No Navy personnel has the permission to shoot at poaching fishermen,’ Sri Lankan navy spokesperson said.
Amid allegations that the Sri Lankan Navy shot down an Indian fisherman Monday night, its spokesman Lieutenant Commander Chaminda Walakuluge on Tuesday categorically denied any involvement of the navy in the incident.
He told The Hindu on Tuesday, “No Navy personnel has the permission to shoot at poaching fishermen. They cannot open fire without a clearance from the navy Commander. They only have permission to round up trawlers found poaching, and arrest the fishermen to produce them before court.”
Late Monday, a group of fishermen returned to the Rameswaram jetty with the body of 21-year-old fisherman K. Bristo, and pointed to an apparent bullet injury on his neck. Fishermen leaders based in Tamil Nadu said he was among the six fishermen on board a mechanised trawler that the “Sri Lankan Navy targeted”.
While some reports pointed to a Sri Lankan navy patrol team in a small boat that the fishermen reportedly saw approaching, Mr. Walakuluge said, “We use only large boats to patrol the Palk Bay because of the size of the Indian trawlers. We categorically deny media reports and unsubstantiated claims that the Sri Lankan navy opened fire at a Tamil Nadu fisherman.”
The Lieutenant Commander said that while he read media reports about the incident, he got no such update from the ground. They were preparing for the coming Katchatheevu church festival on March 11 and 12, and were “working very hard to make it a success.”
In 2011, a similar shooting incident claimed two Tamil fishermen’s lives at the Palk Bay. Tamil Nadu fishermen accused the Sri Lankan Navy of opening fire, which the navy denied.
The issue of Tamil Nadu fishermen allegedly poaching in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters has been an ongoing conflict, with Sri Lanka’s northern fishermen repeatedly raising concerns over their falling catch and the serious environmental damage caused by trawlers originating from India.
As of Tuesday, as many as 85 Indian fishermen charged of poaching are in Sri Lankan custody. A total of 146 trawlers seized by the navy have also been held, officials said.