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Lift security regulations, say Lankan Tamil fishermen

The fishermen say that if these restrictions are removed, they will be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, reports PK Balachanddran.
PTI | By PK Balachanddran, Colombo
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2005 11:51 AM IST

To enable them to stand on their feet again, the tsunami-hit Tamil fishermen of North Sri Lanka are demanding the immediate lifting of all security-related restrictions put on them by the government.

The fishermen say that if these restrictions are removed, they will be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and recover economically, even without government or external aid.

The fishermen bitterly complain that despite three years of ceasefire between the government and the LTTE, the government is still keeping the various restrictions related to fishing.

The crippling restrictions include a ban on Multi-Day Boats (boats which can be at sea for many days); a limit of 9 hp for motor boats; a ban on going beyond a few miles into the sea and also fishing in the vicinity of High Security Zones which dot the Jaffna peninsula. The fishermen, like other Tamils, cannot settle or reclaim their lands and homes in the high security zones.

"These issues were raised at a meeting in Kilinochchi attended by World Bank officials last Thursday, " said Dr Augustine Siluvainathan, Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Jaffna, and a fighter for fishermens' rights.

"The fishermen told the bank officials to get the international community to put pressure on the Sri Lankan government to lift these bans," Dr Siluvaithasan told Hindustan Times.

The fishermen were able to meet the World Bank officials thanks to Col Soosai, the commander of the Sea Tigers, the naval arm of the LTTE, who is also heading the relief and reconstruction work in the tsunami hit parts of the LTTE-controlled Jaffna and Mullaitivu.

According to Dr Siluvainathan, if the bans were lifted, the fishermen of Jaffna and Mullaitivu would be able to earn a lot.

He quoted a fishermen from Mullaitivu to say that these days, prawn fishing could yield an income of not less than SLRs 8,000 (US$ 82) per day, as this is the prawn season.

"With such income, the fishermen can rebuild their lives shattered by the tsunami," Dr Siluvainathan said.

According to the data collected by the Planning Division Secretariat of the LTTE, the tsunami had killed 16,406 people in the North East .6,285 are missing and 5,905 have been injured. The number of people displaced is 650,000.

The tsunami waves had damaged 13,698 boats of all types. The total damage is estimated at SLRs.3823 million (US$ 39 million).

In Mullaitivu, where the LTTE's bases are located, 1,032 people were killed.1,065 people are missing and 2,590 have been injured. 1871 boats had been destroyed or damaged. The loss is estimated at SLRs.563 million  (US$ 5.7 million).

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