11/24/2006, 00.00
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Fisher folk suffer due to war, post-tsunami, globalization

by Col Memara

Fisher folk held rallies and gatherings to mark World Fisheries Day, in a bid to drawn attention to their plight, affected by many of the country's problems. After the tsunami, the government built big hotels but did not alleviate the misery of fishing communities, and big fisheries are now poaching their work.

Ampara (AsiaNews) – 1000 fisher folk from all across Sri Lanka gathered in Potuvil to draw the government's attention to their plight, affected by civil war, post-tsunami problems and the invasion of foreign fisherman.

The Potuvil meeting (Ampara district, 310km east of Colombo) took place on the X World Fisheries Day on 21 November.

The 1000 participants came from all over the country and held a public meeting and a march with slogans and banners in Tamil and Sinhalese.

Herman Kumara, general secretary of the World Forum for Fisher People, told AsiaNews: "We fishermen in the north and east of Sri Lanka are very much affected by war as well as the Tsunami disaster. We want to highlight our problems and we want to have a collective effort and more solidarity."

The war of the Tamil Tigers against the government has dragged on for more than 20 years, making the north-east coast unsafe. The eastern coast was struck by the tsunami waves in December 2004, which claimed a death toll of 30,000 and destroyed homes, villages and fishing boats and nets.

There are around one million fishermen in Sri Lanka and there are no inter-religious or ethnic problems between them, although they are Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists.

"We came here from faraway, travelling hundreds of kilometers. Why? We wanted to show our solidarity with our colleagues on the east coast. We are with them always with their sufferings" said Titus D. Ganadasa.

During the march through the streets Potuvil, the fishermen and women carried placards in the country's different languages: "Samadana Wendam"
(We need peace, in Tamil); "Yuttam Wendam"(No war); the Sinhalese placards asked "let's re-build our broken Sri Lanka"  and " let's protect our rights".

At the meeting, Herman Kumara told the crowd about the post-tsunami situation: "There are still displaced people living in camps or temporary shelters. The government is planning mega development projects to promote tourism. But these projects do not really help Tsunami-affected fisher folk. We are demanding that the government considers our needs as a priority."

Another problem highlighted is the growing presence of foreign ships in Sinhalese territorial waters: "They come with permission linked to joint ventures but they come to destroy. These big ships use fishing gear [nets] that destroys the sea bed and this will make reproduction of fish difficult in the future. This creates a twofold problem for us: they destroy the sea as a resource and they marginalize our work."

The Potuvil meeting was attended by 11 fishing associations from the districts of Tricomalee, Anuradhapura, Karuwalagaswewa, Puttalam , Negombo , Kalutara, Galle, Matara and Hambantota.

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See also
Sri Lanka, Fishermen stage tsunami protest
Government plans penalise fishermen and Church
Fishermen protest against higher kerosene prices
New boats for fishermen who survived the tsunami
Church encourages tsunami-affected fishermen to go back to the sea


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