Jaffna fishermen urge minister to lift restrictions
[TamilNet, Monday, 14 January 2002, 19:20 GMT]
"Remove the total ban on fishing from Thikkam to Thondamanar and let us fish freely at night. There is no point in granting us a short time concessions and relief", said Mr.S.Thavaratnam, the President of the Federation of Northern Fishermen's Societies, addressing a meeting Monday at Hartley College in Pt. Pedro between the Minister for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardana and representatives of fishermen's organisations in Jaffna. The Sri Lankan government announced Friday that it would allow Tamil fishermen two extra hours to fish in the Jaffna lagoon and in the seas off a small part of the peninsula's eastern coastline.
Thousands of Tamil fishermen's families in the northeast have been affected by bans and restrictions imposed by the Sri Lankan security forces for more than seventeen years. Fishing was permitted from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. off the coast from Thikkam to Kudathanai (14 k.m). Now fishermen can be out at sea until 12 o'clock. SLA allowed fishing in the Jaffna lagoon from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. Fishing is permitted until noon now. Inland fishing after dark remains banned. Fishing is completely banned in Karainagar and the coast from Thondamanar to Thikkam. Entire fishing villages were completely destroyed by the Sri Lankan security forces and many still remain inside the defence perimeters of army garrisons in Jaffna.
"Why cant you let us fish even at this time when the Tigers and the government are keeping the peace. Indian trawlers fish in our waters without hindrance. Why can't we do so? If you allow us to fish freely in our sea we won't have to beg from you but would have the wealth to provide you with relief. We are starving. You should give us a positive reply. Our Tamil MPs are leading a luxury life in Colombo. We will soon make them think about us. I do not believe that this minister can give us a solution. If you do not give us a proper solution we will launch a district wide struggle against your government", said Mr. T. Suriyakumar, the President of the Federation of Fishing Societies of Vadamaradchi in his address.
The commander of the Sri Lanka army's 52-4 Brigade, the Minister for Hindu Affairs, Mr. T. Maheswaran, the Tamil National Alliance MP for Jaffna, Mr. A. Vinayagamoorthy and the leader of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (Suresh Faction), Mr. Suresh Premachandran, were also present at the meeting.
Mr. Premachandran said that 1600 fishing families that were displaced from Myliddy and Palaly and fisherfolk who were displaced from Thalaiyadi and Sempiyanpattu are facing starvation due to the ban and restrictions imposed by the Sri Lankan security forces.
Mr. Jayawardena said that he cannot immediately solve all the problems the fishermen face.
"Chandrika had emptied the treasury before we came to power. Trust has to be built and war has to come to an end first. I know that you will oppose me with the same earnestness with which you welcomed me today. LTTE uniforms were found in Colombo. We do not know who brought them there. But there are some evil forces trying to disrupt and drive a wedge between the Prime minister and the Tigers. We have to be alert in this matter" Dr. Jayawardena said.
The Minister visited the shelled out and abandoned Chavakachcheri town later in the afternoon. He told media persons that 300 million rupees are required to clear landmines in Themaradchi division of the Jaffna peninsula.