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    » 06/21/2012, 00.00

    SRI LANKA

    Sri Lanka, a father commits suicide because he cannot support his family

    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

    14/02/2012 SRI LANKA
    Govt ignores fuel protest by thousands of Catholic fishermen
    A Negombo men, women and children from Western Province block roads, torch street signs and burn tyres. They fear higher fuel prices will wipe out small-scale fishery. Fisheries minister agrees to subsidies but says price hike will go ahead.

    13/07/2007 SRI LANKA
    Fishermen protest against higher kerosene prices
    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.

    02/12/2010 SRI LANKA
    Sri Lankan fisher people call on Card Ranjith to mediate with the government
    The government wants to build a tourist resort on Negombo Lagoon that will include a seaplane port. The construction would destroy the livelihoods of thousands of people. Two activists are arrested and then released. The local Church backs the fisher people in their demands.

    24/09/2009 SRI LANKA
    Sri Lankan fishermen imprisoned in India since 6 months
    The Indian government detains 9 boats and its crew who have been accused of violating the Indian territorial waters. Their families complain about the inaction on behalf of the government of Colombo. Some even sustain that they have paid a bail of 5 thousand rupees for their liberation that never took place.

    02/11/2010 SRI LANKA
    Catholic priests support fishermen's protest against seaplanes
    During Mass celebrated for the annual feast of St. Jude, thousands of fishermen protested against the government SeaPlane plan, which provides for the landing of flying boats in the lagoon. The project, which is part of a program for the development of tourism in Sri Lanka, puts at risk the livelihood of the families of the villages around the Negombo lagoon, not taking into account the severe environmental impact that it would cause.



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