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US shooting: Fishermen seek higher solatium

Filed on August 8, 2012
US shooting: Fishermen  seek higher solatium

The survivors of the US Navy shooting case off Jebel Ali Port last month are demanding a higher payment after the US government offered ex gratia solatium, even as investigations continue.

The US government offered to match the payment of INR500,000 (Dh33,348) to the family of Arumugam Sekar, the deceased, and INR50,000 (Dh3,334) to each family of the three injured as announced by the government of Tamil Nadu, where the fishermen hail from.

The details of the ex gratia payment were worked out by the US in consultation with the Tamil Nadu government, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters in New Delhi on Monday.

“We understand that this humanitarian ex gratia payment does not prejudice the final 
outcome of the ongoing investigation which is currently under way in the United States,” he was quoted as saying by the Indian media.

However, the Dubai-based Indian fishermen, whose lives were jeopardized after the July 16 shooting by security guards aboard the US Navy’s refueling ship USNS Rappahannock feel that their government should have forced the US authorities to provide a higher compensation in the lines of the out-of-court payment offered by the government of Italy in a similar case.

In April, the Italian authorities offered INR10 million each to the families of two fishermen from Kerala who were shot dead by Italian marines onboard the vessel Enrica Lexie. The proceedings of the murder case against the Italian marines continued even after the out-of-court settlement that saw the withdrawal of a compensation claim by the victims’ families.

One of the injured in the US firing, Pandu Sanathan, said he would like to see the government pushing for a higher solatium like the one offered by the Italian authorities.

“A political leader in Tamil Nadu has already raised this demand. I hope they will look into it as we were shot at not because of our fault,” said Sanathan, who, along with Muthu Muniraj, is still under treatment in Rashid Hospital.

He said he was still suffering from pain in the bullet wounds and was apprehensive of when he would be able to start walking and working again. The unmarried man said three sisters, a brother and his parents were dependent on him.

Muthu Kannan, the third injured who was discharged from hospital last week, said INR50,000 was too less of a compensation to his family back home. “I don’t know if that will be enough for my further treatment even,” he said from the fishermen’s accommodation in Jumeirah 4.

“I have constant pain and I cannot walk. I’m completely depending on my friends here for my survival now. I don’t know how long it will take for me to start working again. Maybe it will take more than a year,” said Kannan, who was operated upon to remove bullets that hit his buttocks and leg.

Meanwhile, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE M. K. Lokesh told Khaleej Times on Tuesday that he had approved a proposal by the Indian Consulate in Dubai to provide a fund of Dh5,500 to Kannan and two other fishermen, Kumaresan and Murugan, who had escaped unhurt.

“This is food and accommodation allowance for them. Of this, Dh2,500 will be for Kannan and the remaining for the other two,” he said.

Kumaresan said he and Murugan were rendered jobless after the incident.

He said their Emirati sponsor, who was aboard the boat at the time of shooting, had offered just Dh50 each for their survival. “We did not get our salaries for last month.

The consulate had given us Dh325 earlier. But that was not enough for us to sustain 
ourselves and our families 
back home. All of us want to return home at the earliest,” he said.

The ambassador said the fishermen could be repatriated only after the completion of the investigation by the UAE and US authorities.

sajila@khaleejtimes.com





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