Jaffna fishermen say military restrictions not lifted
[TamilNet, Thursday, 30 May 2002, 16:18 GMT]
Fishermen in Jaffna this week protested that the Sri Lankan military was refusing to lift restrictions on their livelihoods, in breach of the terms of the permanent ceasefire signed by the government and the Liberation Tigers. The Navy meanwhile said that irrespective of the ceasefire agreement, it retains the right to impose restrictions at its own discretion.
“Despite the passing of 90 days since the ceasefire was signed and despite the claim by the Defence Secretary that the restrictions on fishing have been removed, fishermen continue to face severe restrictions and are not being allowed free movement to fish in the northern waters,” Mr. S. Thavaratnam, the President of the Federation of Northern Fishermen’s Societies said.
“Freedom to fish means allowing free movement to fishermen to fish at a place and time of their own choosing. This has not happened. What has happened is that in Vadamaradchi East, fishermen are allowed to fish in motorized boats without a pass, but they are not allowed free movement. In Valikamam West, restrictions on place and time remain; motorized boats are not allowed,” Mr. Thavaratnam said.
“Furthermore, in the Jaffna lagoon, in Gurunagar, Pasaiyoor, Navanthurai and Kakaitivu, far from being relaxed, the restrictions have only been tightened. Nowhere in the Jaffna peninsula is there any freedom to do fishing,” Mr. Thavaratnam protested.
“The ceasefire agreement stipulates that the restrictions should have been removed by 90 days since its signing. The Government should have honoured the terms of the truce,” he said.
Meanwhile Sri Lanka Navy Commander Rear Admiral S.P. Weerasekara and other Navy officers at Kankesanthurai port met with officials of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).
The SLMM team was led by Pertti Hartikainen and included Mr. A. Panchalingam and Father Benedict Gnanaratnam, the Sri Lankan government and LTTE representatives respectively to the Jaffna SLMM.
When Fr. Gnanaratm told the Navy Commander that the fishermen in Vadamaradchi East had complained about continuing restrictions, the Rear Admiral replied that he would look into the matter; he claimed that the restrictions have been removed only on “humanitarian” grounds and not because of its obligations under the ceasefire and the Navy retained the rights to re-impose the restrictions whenever it wished.