SLA ban hits fishermen

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 03 February 1999, 20:15 GMT]
More than 900 fishermen have been deprived of their livelihood due an SLA ban on inland fishing in the northernmost parts of the Batticaloa district. Their condition, according to the TamilNet correspondent who visited the affected areas this week, is particularly critical as they have been unable to fish during the prawn season.

Fishermen in this area make most of their annual income during this part of the year when prawns are abundant in the Vaakarai lagoon and its estuary.

According to S.Thamotheram, the President of the Vaakarai Central Fishermen's Association, none of the fishermen affected by the SLA ban have been granted relief by the government.

He said that about 500 fishermen in the Vaakarai Central area alone have been deprived of their livelihood.

Another 400 fishermen based at Panichchankerni have also been affected by the SLA ban.

The Sri Lankan navy has a minor base in the Vaakarai lagoon estuary from where it helps supply the Sri Lankan army camp at Panichchankerni, 5 Km south of the lagoon.

The Sri Lankan army camps as Vaakarai and Mankerni are also supplied by sea.

Mr. K. Kanapathippillai, president of the Ooriyan Kattu Village Development Society that looks after the interests of local fishermen, said that although the SLA allows limited fishing during the day this does not really help the fishermen as prawns can only be caught at night.

The SLA does not allow night fishing as the navy brings supplies to the Panichchankerni detachment from the Vaakarai lagoon estuary during the night.

The Uppaaru lagoon west of Vaakarai separates the forest covered hinterland from the coast.

This lagoon branches off at Panichchankerni towards Vaakarai where it opens up to the sea during this time of the year. This part of it is known as the Vaakarai lagoon.

Fishing in small boats is permitted during the daytime along this long coast north of Valaichenai. Vaakarai is 56 kilometers north of Batticaloa.

The SLA has concentrated on maintaining the sea supply route in the event of an LTTE operation cutting off the only link road to the camp and then attacking the camp itself.

Villagers complain that the SLA's fears for its isolated position between Vakarai and Valaichenai are taking an undue toll on them and their livelihoods.


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