Officers from a Sri Lankan government department were injured in altercations in Mullaitivu this week, as they attempted to raid the homes of Tamil fishermen, accompanied by rival fishermen.
On February 13, officers from the Fisheries Department and members of fisheries organisations of Hijrapuram, Vadduvakal entered the homes of fishermen of Keppapulavu and searched them stating that there were banned fishing nets inside the houses. The party were accompanied by an armoured Special Task Force (STF) vehicle.
This caused tensions between the search party and the residents, mainly women, which quickly escalated to altercations.
Seven were admitted to the district hospital following the incident. The injured were the officers from the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the fishermen of Hijrapuram who came with the officers.
Although a complaint was made to Mulliyavalai police by the officers of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources regarding the attack, Keppapulavu residents said they objected to being threatened in their homes by officers and random rival fishermen.
“They should seize the banned fishing nets while they are being used at sea or where they are sold. If we are using it, then they should seize those while we are fishing at Nanthi Kadal. Instead, who gave them authority to enter our houses and search for banned fishing nets?” a representative said.
“Many female-led households are here. Who gave them authority to enter our houses? If they are officers from the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, they should capture us while we are fishing at sea. The incident happened when they forcefully entered our houses and tried to search them. It became a scuffle when the officers engaged in a quarrel with no regard to them being women. It became a scuffle when they used offensive language at our women and tried to attack them.”
“They brought the Special Task Force in armoured vehicles and made them to search us like it is a military operation.”
Keppapulavu residents said they had filed their own complaint with Mulliyavalai police regarding the incident.
“They won’t give us back our own land, they won’t let us fish in our waters, what do they expect us to do?” one resident remarked.