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» 06/21/2012
SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka, a father commits suicide because he cannot support his family
by Melani Manel Perera
Jesumaria Kingsley, a 40 year-old Catholic fisherman, lost a leg during protests against rising petrol prices. Sebastian, 14, left school to help his mother and siblings. Tried by the situation, the man decided to hang himself. An activist for the rights of fishermen: "We are all responsible for his death."

Chilaw (AsiaNews) - The economic and social crisis now gripping the world, claims victims in Sri Lanka: Jesumaria Kingsly, a Catholic fisherman of 40 with dreams of seeing his four children receive an education, took his own life by hanging himself. The problems started for him last February, when he lost a leg during protests against rising gasoline prices (see 02/14/2012, "Colombo ignores the protests against high gasoline prices by thousands of Catholic fishermen").

Jesumaria, a small fisherman from a village near Chilaw (North Western Province), with his job supported his wife, Jenita Nilanthi, and their four children: three boys of 14, 13 and 7, and a girl of 10. Despite economic hardships, all the kids had always gone to school. On February 15, in the days when people were demonstrating against rising fuel prices, the man went out to buy a bag of cement. While walking, he was struck by several gunshots, which wounded him severely in the legs. His life changed: Jesumaria had to stop working, and his wife - who cannot work due to health problems - didn't know what to do. "Kingsly", a few friends related, "was very concerned, he could think of nothing but how to support his children." The parish helped them, but the economic contribution wasn't enough to meet the daily needs of six people. Meanwhile, the state didn't provide any kind of help.

After a few months, with the aid of crutches, Jesumaria tried to return to the port. "His friends", Nilanthi told AsiaNews in tears, "helped him, giving him a few fish to sell at the market to earn some money for us." Then, his son Sebastian decided to leave school to go to work as a fisherman, but earned no more than 150-200 rupees (between 90 cents and 1.20 euros) per day: too little for six people. From friends and relatives, Jesumaria did not hide his sadness at having to see his son forced to work in his place, instead of studying like his peers. Tried by the situation, on June 15 the man took his own life.

Herman Kumara, president of the National Fisheries Solidarity movement (NAFSO) and guest of honor at the World Forum for Fisher People (WFFP), told AsiaNews: "The story of Jesumaria Kingsly and his family is a clear example of how thousands of small fishermen live. Chronic poverty and injustice are the order of the day. They are poorly educated persons, who are not heard because they have no institutions asserting their rights. In February, the fishermen realized what would happen to them with the increase in gasoline prices, and protested. The government responded with guns, killing one man and leaving three disabled for life." He added: "All of us, in this society, are responsible for the death of this man. We cannot pretend."

Decided on the night of February 11, the expensive gasoline - in fact - has brought above all small fishermen to their knees, who overnight went from spending 3,000 rupees (18.90 euros) to 4,500 rupees (28.4 euros) per day, just for fuel. 

 

 


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See also
02/14/2012 SRI LANKA
Govt ignores fuel protest by thousands of Catholic fishermen
by Melani Manel Perera
07/13/2007 SRI LANKA
Fishermen protest against higher kerosene prices
by Melani Manel Perera
12/02/2010 SRI LANKA
Sri Lankan fisher people call on Card Ranjith to mediate with the government
by Melani Manel Perera
09/24/2009 SRI LANKA
Sri Lankan fishermen imprisoned in India since 6 months
by Melani Manel Perera
11/02/2010 SRI LANKA
Catholic priests support fishermen's protest against seaplanes
by Melani Manel Perera

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Dossier

by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
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