» 06/21/2012, 00.00
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
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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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.
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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.
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Sri Lankan fisher people call on Card Ranjith to mediate with the government
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