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Tamil fishermen win access to road blocked off by Canadian businessman

The Maritimepattu Pradeshiya Sabha in Mullaitivu district has informed the Canadian businessman who recently fenced off a road in Deonagar leading to the coast that he has no legal rights over it and the property belongs to the local council.

The decision is a big win for Tamil fishermen who have been protesting for years against the arbitrary decisions by the Canadian businessmen, Charlesjanthan Antony, the head of private Canadian company Canbe Foods Inc.

They claim he had cut road access to the coast, the only path the fishermen use to bring their catch inland. The Pradeshiya Sabha however asserted that he cannot fence the road subsequently dismissing his claim of ownership over a section of the coast. 

Replying to the petition by eight civil society organizations, the secretary of the Maritimepattu Pradeshiya Sabha in Mullaitivu district Rasayogini Jayakumar made clear, that the said approach road in Deonagar from the coast numbered NMUME283 belongs to the Pradeshya Sabha and they will take action for any obstruction.

The decision comes after a tense situation ensued in Mullaitivu two weeks ago, when the businessman cordoned off the Tamil fishermen's access to the beach by erecting a fence around the perimeter of land he had allegedly bought. 

The Tamil fishermen complained that their livelihood was cut off due to this fence preventing them from getting their daily catch, while the businessman claimed he owned the beach and waters stretching across the coast. The Tamil fishermen in protest, removed the fence and continued to stage a demonstration in the vicinity. 

The incident was reported to the Sri Lankan police who were summoned to the scene at the time. They then called five of the fishermen to visit the police station to provide a statement. The fishermen added that the Tamil businessman was receiving support from security forces and officials from the government agencies to carry on the illegal construction. 

File photograph: Charlesjanthan Antony with the Sri Lankan military

The stand-off between the Tamil businessman and the community has been going on for many months. 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.

In February this year, Tamil Guardian reported another incident where the businessman had instructed his men to remove huts and temporary stalls that fishermen had set up along the shore. The fishermen complained that the stalls were temporary structures on the beach where they would untangle their fishing nets.

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.

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