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Law allows shooting intruders, says Sri Lankan PM on fishermen issue

Law allows shooting intruders, says Sri Lankan PM on fishermen issue

Colombo: The festering India-Sri Lanka fishermen issue got a further impetus on Saturday with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stirring a controversy, when he referred to intruding Indian fishermen and said his country's law has a provision to "shoot" anyone trying to "break into my house".

The statement, made to a television channel, came as India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was in Colombo to lay the ground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's bilateral visit next week, the first by an Indian prime minister since 1987.

Sushma Swaraj also met Wickremesinghe later and raised the fishermen issue with him.

Briefing reporters, Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said Sushma Swaraj raised the matter related to Indian fishermen during talks with the Sri Lankan prime minister.

"She explained our view that issue of fishermen is a humanitarian issue. It is an issue of livelihood," the spokesperson said.

To a question on Wickremesinghe linking the fishermen issue with that of the two Italian marines facing murder charges in India for killing two Indian fishermen, Akbaruddin said the two were different issues and cannot be linked.

The Italian marines was a legal issue while the fishermen issue was a livelihood and humanitarian one, he said.

"And the external affairs minister (Sushma Swaraj) forthrightly explained to the Sri Lankan prime minister our perspective on this. Our understanding is that he does understand what the nuances and differences are and agreed to take this conversation forward," he said.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the Sri Lankan leader's utterances signaled bad days for India.

"It's 'bure din' for India if SL can dare to flash eyes to india as it has on fishermen's issues," he tweeted.

In an interview to Thanthi TV, a Chennai-based news channel, Wickremesinghe said his government was willing to make a "reasonable deal" with India with respect to fishing rights.

To a question if shooting at intruding Indian fishermen can be justified, Wickremesinghe said: "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. This is our waters... fishermen of Jaffna should be allowed to fish. We stopped them from fishing. That's 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... no..."

Wickremesinghe continued: "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."

He also took a pot shot at India for filing murder charges against the two Italian marines over the killing of two Indian fishermen in 2012.

"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."

To Thanti TV saying that the marines had killed two Indian fishermen, he said: "Look... if you want us to show that magnanimity to your fishermen, India should show the same magnanimity to Italian sailors."

He also said Indian fishermen could not be allowed to trawl in his country's territorial waters.

His comments came even as armed Sri Lankan fishermen allegedly abducted seven Indian fishermen late on Wednesday, and demanded a ransom from their families.

The seven Indian fishermen later returned to Tamil Nadu, a leader said on Saturday in Rameswaram.

According to the Sri Lankan media, the Indian Coast Guard detained six Sri Lankan fishermen on the charge of poaching in Indian waters, 128 nautical miles off Nagapattinam coast on Thursday.

Senior Tamil journalist R. Rajagopalan has said Sushma Swaraj should issue a statement condemning Wickremesinghe's "provocative" speech regarding the Indian fishermen.

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