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Tamil Canadian businessman accused of blocking fishermen once more

Tamil fishermen in Mullaitivu complained that their main source of livelihood has been choked off, after a Tamil Canadian businessman reportedly blocked them from going about getting their daily catch, claiming he owns the beach and waters stretching across the coast.

Local fishermen in the area allege that Charlesjanthan Antony, the head of private Canadian company Canbe Foods Inc, has claimed a 2.5km stretch of coast in the Thiyogunagar area, Silawathai.

“The owner claims that his land extends to the sea and we should do as they say and keep off,” said a local fisherman.“If we do that, how are we going to go fishing? We cannot even set up a makeshift shack, it's here the women sit down to undo the knots on fishing nets. Where are they supposed to go?”


"We have been fishing in Deonagar for the last 50 years. I am myself doing this for 15 years. This is the ideal season for us to fish. We set up some shacks in the shade so we could undo the knots on our fishing nets. But the business owner claims that we cannot do so on this land as it belongs to him. He asked us to remove it immediately. We had to dismantle it," he says.  "We told all the authorities we can. We are doing the work in the scorching heat. I have three children, who is going to feed my family?  Why isn't anyone coming forward? Our children spend their time with our family until we are done. When will our misery be over?"

This is not the first time that Antony has been accused of obstructing local fishermen. In 2020, the Tamil Guardian reported that he had instructed the military to block any fishermen who attempt to go out to sea and fish. At the time, Canbe Foods responded with claims that coronavirus restrictions had stopped the fishermen, despite military officers telling them they had received instructions from the company to prohibit any fishing activity.

File photograph: Charlesjanthan Antony with the Sri Lankan military

Currently, the fishermen claim that for months now they have been blocked from accessing the sea. To date they have lodged nearly 40 complaints with the Sri Lankan police but to no avail.

“This year alone, we’ve made 10 complaints,” said the fisherman. “Each time the police summons us and the businessman but to no avail.  We are a community that has been fishing for generations, where are we supposed to go?  Each time we put up a makeshift shack, it is removed by the businessman. How can we work in this scorching heat?”

They added that Silawathai Seamen Co-operative Society had been formally registered and fishing in the area since 1990, but that fishing activities have taken places for generations beforehand.

Locals claim that since being blocked from the ocean, Canbe Foods has been engaged in dredging activities along the coastline.

Canbe Foods has been approached for comment by the Tamil Guardian, but no response had been received at the time of publication.

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