Fishermen's catch siezed

[TamilNet, Friday, 31 July 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Members of the Batticaloa Municipal Council (BMC) expressed stern disapproval at the way the military and para-military forces in Batticaloa intimidated and robbed poor fishermen returning home with their day's catch, said sources in Batticaloa.

At a meeting of the BMC on Wednesday, a proposal was put forward by M. Jalaldeen (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress) and seconded by Sinnathamby Selvam (Eelam Revolutionary Organisation) to bring to the notice of higher authorities, the plight of the fishermen in BMC areas such as Navalady, Pooncholai Munai and Muhaththuvaram (estuary).

Fishermen put out to sea around 4:00 a.m. every morning, when restrictions on their travel by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) was lifted. By the time they returned three hours later, standing at the jetty would be SLA, Air Force and police personnel.

With them would be the Razeek Group, a para-military outfit working with the SLA. They would be awaiting the return of the boats to forcibly take away the pick of the catch the fishermen returned with.

If the fishermen pretended they did not see the soldiers, the armed personnel fired into the air to summon them.

Once the craft pulled over, the best fish were taken by the soldiers. If they took away fish in excess, it was later sold. The two speakers moved that immediate steps be taken to stop this practice and that the restrictions imposed on fishing to be lifted.

Mayor Chelliyan Perinpanayam (Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation-TELO) said that this was an acute problem affected fishermen not only Batticaloa, but the entire Northeast.

Michael Pathmanathan (United National Party-UNP) agreeing with the views expressed said that fishermen went out to sea braving not only the elements, but grave security threats. Despite this sacrifice, they were not sure whether they could reap the full financial benefit from their catch.

A motion was carried unanimoulsy condemning the military and para-military action.

The copies of the resolution are to be despatched to the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, all Members of Parliament of the Batticaloa District, the Civil Coordinating Officer in Batticaloa and the District Secretary.

 

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