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Tamil fishermen say Canadian company and Sri Lankan police block them from accessing sea

Updated 2230 GMT

The owner of a private Canadian company has reportedly blocked Tamil fishermen in Mullaitivu from going out to sea, with the assistance of the Sri Lankan security forces, seriously threatening their livelihood amidst a military enforced curfew during the coronavirus pandemic.

Local fishermen in the area allege that the head of Canbe Foods Inc, a private Canadian company, has instructed the military to block any fishermen who attempt to go out to sea and fish. The company reportedly owns several acres of land and a hotel in the area, with the owner Charlesjanthan Antony said to have a close relationship with the Sri Lankan military.

As fishermen went to fish on March 25, Sri Lankan security forces blocked their boats and warned that they were prohibited from doing so, despite having been part of their daily routine for years. The officers told the fishermen that they had received instructions to prohibit any fishing activity without express permission from the company owners.

File photograph: Charlesjanthan Antony with the Sri Lankan military

The incident, which was also reported in the March 26 edition of the Uthayan, comes as a military curfew has impacted greatly on the fishermen’s income, with many relying on their daily catch for their livelihood.

Since the publication of this article, Canbe Foods has denied the claims made by the fishermen and said the company has “done nothing but helped the people in the area”.

“In this case the fishermen were told by the police officers & military in the area to stop congregating due to the coronavirus,” Canbe said. “This action did not involve us, as we did not interfere with their activities.”

See the full text of their statement here.

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