Jaffna fishermen wrestle with increased Navy harassment

[TamilNet, Sunday, 21 September 2003, 19:10 GMT]
Fisheries societies in Jaffna district Sunday complained to civil authorities that the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) soldiers, alleging that they have been directed by Sri Lanka defense authorities to tighten security of the coastal areas in Jaffna town, have started harassing fishermen from Gurunagar, Pashaiyoor and Colombagam, sources said.

Since the signing of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) in February last year the harassment by SLN soldiers had been on the decrease. However, in recent days SLN soldiers manning checkpoints in coastal areas have tightened their checking on fishermen who go for fishing in Jaffna lagoon and elsewhere, fisheries societies officials said.


SLN harassment of Jaffna fishermen
SLN soldier examines fisherman's pass



SLN soldiers now refuse permission for fishermen to enter coastal areas without passes they issued. Those fishermen who have lost their passes have been put on the waiting list for several days for renewal of passes to go for fishing. This has caused severe hardship to fishermen to earn for their day-to-day existence, fisheries socieities said.

Meanwhile, fishermen who return to the shore with their day catch are allowed to beach their crafts only after producing the navy passes and also after a thorough examination of the crafts, sources said.

Coastal areas of Gurunagar, Pashaiyoor and Colombagam have been fenced with barbed wire and also checkpoints have been constructed within close distance.


SLN harassment of Jaffna fishermen
SLN soldiers examining boxes of fish carried by fishermen to the market



Fishermen have been ordered to go and return from sea through specially selected jetties by the SLN. This has caused inordinate delays for the fishermen who return with their catch to market their produce, civil sources said.

In addition to these restrictions, fishermen complain that fish caught by them are subjected to examination before entering the town area and quite often the government troops forcibly remove big variety fish from their catch, civil sources said.

The SLN further directed Jaffna fishermen to use traditional crafts and also to wear different color shirts daily during fishing in sea in order to identify them from shore itself. SLN has banned boats with outboard engines for fishing in Jaffna lagoon, sources said.


SLN harassment of Jaffna fishermen
Barbed wire fencing is a common site along the sea coast



Fishermen who sought asylum elsewhere in the Jaffna peninsula since 2000 following military operation are now slowly returning to their lands and houses on their own located in Gurunagar, Pashaiyoor and Colombagam to resettle, sources said.

 

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