24 May 2011
The northeast coast of the Jaffna and Mullaiththeevu districts of the country of Eezham Tamils, from Kat-koava’lam in Point Pedro to Mullaiththeevu is encroached in recent days by hundreds of Sinhala fishermen supported by occupying Sri Lanka’s Army and fisheries officials.
Exploitation of the catch of sea cucumber for the season is said to be the reason and many more Sinhala encroachers are expected soon, news sources in Jaffna said with concern that the encroachment coupled with the use of advanced fishing technology triggers off tension and confrontation between the native and poaching fishing communities. Sea cucumber is a valuable export item. But the real interest of the encroachers is Chank (conch shells), an export item more valuable than the sea cucumber, the news sources further said.
The poachers from the south, who come with the permission of the Defence Ministry of occupying Sri Lanka, use oxygen cylinders for the catch of sea cucumbers.
Due to ‘security’ reasons of occupying Sri Lanka, the Eezham Tamil fishermen were neither permitted to the use of oxygen cylinder nor were introduced to it during the decades of the war.
Now when the poachers come with that technology the native fishermen remain as silent watchers.
Last year also the Sinhala poachers came for the season and camped in the coasts of Vadamaraadchi in Jaffna. It has now become a practice for them and camps of hundreds of them are found in the fishing villages of Ma’natkaadu and Thaazhaiyadi in the Jaffna Peninsula. A thousand more are expected to come, local fishermen said.
The occupying Army intimidated the local fishermen association of Thaazhaiyadi to sign a paper that they have no objection for fishermen from the south coming there. The other fishermen associations in Jaffna are concerned over this kind of threat and over the pathetic position of Thaazhaiyadi fishermen in Vadamaraadchi East to give in to this kind of exploitation.
The real interest of the Sinhala encroachers (Muslims from the south also accompany them) is the valuable conch shells available in the waters of Jaffna. They are exported to several foreign countries for the use in fancy ornaments and are valued like gold.
The conch shells available in the waters around Jaffna are one of the best in the world and since ancient times Jaffna was exporting them. The Nanthik-kadal lagoon in Mullaiththeevu got its name from the conch shells found in the waters (Nanthi: conch shell).
Conch shells usually take roughly 7 years or more than that to mature and to become big enough to be valuable. If there is indiscriminate exploitation that will endanger the species and the banks where they grow.
SL fisheries department has banned catching conch shells in Jaffna since last December, considering the already endangered situation for the species.
But the Sinhala fishermen who come from the south in the guise of catching sea cucumbers, eye on the conches.
Very soon the historical Jaffna Chank will be an endangered species, the local fishermen said.
On the increasing poaching of the waters of Eezham Tamils, a member of the fishermen community said that at least the fishermen of Tamil Nadu harboured several thousands of the Eezham Tamil fishermen in their villages and even permitted them to do fishing in their villages at the time of desperation. Eezham Tamil fishermen were neither permitted to go to the south for seasonal fishing nor the Sinhala fishermen ever came forward to protect the Eezham Tamil fishermen. The encroachment that comes with a subjugating military might is the most despicable, he said.
Those who speak of the priority of milk and bread over liberation of the subjugated, says that knowing very well, how the milk and bread are stolen from the subjugated by the politics they advocate in defence of the crimes and furtherance of the crimes committed by the establishments on either side of the Palk Bay, he further said.