The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sea Tigers strike, Chennai politics churns

Chennai, April 28: A churning began in Tamil Nadu politics today with parties forced to acknowledge that the serial attacks on the state’s fishermen were the handiwork of Tamil Tigers and not the Sri Lankan Navy.

Calls were made in the Assembly for a ban on the pro-Tiger MDMK. The DMK government promised to pass the demand on to the Centre.

Yesterday, the state police had said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had kidnapped 12 fishermen, including one from Kerala, and had shot dead five others in a separate attack in the Palk Strait.

Many state parties have in the past expressed overt or covert support for the LTTE to satisfy the Tamil nationalist vote bank. But the Assembly today echoed with members’ distress and anger at the Sea Tigers, the LTTE’s naval arm, for “targeting our own Tamil brothers in Indian waters”.

“Contrary to our belief that the Sri Lankan Navy was firing indiscriminately at our fishermen… it is shocking and painful (to learn) that the LTTE is involved in these incidents,” an agitated chief minister, M. Karunanidhi, said.

Congress member C. Gnanasekharan insisted that the MDMK should be “banned” and its leader Vaiko “arrested” for saying he would continue to support the Tigers in their “final war”.

Karunanidhi replied: “All these sentiments will be sent to the central government and the state will take action after obtaining its views.”

The kidnapped fishermen had been missing since March 6, two days after they put out to sea from Sakthikulangara in Kerala’s Kollam district. An anonymous caller had told the boat’s owner that the Sri Lankan Navy had taken them hostage.

But the state police chief yesterday said the interrogation of six Sea Tigers arrested on April 11 had confirmed that it was an LTTE strike. So, he said, was the March 29 shooting of five fishermen.

A day before the revelation, the chief minister, who would have been privy to the information, had told the Assembly the LTTE would be “given no room” in Tamil Nadu.

Today, he urged the Centre to help secure the hostages’ release and step up safety measures off the Tamil Nadu coast.

Karunanidhi told the Prime Minister that an offshore patrol vessel and helicopters with refuelling facilities should be stationed in Tuticorin and the Coast Guard and the navy asked to intensify sea and air patrolling.

The chief minister also asked Delhi to set up a Coast Guard station at Kanyakumari and implement a proposed Rs 55-crore communication project to keep the Indian waters safe for fishing.

Coastal districts such as Ramanathapuram and Kanyakumari have asked the state for speedboats for search and rescue operations.

The abducted fishermen have been identified as Clemence, Kingsley, Thapieun, Deepak, (another) Thapieun, Aniston, James, Yesudasan, Albert and Franklin (all from Kanyakumari), Babu from Tuticorin and Simon from Kerala.

Officials said they are believed to be safe in a rebel camp in northern Sri Lanka. The state last week gave their families Rs 10,000 each. Karunanidhi has said each family would also receive a monthly aid of Rs 1,500 till the men return.

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