World Fisheries Day Celebration: No room in Sri Lanka in the face of the Fishermen’s Deprivation of Freedom Act

“Traditionally, again 21st of November is held as World Fisheries Day, but in the Sri Lanka context, the fishermen of Sri Lanka do not have a suitable atmosphere to “celebrate the Fisheries Day”. Again the ‘celebration’ will waste huge money rather than saving a penny for fisher people. The new Act deprives the freedom of Fishermen and the Industry in Sri Lanka,” told Mojo News, the President, All Ceylon Fisher Folk Tread Union, Aruna Roshantha.

He emphasized that since the Sri Lankan fishing community is at the ‘peak of exploitation of the resources’ of the poor people who contribute a lot to the food production process in Sri Lanka, rather than celebrating a fishing day, we should come together to find solutions to the problems that are burdened on the heads of the fishing communities.

“There is no benefit or comfort for the fishermen after spending a huge money to hold celebrations in the name of the fishermen. Because the fishermen’s problems have been solved and the fishermen should live freely and happily to some extent, because of celebration! But there are no such results, a free atmosphere. Instead of that, more and more laws and regulations come upon Fishermen. What we are experiencing today is the suppression of fishermen as well as the Sea.” Aruna Roshantha explained.

“I am a small-scale fisherman in Sri Lanka, but I have to say very emphatically that today both the small-scale fisherman and the multi-day boat fisherman in Sri Lanka are engaged in a very difficult life profession,” he said.

He also explained, “I am saying so,  the fisherman is not free to do his profession as a fisherman today. The government is preparing to entrap the fisherman even more by bringing new laws and bills. We cannot celebrate Fisheries Day at a time when the government is trying to create state terrorism by bringing forward a bill to make the fisherman a slave of the government.”

“We really don’t understand this bill. The part that we can understand is about a law that completely suppresses fishermen and creates the background to lease our seas to foreign companies.”

Even though they were informed about the new Act by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they were not shown the Act. The Fisheries Act of 1996 had 66 articles. However, the new act has 179 articles.

“They said this is the same old bill. Three or four clauses have changed but it does not affect us. We asked for our comments and suggestions for this bill on the same day. But we strongly requested that we need two months to study this bill. It was only after we got the document for the study that we noticed that 113 clauses had been added. Also, it is mentioned here that the fishing license will be given only if the director general wants it.”

Aruna Roshantha said that a bill should be presented for the fishermen for their safety and well-being, but explained that this new bill that this government is trying to pass will suppress the fishermen, suppress the Sea and try to launch state terrorism.

“The Sea is a natural resource that belongs to the whole country. But the fisherman is the one who works there. Therefore, the government cannot make decisions about the fishermen’s lives, their livelihood, and the Sea without consulting the fishermen, and fisher community. No fisherman has asked for such a bill. Sri Lanka has fallen into such an economic abyss. At some point, the Sea will also be sold. Then our fishermen will lose the right to work in the sea which will belong to other parties.” Aruna explained.

“This new Act states that no mechanical boat can operate within 05 nautical miles of the Port City area. That part is strictly prohibited for fishing affairs and it is for entertaining matters to the people who come to the Port City to enjoy.”

Also he said that at a time when our country is facing a shortage of dollars, a fish called “Thambua” which is abundant in the sea and has a high demand abroad, was banned, saying that the fish is decreasing. So, It is impossible to have such a celebration on Fisheries Day in such short-sighted ways.

“We request the Members of Parliament to please read this bill carefully in its entirety. After that raise your hand with conscience because this bill decides the life of the fisherman, deciding on the lives of 15 lakhs in Sri Lanka” Aruna Roshantha stressed.

Rather than celebrating a Fisheries Day, fighting against the new Act that has come to destroy the fishermen, is one of the most important things to be done at this moment.


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