Restrictions hinder revival of Jaffna fishing

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 09 February 2005, 03:30 GMT]
President of Fishermen Association, Valigamam North, Mr Pius Logathas, talking to TamilNet on the predicament of displaced fisher families of his district said that for the families to rebuild their lives, the Sri Lanka Government, in addition to providing compensation to buy boats, nets and other tools of trade, should also stop harassment by the Security Forces, remove restrictions on fishing time and allow deep sea fishing.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

TamilNet: Can you tell us your background and how you have come to Vadamaradchy?
Logathas: My native place is Senthankulam. The people of Valigamam North fled the area in 1990 following military operations by the Security Forces. Displaced families from Senthankulam, Kankesanthurai, Oorani, Myliddy and Palaly moved into Vadamaradchy North and East. They left behind all their belongings and ran for safety. The Sri Lanka Government has been made aware that our people have lost their lives' savings and properties, but the Government has not yet made any attempt to compensate the affected people.

TamilNet: What has the recent tsunami done to the fisherfolks of Valigamam North?
Logathas: The Tsunami has further worsened the situation of the displaced fishermen. They were slowly recovering and attempting to rebuild their lives after the displacement, and tsunami has shattered their lives a second time. The Government is under obligation to help our people to rebuild their lives and livelihood. But the Government remains indifferent.

TamilNet: Have you asked the Government officials any specific help to alleviate the problems of displaced fisherfolks?
Logathas: First in 1990 and later many people have moved into the Vadamarachchy area for safety and seeking new opportunities. Due to this influx, this area has become saturated with people who depend on the Sea for their livelihood. Land also has become scarce.

We suggested to the Government officials that to alleviate problems due to congestion they should create a new village at Valalai in Idaikkadu to resettle people who had come from Valigamam North.

TamilNet: What has been the response from the Fisheries officials?
Logathas: The Director of fisheries has promised compensations for the losses during the period 1990 to 2001. He also said that the Government will assist the people to over come the effect of Tsunami. However, our people are doubtful of the sincerity of commitment by the Government. Past experience does not give us a lot of optimism about receiving prompt help from the Government.

TamilNet: Can you give us an estimate of how much a fishing familiy will need to restart life?
Logathas: To overcome the effect of the Tsunami and to rebuild our lives significant amount of economic assistance will be required. The price of a Fishing Boat (17 1/2 long) today is Rs.135,000 and the cost of an outboard Engine is Rs.140,000 and the net will cost about Rs.300,000.

Some fisher families were engaged in deep sea fishing with multi-day Vessels. These Vessels were 25 to 38 ft long and they cost Rs.1, 500,000 to Rs.2, 500,000.

To be successful in helping the hard hit fisher folks the Government must seriously commit itself to help them. The Government must think in terms of permitting our free engagement in our occupation. All restrictions and impediments about time, distance into the sea from the shore, types of vessels and power of the engines must be fully removed. Interference and harassment by the Forces must be stopped. The Government also must also provide and permit the use of deep-sea vessels by our people. This will help in the generation of sufficient income to our people who would then speedily recover from the loss that they sustained.


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