Timed to the visit of the representatives of fishermen societies in Tamil Nadu to Jaffna on Thursday, the SL minister and EPDP paramilitary leader Douglas Devananda was allegedly engaged in triggering demonstrations in front of the Consulate General of India in Jaffna, protesting the intrusion of Indian trawlers. According to Jaffna fishermen, the SL minister backs trawlers from the South exploiting Tamil waters. On Thursday, when the EPDP-backed protesters were shouting “Mahalingam come out,” demanding the Indian Consul General to come out and address them, a group of fishermen in Valveddith-thu’rai (VVT) rounded up the SL police station there demanding action against 30 southern trawlers that were operating in the seas off VVT. Another 107 trawlers, backed by Mr. Devandanda were exploiting the seas off Kurunakar, the fishermen complained.
Tamil Nadu fishermen representatives have come to Jaffna on Thursday to resolve disputes related to the destruction of livelihood of the Eezham Tamil fishermen as well as destruction of the coastal and sea environment caused by the intrusion of Indian trawlers. The EPDP-backed protest was organized with an intention of sustaining the conflict between the Eezham Tamil fishermen and Tamil Nadu fishermen, news sources in Valveddiththu’rai (VVT) said.
Trawlers owned by Sinhala traders from South, now exploit the stretch of sea from Kokklu’laay to Vadamaraadchi East. The Sinhala fishermen also deploy environment-destructive bottom trawling that deprives the livelihood of long-affected Eezham Tamil fishermen.
“The intruding Indian trawlers certainly trigger off a serious crisis. The SL government will only seek to exploit the situation. That crisis should be addressed by the community organizations of the fishermen on either coast. But, during the last two years, there have been serious changes in the dimension of the crisis: now, almost the entire fishing stretch off the eastern coast of Northern province is being exploited by trawlers owned by Sinhalese fishermen and traders. Mr. Devananda is not an exception as he also encourages his supporters to engage in such destructive fishing,” was the comment of a fisheries society representative in VVT.
Three months ago, Mr Devananda visited Mullaiththeevu to attend a meeting of fisheries representatives. At the meeting, he called on the Tamil fishermen to join him in his project to ‘round up Rameswaram’ against the Indian trawlers.
However, the fishermen at the meeting demanded him to first take efforts to ‘round up the fishermen from South’ who were intruding their sea. The SL minister discontinued the meeting and returned to Jaffna.
The protest on Thursday was organized through S. Emiliampillai, an EPDP representative who lost in the last civic elections for Point Pedro Urban Council and who has now been appointed as the president of the Northern Province Fisheries Societies Federation, removing the former president S. Thavaratnam.
Now the federation is under the control of the EPDP, informed sources told TamilNet.
SL military intelligence operatives and EPDP men were among the protesters. The EPDP paramilitary men had brought some fishermen from Vadamaraadchi in vehicles.
The protesters demanded Mr Mahalingam to come out of the Consulate General, went ahead in a procession towards the District Secretariat and finally concluded their march at the EPDP office located at Sridhar Theatre.
While the protest was going on, there were at least 137 Devananda-backed trawler vessels that were engaged in fishing in the seas off Kurunakar and Valveddiththu’rai, destroying the livelihood of Eezham fishermen by bottom-trawling.
Before 2009, the LTTE had fully banned the bottom-trawling vessels. Even the Indian fishermen didn’t enter the seas of Eezham Tamils. At that time too, Devananda was encouraging some fishermen to engage in fishing using trawlers in the seas of the islets off Jaffna.
The Sri Lankan state has banned fishing by trawlers in the Palk Bay with effect from 01 Jan 2011. But, such ban remains only on paper.
10 days ago, there was a standoff between the fishermen and trawler-operators in the seas off Valveddith-thu’rai.
Sinhala fishermen from South intrude in large numbers into the seas of Eezham Tamils and engage in fishing in such a way destroying the environment for a long time to come, affecting the current as well as long-term interests of the Eezham Tamil fishing communities.
The EPDP-backed protest on Thursday was projecting the entire blame on intruding fishermen from India.
A large section of fishermen from Valveddiththu’rai, sensing the political manipulation behind the protest, avoided their participation in the hurriedly organized Devananda-backed protest.
They questioned the political motives and integrity of the SL minister in organizing the protest exclusively against Indian intruders, while being unable to stop the intruding Sinhala fishermen and while being a collaborator of business interest in the intrusion from the South.