Colombo, 09 February, (Asiantribune.com):
Four Sri Lankan fishermen who were recently rescued by an South Indian fishing community returned safely to Sri Lanka on 09 February. “Thanks to the valuable support of Indian authorities, the fisher community in South Indian Kanyakumari area, the Sri Lankan High Commission in Chennai and our Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne, they have returned safely with no incidents” announced a relieved and a happy Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka.
Minister Bathiudeen was at the BIA to receive the returning fisher-folk who arrived by flight UL 122 landing on mid-day of 09 February. Minister Bathiudeen has been in constant touch with the Sri Lankan High Commission of Chennai since the four Muslim fishermen from Kalmunai went missing on January 9 off Valaichchenai high seas.
The fishermen were stranded for 15 days at the Indian Ocean and floated close to Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin), the southernmost tip of Indian Peninsula, when an Indian fisheries trawler spotted the marooned party and promptly rescued them, thereafter handing them over to the Kanyakumari coast guard. The four feeble and exhausted Muslim men were then taken over by the Tamil Nadu Police but were not remanded. The feeble Muslim fishermen were thereafter taken over for urgent survival care by Rev. Father J. Churchill upon the request of TN Police. Rev. Fr Churchill, with the assistance of his neighbouring Kanyakumari fisher community, nourished them back to life within the next four days. “The Fishermen were not arrested nor remanded by the Indian Coastguard since we have in advance informed them through our High Commission in Chennai of the possibility of four Muslim Sri Lankan fishermen drifting towards Kanyakumari or Southern Indian shores. As a result, the Indian authorities did not attempt to arrest them but instead promptly transferred them for proper care under Rev. Father J. Churchill who treated them for the next four or five days” revealed Minister Bathiudeen.
The four fishermen are Abdul Raheem, Ismail Isma Lebbe, M. Pithchai Naeez, and M. Hasan Basher from Kalmunai.
Speaking of his rescue, Mohammed Hasan Basher (40), one of the stranded fisher-folk said: “We are relieved and happy to return home alive. We thank the Indian and Sri Lankan officials and Minister Bathiudeen for their efforts to save us.”
Hasan Basher added: “We were treated well warmly hosted by the caring fisher community of Kanyakumari and they attended to every urgent need of us with no second thoughts. But they also complained to us that when they arrive in Sri Lanka by accident or in a similar way that we did, they are always promptly arrested, harassed and treated in the shabbiest way about which they expressed their displeasure."
- Asian Tribune -