Fishy demands irk coastal folk

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 08 March 2000, 11:01 GMT]
The Sri Lankan army arrested and detained twenty men from Nainamunai, a settlement of fishing families on the southeastern coast of Jaffna, this morning. Local residents alleged that this was punitive action by the SLA in the area, angered by their refusal to let soldiers take part of the day's catch free.

SLA sources in Vadamaradchi east, however, denied the allegation saying that Nainamunai was cordoned off and searched on information that the Liberation Tigers were in the settlement.

Troops from the Maamunai camp went into the settlement around 5 a.m. this morning and arrested 32 males during the search. Twelve were released after questioning. The others have been detained.

Fishing families displaced by the war from Vettrilaikerni and Aaliyavalai further south on the coast are settled in Nainamunai.

fishermen.jpgNevertheless many fishermen in the area who spoke to TamilNet on condition of anonymity, insisted that the matter was related to the chagrin of the army at Maamunai when the majority of them had declined on Monday March 6 to put their signatures on a 'petition' stating that they had given part of their day's catch voluntarily to the troops.

In the past, the SLA at the Maamunai detachment had been in the practice of taking fish free from persons who had had a large catch. Generally, as a principle, the soldiers from the camp did not demand fish from people whose catch was less than five kilograms.

But since last week troopers from the Maamunai detachment had begun to demand fish from everyone regardless of the size of the day's catch. On Saturday March 4 many fishermen on the Maamunai beach had refused to give fish free as demanded by the soldiers.

The troops, allegedly angered by this, had refused to let them set out to sea at 2 a.m. - the time stipulated by the SLA - early Sunday morning March 5. Permission to go was given only at 4 a.m ; and as a consequence fisherman had little to bring home that morning.

The next day, March 6, troops from the Maamunai camp had demanded fishermen in that village and persons from Nainamunai to sign a document claiming that they had contributed the fish voluntarily. Twelve persons had put their signatures out of fear, according to residents; but the majority of the fisherman had refused to do so.

The soldiers had, meanwhile, asked the President of the Maamunai Fishermen's Co-op. Society to give them his organization's letter-head to take down the signatures. He had refused.

The troops then told the Village Officer (Kirama Sevakar) of the area to collect the signatures from the fishermen. He too had declined to comply.

Fishermen in Maamunai and Nainamunai allege that the troops, irritated by this, had rounded up their homes that night.

Today, the Village Officer of Maamunai was stopped at the camp while on his way to work and the president of the fishermen's Society has been called in for an inquiry there. Some fishermen from Maamunai said that they are waiting to see the outcome of today's developments to decide on the course of action they should take to sort the problem out.


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