fishermen ``sooner than later.’’
The diplomat said the rule of law would have to be followed but the effort will be to look at the issue ``in the best interest of bilateral relation between the two countries and the interest of the fishermen.’’ He added that Sri Lanka was committed to the joint statement issued after the visit of foreign secretary Nirupama Rao in January.
Both sides had agreed not to use force in dealing with fishermen who strayed across the international maritime boundary line. The Indian Counsellor General’s office in Jaffna is likely to hire a lawyer on Friday to appeal for the early release of the fishermen.
The courts were closed on Thursday as it was a public holiday. “The issue should be resolved quickly at the diplomatic and government levels. There is lot of understanding between the two sides,’’ Attorney General, Mohan Peiris, told Hindustan Times, adding that the matter was yet to be referred to his office.
The official website of the government, news.lk prominently displaced a report quoting minister Douglas Devananda, who is from Jaffna, where he said the fishermen had apologised for their incursion into Lankan waters.
He made this statement after visiting the Indian fishermen, who were arrested by the Point Pedro police in Jaffna on Tuesday evening. According to the Minister, the Indian fishermen have asked the local authorities to facilitate their return to India.