NEW DELHI, October 31: Sri Lanka and India are set to release all the 156 fishermen along with their 75 boats under their custody this week, The Sunday Island has learnt.
Diplomatic sources said that, as a gesture of goodwill, Colombo and New Delhi have decided in principle to release all the fishermen they have arrested and the boats that were seized for fishing on the wrong side of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) that separates the two close neighbouring countries.
The fishermen and their boats to be set free comprise 120 fishermen from Tamil Nadu and their 72 boats, and 36 Sri Lankan fishermen the Northern Province and Negombo and their three boats.
The Tamil Nadu fishermen are being held in Jaffna, Point Pedro and Mannar, while the Sri Lankan fishers are in custody in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.The five Sri Lankan fishers in custody in Andhra Pradesh and the two in Tamil Nadu have already been let off by the courts, and are awaiting repatriation.
The 29 Negombo fishers were nabbed by the Indian Coast Guard along with their two boats and 700 kilogrammes of sea cucumbers while fishing near India’s Lakshadweep Island, are currently lodged in a Mangalore prison in Karnataka state.
The court in Mangalore is likely to let them off any time this week.
Once all the Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen and their boats are let off by the courts, their respective Coast Guard vessels will ferry them upto the IMBL and handed over to the other side.
After the courts complete their task, it will depend on the weather conditions in the Palk Straits. Diplomats of both countries expect the fishermen to be back with their families well before November 11 for Deepavali, the famous festival of lights.
Source: Sunday Island