04/09/2008, 00.00
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Justice for trade union leader killed in an Indian prison

by Melani Manel Perera
The World Forum of Fisher People makes an appeal six months after the murder of Canisius Fernando, president of the United Fisher Association. In Sri Lanka his family is still waiting for the compensation the authorities had pledged. In the meantime they live in misery with no hope for the future.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) has called on the governments of India and Sri Lanka to provide justice to the family of the Catholic trade union leaders who was killed in an Indian prison in October 2007. “Six months have gone by since the murder of Warnakulasuriyage Canisius Fernando,” said the Forum in a statement released yesterday, “and the authorities have not yet said anything.”

The statement was signed by the WFFP Secretary General Herman Kumara, who reminded the Sri Lankan government that it pledged compensation for the victim’s family, compensation which has not arrived yet.

Warnakulasuriyage Canisius Fernando, president of the United Fisher Association in Negombo, was killed by a prison guard on 5 October 2007 in Madurai Central Prison, in Tamil Nadu (southern India).

He had come to India to visit three Sri Lankan fishermen who had been arrested for entering Indian territorial waters without a permit.

Indian authorities said that guard who shot the trade union leader was suspended from his pending an investigation.

Mr Fernando’ widow Nirmala told AsiaNews that so far the promises made by the authorities “have remained words.”

Canisius’ work provided for her and their two children, but now there seem to be no future.

In its statement the WFFP reiterated the demand that India and Sri Lanka provide economic assistance to the Fernando family; it also called on the two governments to ratify the Work in Fishing Convention adopted by the International Labour Organisation to set standards and provide necessary safety and health measures to fisher people who work in “one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.”

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