Colombo, March 7: In what can be described as an attempt to escalate hostilities, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe warned Indian fishermen to venture into Sri Lankan waters.
During an interview on Friday, March 6, to Thanthi TV, a Chennai based news channel, Wickramasinghe said, "Indian fishermen will be shot if they cross border."
He justified his statement by saying that the law creates provisions for a man to 'shoot' an intruder in his home.
Hours before meeting with India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Wickramasinghe said his government is willing to make a 'reasonable deal' with India with respect to the fishing rights.
The Sri Lankan PM was quoted saying as, "If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed...Law allows me to do that... On the fishermen issue, As far as I'm concerned, I have very very strong lines. These are our waters...Fishermen of Jaffna should be allowed to fish. We stopped them from fishing, which is why the Indian fishermen came in. They are willing to have a deal...Let's have a reasonable deal... But not at the expense of the income of the Northern Fishermen."
He further said, "It's an issue between Tamil Nadu fishermen and Sri Lankan fishermen... They have got to sit down and we have to work this out. There can be no bottom trawling. There can be no solution that permits the Indian fishermen to do bottom trawling. These are basically Sri Lanka waters... What would you have done if all our fishermen went into the Indian waters and started fishing there...? Now what you are claiming is, we want to come there, we want to fish in your water and we want to bottom trawl in your waters."
On being asked about the instances when Sri Lankan Navy shoot at the inncocent Indian fishermen, the Sri Lankan PM denied it as an act of human rights violation.
Instead, he adamantly said, "Whether Sri Lankan Fishermen or Indian fishermen, they had to stop, when the Navy asks them to stop. There also have been instances of the Sri Lankan Navy shooting innocent fishermen. We have not said no to it. In some instance they have to shoot because they were poaching on Sri Lankan Waters. Why are you coming into our waters? Why are you fishing in our waters...? Stay on the Indian side... There will be no issue...No one will shoot anyone else...You stay on the Indian side, Let our fishermen stay on the Sri Lankan side... Otherwise don't make accusations of Human rights violation by the Navy. You came in there."
"You be on to that side, we be on that side. Why do you all pick up the Italian sailors...? You say you are friendly with Italy, show that same magnanimity to Italy that you want us to show. If you want us to show that magnanimity to your fishermen, India should show the same magnanimity to Italian sailors," he added.
On Friday, the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Colombo to participate in the third round of a high-level bilateral meet and lay the ground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the island nation next week.
She was received at the Bandaranaike International Airport by Sri Lankan Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ajith Perera.
Swaraj met President Maithripala Sirisena and Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Pinsiri Samaraweera. She will meet Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe on Saturday and discuss bilateral issues.
Meanwhile, Six Sri Lankan fishermen were on Friday arrested for allegedly fishing in Indian waters. The Indian Coast Guard arrested them when they were fishing in the exclusive Indian sea zone, about 100 nautical miles from Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, fisheries department officials said. The coast guard also seized their boat.