Jaffna fishermen's woes discussed with GA, in civil society meeting

[TamilNet, Monday, 20 October 2008, 17:23 GMT]
Government Agent (GA) met with a delegation of civil society members from the Federation of Fishermen societies from the peninsula to explore solutions to hardships faced by fishermen in Jaffna district last week. GA told the civil society delegation that he was not in a position to get the ban on fishing lifted, but that he will provide a response regarding increasing the monthly relief payment after consultations with higher authorities in Colombo.

The representatives of the Federation of various fishing associations from area in Jaffna peninsula highlighted the hardships they were facing due to the various forms of restrictions arbitrarily imposed upon them by Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and Sri Lanka Navy (SLN).

SLN has already issued orders that only day time fishing is permitted with restrictions including permission to use only catamarans without out board motors. The fishing is also limited only within a specified distance from the shore. In addition the fishermen have been instructed to return only to certain specified mooring points and a pass system also has been introduced. However, in practice even in the areas permitted for fishing activities they are actually be able to fish only less than half the number of days in a month. When convoys of naval ships travels in the area, or when there are war rehearsals or when clashes erupt in Kudakkadal area, a total ban is imposed resulting in the fishermen's families facing severe economic hardships.

In a recent meeting between the GA and higher officials from SLA and SLN held in Palaali a request was made to allow fishermen from the seas near islets. However no positive response was received from the higher officials of SLN, GA said. Kurunakar, Paasaiyoor and Columbuththu'rai are currently not permitted to fish in the seas off the islets.

The GA pointed out that he is unable to interfere in this matter since the Sri Lanka military officials had informed him that the restrictions imposed on the fishing activities relate to matters concerning security.

Every fishermen's family is presently receiving from Government of Sri Lanka a relief payment of Rs.1240 based on the cost of living prevailing in 1990. This amount is inadequate since the prices of all essential items have multiplied many times within the past decades, representatives of the Federation pointed out. The GA responded that he had already brought this matter to the attention of authorities concerned and will ask for an increase the monthly payment by at least four times the present amount.


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