Sinhala sea cucumber divers under threat to leave Ampaa'rai
[TamilNet, Monday, 31 March 2008, 02:57 GMT]
Unidentified armed group of local residents of Kalmunaikkudi, Ampaarai are forcing Sinhala divers who have been in involved in harvesting sea cucumbers (Beche-de-Mer) for the past 19 years, to leave the area, the Union of Divers in Sri Lanka complained in a letter addressed to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic resources, spokesmen for the Union said.
"Although we have been involved in harvesting sea cucumber in deep seas off Kalmunaikkudy for the past 19 years, some locals have begun harassing us demanding that we leave the area accusing us of using dynamite for fishing.
"On 12 March, while we were involved in harvesting slugs, a group of armed men operating in a boat threatened us to leave the area immediately," the letter said.
“The armed men claimed that the entire region from Kaaththaankudi up to Poththuvil belongs to them and we have no right to fish in this region .When we lodged a complaint to the police, they too advised us to leave the area cautioning that we may face different forms of danger," the letter added.
“Since we have been involved in fishing in the area over a long period of time, we couldn't leave immediately. We are confined to our homes without being able to set out to the sea and we appeal to you to intervene immediately and find an immediate solution for the problem," the letter concluded.
Nearly 450 Sinhala fishermen are involved in harvesting sea cucumbers and attempts have been made to force them out of the area for the past many years, local sources said.
Four years ago many valuables from their homes including outboard motor engines and oxygen cylinders were stolen and later jewelleries in the home were looted.
Very recently the leader of the Fisheries union was murdered in his home.
In a demonstration last week in Kalmunaikudi the protesters demanded that the Sinhala fishermen leave the area soon. the protesters accused the fishermen of using dynamite and destroying marine resources in the area.
Meanwhile, civil society sources alleged majority of fishermen in the area use dynamite for fishing, and the recent threats were a ruse to expel Sinhalese from the area.