The government Monday claimed it had prevailed over Sri Lanka to concede that its Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s remarks about shooting down Indian fishermen venturing into Lankan waters was “inappropriate” and “unacceptable”.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the Lankan PM’s remarks had been shown on Indian television the day she was in Colombo and she promptly raised it in her meeting with Wickremesinghe. “I told him that the comparison you have drawn with the Italian marines case is totally wrong. And this remark about shooting down fishermen is totally inappropriate. It is unacceptable to us,” she said.
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Responding to opposition demands that New Delhi force Sri Lanka to apologise and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi not visit Colombo until that happens, Swaraj said, “Retraction can happen in two ways. One way can be that they withdraw their remarks.
The other way can be that what we say doesn’t get contradicted by them. We adopted the second way… Shortly after my meeting with Wickremesinghe, the MEA spokesperson made a public statement that we have told them that their prime minister’s remarks was inappropriate and unacceptable. The spokesperson also said that they agree and understand that the remark was inappropriate. The fact that they did not contradict our statement is a retraction from their side. And this is equivalent to a public apology.”
Wickremesinghe had, in an interview to Tamil language Thanti TV, said that Indian fishermen crossing into the Sri Lankan waters may be shot dead. “If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed… Law allows me to do that,” he had said.
“This calls for an apology from the Sri Lankan PM,” Anil Kumar Sahani of the JD (U) said in the Rajya Sabha. CPI MP D Raja said the remarks were “outrageous” and “most deplorable”.
Swaraj said more than 500 Indian fishermen had been killed by Lankan navy over the years. “But I can proudly say that after our government came to power, not a single Indian fisherman has been killed.” She said the two governments will meet to work out “internal arrangements” to deal with fishermen.