India and Sri Lanka should hold joint naval patrols to prevent fishermen from poaching in each others' waters, Sri Lanka's main opposition leader said today. Speaking during a debate on alleged poaching by Indian fishermen in northern Sri Lanka, opposition leader Rajavarothiam Sampanthan said the incursions had also raised tensions between the two countries and should be resolved amicably. "This is a matter that raises hostilities between the people of the two countries. Therefore, I urge the government of Sri Lanka to take some action with the Indian government and Tamil Nadu state government." Sampanthan told parliament that India's navy and the coastguard should work together with Sri Lankan counterparts to patrol their international maritime border. "The action could be for the navy to patrol the border.
Both Indian and Sri Lankan navies should carry out joint patrolling that will prevent Indian fishermen and their trawlers from coming in. "A joint exercise where their navies are engaged. Their coast guards are also engaged," he said, adding that fishermen of both countries should also be helped to upgrade their craft so that they could engage in deep sea fishing. Fishermen violating each other's territorial waters has become a thorny issue in the Indo-Lanka relations and all previous attempts have failed to amicably resolve the problem. The opposition JVP, or People's Liberation Front, which moved a resolution condemning the government over its inaction to deal with poaching by Indian fishermen, urged the navy to prosecute boat owners rather than arresting fishermen. "We have laws under which the authorities can detain the skippers of boats rather than arresting and detaining the poor Indian fishermen," JVP's Vijitha Herath said. He said thousands of Indian trawlers were engaging in bottom trawling, a practice Sri Lanka has outlawed. He said entire fish stocks were being wiped out because of the destructive bottom trawling. "At least thrice a week we see 1,500 Indian trawlers encroaching into our waters and depriving our fishermen of their livelihood," Herath said.