10/11/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA – INDIA
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Shock in Sri Lanka over union leader’s killing in an Indian prison

by Melani Manel Perera
Fishermen’s organisations call on New Delhi and Colombo to admit their responsibility in the death of Canisius Fernando, who was killed whilst visiting fellow Sri Lankan fishermen imprisoned in India for crossing into Indian territorial waters. Trade union officials demand India pay the victim’s family compensation and urge the two governments to begin talks to ensure the safety of fishermen along the maritime border.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The All Ceylon Fisher People’s Trade Union (ACFPTU) and the World Forum Fisher People (WFFP) are demanding that the governments of India and Sri Lanka admit their responsibility in the death of an important Sri Lankan trade union leader who was killed whilst visiting some Sri Lankan fishermen in an Indian prison. The two organisations want the case to be investigated as quickly as possible and the issue of fishing rights in the waters between the two countries also settled rapidly.

Warnakulasuriyage Canisius Fernando, president of the United Fisher Association in Negombo, was killed by a prison guard last Friday at the Madurai Central Jail, in Tamil Nadu (southern India). He was visiting the institution to meet three Sri Lankan fishermen who had been arrested for entering Indian territorial waters without a permit.

Indian authorities said that the guard responsible for the incident has been suspended and that investigations are underway.

The death of the trade union leader has shaken public opinion in Sri Lanka. According to Fr Sherard Jayawardena, a Catholic priest in Colombo, “Canisius had to intervene because the Sri Lankan government was not doing enough to get the fishermen released.”

Speaking to AsiaNews, WFFP General Secretary in Sri Lanka, Herman Kumara, said that the Indian government must pay compensation to the victim’s family. He had two children, 16 and 9.

Mr Kumara added that he hoped that Canisius Fernando’s death will push “the Indian and the Sri Lankan governments to come to an amicable solution to border issues and ensure the safety of innocent fishermen.”

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