Jaffna fishermen want 19th century lighthouse rebuilt

[TamilNet, Sunday, 28 December 2003, 14:22 GMT]
“We need two lighthouses on this coast to help the deep-sea fisheries industry that’s trying to find its feet now - after dwindling to nought during 20 years of Sri Lanka army and navy imposed bans, restrictions and neglect”, spokesman for the Vadamaradchi East Federation of Fishermen’s Co-operative Societies told TamilNet Sunday. The only lighthouse on this long fisheries coast in Jaffna was destroyed when the Sri Lanka army bombed it in 1996, according to local fishermen. The British built the Vettilaikerni lighthouse in 1870.

“This region has great and untapped potential for deep-sea fishing. During the war only the desperate few, driven by destitution venture out to the deep seas from Vadamaradchi East. Most were shot dead by the Sri Lanka Navy in the high seas," the spokesman said.

“Times have changed now. Three hundred and fifty six boats have been registered with the Federation for deep-sea fishing since the Liberation Tigers helped people resettle in their villages two years ago," he added.

The British period lighthouse is located in the southeastern corner of the Jaffna peninsula. Therefore rebuilding only the old Vettilaikerni lighthouse would not be of any use to fishermen in villages further north on the coast, who for the lack of a guiding beacon, often find themselves on beaches garrisoned by the Sri Lanka army beyond the line of control in Nagar Kovil, separating areas held by the Liberation Tigers and Colombo according to the Vadamaradchi East Federation of Fisheries Societies.

“This is why we wrote to the Jaffna Government Agent yesterday that he should not only consider rebuilding the Vettilaikerni lighthouse when seeking funds for rehabilitation and reconstruction in 2004 but he should also take urgent steps to build a new lighthouse in Maamunai," the spokesman for the federation told TamilNet.


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