Fishermen in South protest against fuel price hike, fishing restrictions

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 31 July 2007, 05:08 GMT]
Around two thousand fishermen took to the streets of Negombo Monday to protest against the price hike of kerosene oil, horsepower restrictions on fishing boats and against the military High Security Zones that limit fishing in the Northeastern and Southwestern seas. "The government is slowly and subtly trying to sell our sea and our fishing industry to the multi-nationals," charged a press release issued by the All Ceylon Fisherfolk Trade Union (ACFTU), which had called for demonstrations in Chilaapam (Chilaw), Negombo and Galle.



The demonstration started at Thelwatte Junction along the Colombo- Negombo Main Road, with the participation of mainly Sinhala fishermen elsewhere in the South. The campaign lasted from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The demonstartors also burnt used tyres along the Main Road and disrupted the traffic.

Kerosene, used by the poor sector of the population has been raised by 16 rupees to 67 rupees, in the sixth increase so far this year. Petrol pump prices were sharply raised by 17 percent to 117 rupees per litre. Diesel costs 75 rupees per litre.

Fishermen were in economic difficulty as the small scale fishing was virtually impossible and the recent banning of the hitherto-used boat engines with the capacity of more than 15 horse power has rendered the fishermen jobless, the ACFTU press release said.

The Mayor of Negombo Municipal Council, Nimal Lansa, met the representatives of the fisheries societies and offered a meeting with the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday.

Felix Perera, the Minister of Fisheries, Sarathkumar Gunaratne, Duputy Minister of Aviation and Reverend Fathers attached to the Negombo Diacose, Jayawardane and Dires Fernando also took part in the meeting.

The press release issued by the ACFTU, before the protest, had stated that the members of their union were being threatened by the local politicians who were trying to sabotage their agitation campaign.

Amid the "Dawn of the East" celebrations by the Sri Lankan Government, the country's currency fell this month to the lowest record at 111.78/111.82 per U.S. dollar as analysts were predicting the bad trend to continue weakening it further to 120 rupees per dollar, before the end of 2007.



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