Sri Lanka’s fishermen are “frustrated”
In Sri Lanka, about 150,000 families live from fishing. Although the government has adopted FAO guidelines, "no attempt was made to include such steps in national policy." The military still occupy lands seized during the civil war.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – In Sri Lanka, the fisheries sector "is frustrated," this according to Herman Kumara, national coordinator of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO),
Speaking to AsiaNews, he noted that whilst "Many advances have been made in the field of human rights in the country, if we consider our sector, fishing, there is frustration. Most of our expectations have been disregarded."
With respect to policies pursued by the Maithripala Sirisena administration after it took office three years ago, "the government finally adopted the Small Scale Fisheries (SSF) guidelines laid down by FAO* to sustain fisheries with poverty alleviation and food security as SSF goals. However, no attempt was made to include such initiatives in national policy."
About 150,000 families make their living from fishing. NAFSO has about 9,900 direct members and 15,000 indirect members. According to Kumara, most difficulties are due to the presence of the military and their exploitation of resources.
"The military should not get involved in tourism, agriculture and dairy production,” he explained, “because in doing so they deprive people in the northern and eastern regions” of their livelihood. In fact, in various parts of the country the military still occupy land seized during the country’s 30-year civil war.
"We expected that the land would be returned immediately to their legitimate owners,” Kumara said, “that the restrictions on fishing in some areas would be removed, and that the government would give back the lands confiscated by the previous regime."
Although national fisheries policies "must be discussed (based on) the guidelines, current programmes do not seem to pay the least attention to them. Even the issues that concern the most vulnerable groups, such as women, do not elicit the slightest interest."
What is worse, according to the NAFSO coordinator, "some megaprojects of development like the Colombo port city project (funded by China) are going ahead even though they breach the promises made before the elections.”
“Whenever the military occupy land, they threaten people’s lives, livelihoods and the survival of the fishermen. This is why we are frustrated."
* Food and Agriculture Organisatio