Jaffna fishermen tell Colombo to lift controls

[TamilNet, Thursday, 06 June 2002, 15:59 GMT]
Hundreds of protesting fishermen paralysed the Jaffna District Secretariat and blocked traffic in a busy part of the northern town Thursday, demanding that Colombo should do away with restrictions on fishing. Colombo promised to lift draconian controls on fishing in the Northeast within ninety days when it signed the cease-fire agreement with the Liberation Tigers on 24 February. Tamil fishermen, however, say that many restrictions remain. "Don't sell our seas to China", the protesting fishermen shouted, objecting to an alleged proposal by the Sri Lankan government to allow the Chinese start a fisheries project on the Jaffna coast.

The protest was organised by the Federation of Northern Province Fisheries Co-op Societies and was led by its president, Mr. S. Thavaratnam.

"We are still compelled to get permits from the Sri Lanka army to fish in the sea. We are subjected to body searches by the SLA before we go fishing, particularly in the villages of Sakkottai and Polikandi on the coast of Vadamaradchi. We are still barred from using anything other than very low horsepower out board motors. What's in the cease-fire agreement for us? The government is lying to the world that the restrictions on us have been lifted," Mr. Thavaratnam said.

The fishermen blocked all the entrances to the Jaffna Secretariat when they began the protest around 9 a.m. Thursday. The Secretariat did not function as no one could enter it bypassing the protestors. Around 11 a.m. the fishermen sat across the Kachcheri- Nallur Road, blocking traffic until 3.30 p.m.

TNA Parliamentarians for Jaffna, Mr. M. K Sivajilingam and Mr. Mavai Senathirajah were present at the protest. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission members had discussions with the fishermen about their problems.

 

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