03/24/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Kappaladiya: fishermen win lawsuit against hotel owner

by Melani Manel Perera
200 fishermen have obtained recognition of their right to remain in the area, where fishing has been practiced for more than 200 years. For the World Forum of Fisher People, it is an historic victory "against the displacement of coastal communities in the name of tourism development and foreign income earnings."

Negombo (AsiaNews) - The district court of Puttalam has sided with the fishermen of Kappaladiya: hotel owner Rockwood must give up his claims on a strip of coastline that is being returned to the fishermen.

The dispute between the community of Kappaladiya and the businessman had emerged because Rockwood, the owner of a few hotels in the area, wanted 200 fishermen and their families to leave the coastline facing a piece of property that he bought in 1995.

Because the fishermen were resolved not to leave the beach, and with it the only source of income and sustenance for their families, the case ended up in court. Like a conflict between David and Goliath, it took five hearings at the district tribunal to reach a solution.

Now Rockwood has to back off. The tribunal has also required him to pay the legal fees for the fishermen who, thanks to support from the National Fisheries Movement, have seen their historical right upheld: for more than 200 years, that strip of coastline has been used for fishing, and they will be able to continue using it in the future.

For Herman Kumara, secretary general of the World Forum of Fisher People, the verdict of the tribunal is "a victory not only for the small fisher people at Kappaladiya. This victory is historic as this is a struggle against the displacement of coastal communities in the name of tourism development and foreign income earnings."

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