SLA stand scuttles Munai peace meet
[TamilNet, Thursday, 23 October 2003, 19:01 GMT]
A meeting convened by the National Human Rights Commission in Jaffna to amicably resolve the row between Sri Lanka army (SLA) and fishermen in Munai in Pt. Pedro ended inconclusively after the SLA insisted that it had nothing to do with the damages suffered by villagers during Wednesday’s incidents.
During the discussions at the St. Thomas Church in Munai, fishermen of the village said that they should be given compensation for the boats that had been scuttled and the one that were lost after the mooring were cut. They also emphasised that Police should replace the army at the sentries on the shore and micro breakwater and that they should have a guarantee that such incidents would not happen again.
bullet holes in one of the scuttled boats in Munai
The officer from the SLA’s 52-4 Brigade in Pt. Pedro town refused to accept the fishermen’s position. He told the fishermen the army had no hand in the incidents and that if there were any witnesses who saw the army scuttling the boats and assaulting people they could complain to the Police.
“If you say you do not know who was responsible for scuttling our boats and beating up our people, then why do you have sentries on the coast? Leave the sentries if you cannot protect our boats. We will find our own way to look after our boats and gear”, retorted the President of the Valvettithurai Fisheries Co-operative Society.
The SLA officer, however, stood his ground, saying that it was not the army’s job to protect fishermen’s boats but to prevent persons from smuggling firearms.
He accused the fishermen of sparking off premeditated incidents calculated to bring disrepute to the army.
The fishermen’s representative flatly denied this as a baseless allegation.
Despite conciliatory interventions by many present at the meeting no conclusion could be reached after two hours of discussions, a participant said.
Hence the meeting was called off around 2. 30 p.m.
The head of the HRC, Jaffna, K. Ruwan Chandrasekera, told TamilNet that the HRC had advised the commander of the SLA about the need to keep the military out of civilian matters in Jaffna. He said that he cannot accept the military assaulting civilians in the peninsula.
Officials of the federation of Vadamaradchi North Fishermen’s Association, Mr. Chandrasekera, the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Pt. Pedro Police station, Mr. K. Happuarachchi, the parish priest for Munai, Rev. M. Iruthayathas, the freelance journalist, Mr. Velupillai Thavachelvam, the OIC of the Sri Lanka army sentries at Munai, a representative of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission in Jaffna, the village officer (Grama Sevaka) of Munai and an officer from the Sri Lanka army’s 52-4 Brigade in Pedro took part in the meeting at the St. Thomas’s Church around noon Thursday.
the damaged catamaran with its smashed up motor, retreived from the shallows