Vadamaradchi fishermen face dilemma
[TamilNet, Sunday, 18 July 1999, 16:28 GMT]
In a letter sent to the Fishermen's Federation of the Vadamaradchi division, Jaffna, the head of the Tamil Eelam administrative service of the Liberation Tigers for the Vadamaradchi region, P. Pynthamilan, has requested the Federation not to support attempts by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) to enlist the fishermen to guard the peninsula's coast-line.
"The Sri Lankan Security Forces, in their mission to oppress us, use our own people as human shields. The Brigadiers of the Vadamaradchi and Valvettithurai army camps have now notified the Fishermen's Unions to co-operate with the Sri Lankan Security Forces in providing security to the coastal areas," the letter said.
"Under no circumstances should your Federation, or any members of your Federation lend support to this effort. If anyone does, we would be forced to take action similar to that we take against the Sri Lankan armed forces," it said further.
"Please communicate this information to all Fishermen's Unions," the letter said.
The letter carried the signature of Pynthamilan, sources close to the Fishermen's Federation said.
The LTTE letter follows an order by the commander of the Valvettithurai SLA camp to the fishermen that they should take part in night sentry duty alongside SLA troops, the sources said.
The SLA commander had said that strong action would be taken if the fishermen did not participate in sentry duties, the sources added.
The commander had summoned fishermen from Aathikkovilady, Amman Kovillady, Inparuddy, Sakkoddai, Suppermadam and fishermen who have been displaced from Myliddy and Palaly and living in the Vadamaradchi area to a meeting held at the Valvettithurai SLA camp on July 7.
The commander had said fishermen were to be used for sentry duty as a preventive measure because Black Tigers of the LTTE were infiltrating the area disguised as fishermen.
The commander said if the fishermen wished to set out at night, at least two of them should remain on watch at a nearby sentry point with SLA troops. Special ID cards will be issued to them, the commander had added.
The fishermen had however protested at the order, said sources.
The commander had replied that if they fail to carry out sentry duty, they would have to surrender their boats and canoes to the nearest SLA camp and fishing would be prohibited forthwith.
The Fishermen's Federation of the Vadamaradchi said they are thus forced to carry out the SLA's orders or risk losing their livelihood.