Kalmunai tense after paramilitary firing, Muslim fishermen observe Hartal

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 01 April 2008, 09:38 GMT]
Local fishermen in Kalmunaikkudi of Kalmunai division in the Ampaa'rai district, who have been protesting against the destructive fishing methods by Sinhalese fishermen camped in the area, have launched a shut-down protest Tuesday after paramilitary Pillaiyan Group opened fire on the air Monday, threatening the local Muslim protesters who burned down two fishing huts of the Sinhalese fishermen. Police and Special Task Force personnel have been deployed in the area. Traffic between Batticaloa and Kalmunai was cut off due to the Hartal being observed by the Muslims.

Normalcy was disturbed in Chaainthamaruthu, Chammaan-thu'rai, Ma'likaik-kaadu, and Kalmunaik-kudi areas in Kalmunai.

Initially, the Sri Lankan police avoided involvement in the episode and urged the local Muslim fishermen who had links with the southern fishermen to intervene and solve the problem among them.

In the meantime, Sinhalese fishermen had turned to TMVP paramilitary to protect their interests, alleging armed Muslim youths were threatening their presence in Kalmunaik-kudi.

Local fishermen accuse that the Sinhalese fishermen, who were also hired by some Muslim traders, engaged in harvesting sea cucumbers using illegal methods that destroy marine resources in the area.

A meeting took place Tuesday morning at Kalmunaikkudi Periya Pa'l'i Vaasal between the Muslim representatives, officials of the Sri Lankan Police and the STF. Muslim representatives have sought guarantees from the police that paramilitary personnel carrying weapons would not be allowed to enter Muslim areas.

Meanwhile, paramilitary personnel told media that they intervened after being 'invited' by Muslim persons who had hired the Sinhalese fishermen from South for fishing in the area.

Police on Tuesday said a special police unit was engaged to investigate the illegal fishing methods adopted by the fishermen who harvest sea cucumbers.

Three weeks ago, a Sinhala fisherman, allegedly engaged in dynamite fishing, was gunned down by unknown gunmen in Kalmunai.



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