07/13/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Fishermen protest against higher kerosene prices

Melani Manel Perera
Fishing communities complain about 30 per cent hike in kerosene price. Colombo approves government fuel subsidies but then turns around and raises prices blaming the civil war and the tsunami for the economic crisis.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s fishermen have organised a national protest against government hike in fuel prices. With banners reading “Lower fuel prices” and “Protect Fishermen’s Rights,” protesters took to the streets of Colombo and other towns in the country.

Demonstrators want the price of kerosene, the main fuel, to be lowered after the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation raised it last week by 16 rupees or 30 per cent. Until recently kerosene was seen as a poor man’s fuel and was subsidised by the government.

The decision directly affects fishermen, especially since the 2004 tsunami, when their homes and equipment sheds were moved away from the coastline. This has led to higher transportation costs with moving fishing gear to and fro the beach costing up to 600 rupees (US$ 5.50)

AsiaNews talked to some of the fishermen in the Kalutara area, south of Colombo, who do not understand the reason for the hike.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Anthony Peresa, a local Catholic fisherman. “Colombo approved the fuel subsidies but did not apply them. Now it is raising the prices.”

Other fishermen complain about the great economic difficulties they face in the current economic situation. One group just back from the sea said that the “government keeps on saying that the current situation is due to the civil war and the tsunami. We can’t accept that. Our political leaders had several possibilities to rebuilt the country and ensure some degree of economic stability but they blew it and so the poor are the ones to suffer.”

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