CUDDALORE: Six Sinhalese fishermen who were found drifting in a failed mechanised boat in the Bay of Bengal, about four km off the Cuddalore coast, were rescued by the Thevanampattinam fishermen on Sunday night.
They reportedly left Trincomalee about three days ago for fishing, but the boat engine developed a snag mid-sea. Soon after, they hoisted a white flag and put up the "help pleis" sign with black sticker on a piece of thermocol sheet.
To convey their distress, they waved their hands to the local fishermen. On Monday morning, the authorities gave clearance to tow the boat named "Kaveesha Putha, Kottagoda," carrying the inscriptions "Sri Lanka TR 743, Ceylon Fishing Harbour Corporation-IMUL-A-0565 MTR," and berth it near the Cuddalore Port.
The Sinhalese — J.Nizath Chamira (17), H.W.Kasun Rasange (21), Anathuge Rajesh Thusani (29), G.M.W.Dhanisth Mandarae (22), Sameera Rangei (20), and M.M.Amila Manoj Prasad (21), — have been detained at the Cuddalore Port Police Station for interrogation.
Cases have been booked against them by invoking Section 12 (1) (c) of the Indian Passport Act read with Section 14(a) of the Foreigners Act (entry without valid documents).
The team deployed by Superintendent of Police Pradip Kumar under Deputy Superintendent of Police M.Stephen Jesubatham thoroughly searched the boat but did not find anything objectionable.
The team took possession of materials such as fishing net, floats and hooks, music system, two cooking gas cylinders, distilled water bottles, and insecticides. The local fishermen were astounded at the capacity of the Sri Lankan boat to store 4,000 kg of ice blocks and a fishing net that could stretch up to five km.
Collector Rajendra Ratnoo told The Hindu that since, the issue involved two nations — India and Sri Lanka — it ought to be taken up at the higher levels, he said.
`No security breach'
The authorities denied that it was a case of breach of coastal security. Any vessel, including warships, could have the "innocent passage" beyond 12 nautical miles (one nautical mile is equivalent to 1.85 km) of the territorial waters, provided they move on advance intimation without posing threat to the sovereignty of the nation.
In this case, the fishermen seemed to have lost direction owing to mechanical failure.