Former Northern Provincial Council member Thurairasa Ravikaran called for Sri Lankan state forces to take accountability and impose sanctions on the illegal encroachment of fishermen from Southern Sri Lanka into the seas of Mullaitivu.
Last week, Ravikaran and Sinnarasa Logeswaran, a Pradeshiya Sabha member, visited Kokkilai.
“Are the [Sri Lankan] authorities asleep?” asked Ravikaran. “Everyday more than 1,500 fishermen from southern Sri Lanka are invading the Mullaitivu seas for illegal fishing,” he added. Ravikaran also questioned how they have been allowed to repeatedly violate the COVID-19 travel ban with no sanctions.
Local Tamils have witnessed more than 300 boats, each holding four to six fishermen travelling from the South to the North-East, regularly using dynamite and other illegal fishing methods. They added that in some cases even when the Navy seizes southern boats engaged in illicit business, they often accept bribes and release them.
Ravikaran stated, “these southern fishermen come here with or without permission [...] and are encroaching on native Tamil land [and] are destroying the marine environment in Mullaitivu”. As dynamite fishing uses explosives to stun or kill schools of fish for easy collection; it is illegal as the explosions destroy the underlying ecosystem. “It is the Tamil fishermen from our Mullaitivu district who are affected,” he said and called on the Fisheries Minister and Department to take immediate action.
In April, the Sri Lankan navy arrested 30 Tamil fishermen in northern Kilinochchi after the introduction of restrictions to limit fishing to only permit holders by the Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda, . The army has continuously posed a serious issue to the livelihood of Tamil fishermen across the North-East as checkpoints, incidents of assault and illegal fishing by Sinhala fishermen with navy assistance increases.