Batticaloa fishermen demand equal rights
[TamilNet, Friday, 16 August 2002, 23:30 GMT]
A large number of Tamil fishermen in Batticaloa district Friday held a protest march demanding the government to lift restrictions on fishing and to provide the same privileges now being enjoyed by fishermen in the South. The fishermen also demanded the government to take immediate steps to stop foreign fishing vessels entering Sri Lankan territorial waters.
The protest march began Friday morning around 10.30 a.m. from Batticaloa Hindu College grounds and ended at Gandhi Square, where a public meeting was held later.
Members of fisheries co-operative societies and other humanitarian agencies from Kallaru, Kathiraveli to Paduvaankarai participated in the protest march, headed by the President of the Fisheries Co-operative Union, Mr.S.Balasubramaniam. Batticaloa District Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian, Mr.Joseph Pararajasingham and the President of the Consortium of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Mr.A. Selvendran, also participated in the protest.
Addressing the protest rally, Mr.Joseph Pararajasingham, Batticaloa district MP said, "twenty percent of the entire population in the Batticaloa district are fishermen. For the last twenty years the fishermen in the district have been deprived of their livelihood due to restrictions imposed by the government authorities. Yet, they have not been provided with any relief for the losses suffered."
"The TNA parliamentarians are scheduled to meet the Prime Minister next week. The plight of Batticaloa fishing families will be brought to the notice of the Prime Minister during the talks," added Mr. Pararajasingham.
Batticaloa NGOs Consortium President Mr.A. Selvendran said, "the LTTE has created an environment for the Muslims to live as a community. Very soon the time will come for the Tamils and Muslim to go in one boat for fishing in our seas."
A memorandum submitted by the Batticaloa district fisheries co-operative union was handed over to the Government Agent, Mr.V.Shanmugam, by Mr.Joseph Pararajasingham to be sent to the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile Sri Lanka Army in Thondamanaru in Jaffna district has ordered the fishermen in the area to keep their fishing crafts near its camps. The new regulation comes in to effect from Friday, fisheries sources said. Earlier the SLA allowed fishermen to keep their boats in any area the fishermen deemed safe.
The SLA authorities in the area have not given any reason for the new restriction, the sources said.
More than one hundred fishing crafts are in Thondamanaru area, fisheries societies sources said.