Fishing hamlet fears backlash after Navy arrests

[TamilNet, Friday, 02 February 2007, 12:40 GMT]
Residents of a fishing hamlet north of Colombo say their community has been dangerously stigmatised after the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) last Saturday blew up one of their boats, seized two others and arrested nine people alleging complicity in a Sea Tiger attack on Colombo port. Munnakkarai is a mixed ethnicity fishing community of around 5000 people, located 1 km southwest of Negombo.

On Saturday 27 January, at around 7:00 a.m., Sri Lanka Navy gunboats pursued one of Munnakkarai’s boats, intercepting it 25 km north of Colombo harbour, community representatives told reporters Thursday.

Agitated and panicky SLN personnel ordered the 3-man crew to jump overboard and then opened fire on the boat, destroying it.

The SLN also arrested the three crew and 6 other fishermen from two other boats, which were towed to shore and ripped apart by investigators.

The nine fishermen, one of them a Tamil, arrested by the navy were handed over to naval intelligence, Munnakkarai residents said.

SLN interrogators alleged that the fishermen had collaborated with the Sea Tigers in carrying out attacks on a number of SLN vessels in the early hours.

Meanwhile, local Sinhala media alleged that fishermen from Munnakkarai had received one million rupees from the Tigers to ‘harbour and guide’ their attack craft towards Sri Lankan naval vessels guarding the Colombo Harbour.

After the arrests, when the fishermen society approached ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) local leaders who had a support base among the fishing community, six fishermen were released.

But intelligence officials subsequently arrested another six people from Munnakkarai, including another Tamil fisherman.

Munnakkarai residents said they were fearful that amid the authorities’ seeming determination, supported by the media, to implicate their hamlet in attacks on the Navy, they would face a backlash.



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