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Protest demanding "Land Rights Now" at Pasikuda Beach

Written By NAFSO on Wednesday, August 03, 2016 | 3:36:00 PM

We, NAFSO in collaboration with STP-Swiss have planned a symbolic protest along with the Oxfam-NL "Land Rights Now" campaign this morning (Aug 02).
As a follow up action to UNWTO tourism conference held at Pasikuda, we wanted to organize a symbolic protest there demanding the retain the space for them to park their boats as an anchorage point. 
PM Ranil Wickramasinghe has forcefully/ with a heat arguments with the Pasikuda fishermen at a meeting there had asked the people to vacate the place as they[Govt/investors] want this available land too for the tourism.
Because of this incident and the UNWTO conference, we wanted to do this symbolic protest at Pasikuda today and the CID officers at Valachchenai Police have approached the fisher leader who is leading the campaign at Pasikuda and threatened them saying they, CID wont allow this to happen at Pasikuda today.
So, the NAFSO coordinator at Batticoloa is now approaching the fisher community to get more information and let you all know.
Also, this is very important to report as the Good Governance Government is not allow people to exercise their right to Freedom of Expression and this is one of the most glorified position the so called Civil Society Actors are compare between MR and MS regimes. We don't see any difference in this regard as the same Police station and CID blocked the fishermen actions during the time of UNWTO conference held at Pasikuda in early July and growing threat to the civil actions to voice out for the rights of the people. 

மீனவர்கள் கடலில் இறங்கி போராட்டம்

( சசி)

பாசிக்குடா மீனவர்கள்  'LAND RIGHTS NOW' எனும் வாசகத்துடன்  எதிர்ப்பு நடவடிக்கையில் இன்று காலை ஈடுபட்டு வருகின்றனர்.
எதிர்ப்பு நடவடிக்கை தொடர்பாக மேலும் தெரியவருவதாவது,
இன்றய தினம் உலகெங்கும் 'LAND RIGHTS NOW' எனும் தொனிப்பொருளில் அபகரிக்கப்பட்ட காணிகள் சம்பந்தமான முன்னெடுப்பினை நாடளாவரீதியில்  'ஒக்ஸ் பார்ம்' நிறுவனம்  மேற்கொண்டு  வருகின்றது.
கடந்த காலங்களில் பிரதமர் பாசிக்குடா  மீனவர்கள் தற்போது தொழில் நடவடிக்கையில் ஈடுபடுகின்ற காணிகளை சுற்றுலா துறைக்காக விடுவிக்க வேண்டும் என்று கூறியுள்ளார்.
சுற்றுலாத்துறை மக்களை சேரவில்லை என்றால் அது சுற்றுலாத்துறையாக இருக்கமுடியாது. சுற்றுலாத்துறையானது மக்களை வெளியேற்றுவது அல்லவென உலக சுற்றுலா அமைப்பின் பொதுச்செயலாளர்  தாலிப் ரிபாய் தெரிவித்த கருத்தின் பிரகாரம் பாசிக்குடா மீனவர்களும் தங்களது  காணி  சம்பந்தமான எதிர்ப்பினை  தேசிய மீனவ ஒத்துழைப்பின் ஒத்துழைப்புடன்  இன்று பாசிக்குடாவில்  முன்னெடுத்துள்ளனர் .
இன்று உலகெங்கும் நடக்கும் இந்த முன்னெடுப்பு இலங்கையில் குறிப்பாக தற்போது சுற்றுலா துறைக்கு பிரசித்தி பெற்றுள்ள பாசிக்குடாவில்  மீனவர்களினால் மேற்கொள்ளப்படுகின்றமை குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது

NAFSO meets UN- World Tourism Organisation representatives at the Golden Jubilee of SL tourism board

Written By NAFSO on Monday, July 25, 2016 | 11:41:00 AM

Sri Lanka tourism has celebrating its 50 years of existence this year. At the same time Sri Lanka tourism Minister and the chairman have requested to the UNWTO to conduct the International conference of UNWTO in Sri Lanka this year. the request was accepted by the UNWTO and the Secretary General because the conference was proposed to hold at Pasikuda in the Eastern province of Sri Lanka. Eastern province is war affected area and they is a need for development. 
the conference was held in the theme of Catalyst of Peace, Reconciliation and Development at Amaya Beach hotel in Pasikuda on 12th and 13th July 2016.

1. The conference proper 

It was mainly presentations and no time for Q & A
The GA (Mrs. Charles) presentation was most substantial and relevant in my view. She raised issues about farmers, unemployment etc. She also stressed importance of community based tourism, Eco-tourism etc. But said no point having "same old mass tourism with new labels". And mentioned there's damage caused by conventional tourist organizations. Also called to regionalize tourism. Later, privately to me, she said finalizing a plan and to give input. 

Few other speakers talked about importance of community participation, benefits to local community. Cambodian deputy minister mentioned how they use former combatants as tour guides. 

Vinya (Sarvodaya leader) had one slide about more than 100,000 civilians killed, also LTTE and military killed, other effects of war and said we are not post conflict, but in post war. Other than that, he talked about Sarvodaya tourism, volunteerism etc. Didn't raise issues we had raised in article 

At one point, John Amaratunga asked SG on WTO whether tourism in SL is going in right direction. SG said yes. 

2. Private meeting with SG of WTO 
We expected to meet him and few officials...but he came with delegation of about 12-15. Several officials of WTO, key note speaker Princess Dana. About 3-4 officials from SLTDA, Chair of SLTDA, Chair of SL Paddy Withana, Chair of SL Tourist Hotel Association & Jetwing Chair Hiran Cooray. Chair of Malu Malu Chandra Wickramasinghe was also there. They initially said 30 min meeting. But went for 2 hours, so it seems they took us seriously?

Rajan and Sashi from NAFSO, me and 3 community representatives from Pasikudah, Kuchaveli and Panama was in our delegation. 

We raised usual grabbing, effect on livelihoods, restrictions on cultural-social life, militarization. Also raised about national anthem being sung in Sinhalese at opening ceremony and information note to participants saying Sinhalese is only official language. SG apologized on national language issue. SLTDA didnt apologize. 

Chandra of Malu Malu talked about employing majority of local staff, including at mid-senior positions, including ex combatants, establishing computers / Emglish centres etc. etc. Also that he buys fish from local fisherfolk. 

SG stressed importance of principles, said accepted tourism must not negatively affect local populations, but said can't on into details about specific problems we presented. But he said fisherfolk and farmers must also be open to change and implied they could join tourism industry. Fisherman from Pasikudah reacted strongly and said fisherfolk and farmers must be allowed to continue their traditional livelihoods. There was quite a bit of argument with SG. But in end, SG agreed fisherfolk and farmers should not be forcibly be assimilated to tourism industry. 

There was also tension in terms of militarization. Hiran Cooray agreed military shudnt run hotels said he had also raised it with Army Commander. But he, SLTDA Chair and others also defended Army performing at the conference. I said militarization is accused of serious crimes and their involvement in tourism is counter productive to peace and reconcilliation. And said taking navy boats (as indicated in information note) makes the WTO and the conference complicit in militarized tourism. 

The 3rd serious tension and argument was when I said SG shouldn't have told SL tourism was heading in right direction, without voicing any concerns. He was very upset and said I can't say that. 

SG reacted stronglly to both and and asked me to withdraw both "accusation", and said he will stop the meeting, but I didn't withdraw and said that's my opinion. Meeting continued. 

SG said several times for us to have more communication and dialogue with SL persons at the table. I said there have been dialogues and when there's no results, confidence and hopes in dialogue reduces. And that there's no need for dialog on cases where there's court decisions, HRCSL directives and cabinet decisions - what's needed is implementation. But that on principle, we are ready to dialog. 

Some suggestions for next steps:
1. Detailed letter to SG from concerned SL groups and individuals, highlighting key issues, policies and practices, but also specific cases that we would like them to take up with SL Govt Panama, Kuchaveli, Kalpitiya, Pasikudah...must include documentation and details as much as possible)
(Must make it public)

2. Similiar letter SLTDA and seek a more serious meeting 

3. Same to SL Hotels Association 

4. Complain to authorities about national anthem in Sinhalese and telling participants only official language is Sinhalese 

People says "Yes" and "No" to Negombo lagoon development process

Written By NAFSO on Friday, July 22, 2016 | 3:09:00 PM

Negombo Lagoon Development Process Has Been Questioned by a lagoon fishermen and they conducted a protest against the process carryout by the authorities. Negombo lagoon bank near main fish market is filling with mud, taking from lagoon bed and the purpose is to construct a vehicle park and a jogging track. According to the fishers who oppose the work, plan was to dug and remove 2 feet of mud from and fill up to 10 meters from the parallel road. but now they are digging more than 10ft of the lagoon bottom and filling around 20m from the road. 
lagoon boundary is covered with well grown mangroves in some parts and other areas use by fishers for economic activities, as settling areas as well as boat landing sites.   

at the later stage of the protest another group of people from the area conducted a demonstration against the people who oppose the way of plan implementing, saying it is really necessary work to do as most of the time in day time, road is stuck with traffic.  According to them this work is the best thing to do by the government to reduce traffic in the area.  

People in both group agreed that the destroying of environment in unnecessary way must prevent as it belongs to the future and the next generation.  In vicinity of the lagoon bank and water we recognised dying fishers and millions of shrimp larva as well as destroyed mangrove areas.   

 Say No to filling  
 Say No to filling 
We need a parking place
We need a parking place


Catholics and fishermen against land expropriation for tourism development

Written By NAFSO on Thursday, July 14, 2016 | 2:49:00 PM

A UN-sponsored international conference on tourism is currently underway in Sri Lanka. Local Catholics, fishermen and activists planned a protest until they were deterred by Sri Lanka’s CID. Critics bemoan the negative impact on the local population, who were not invited to the event. Tourist development “will benefit only big business.”

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s Tourism Ministry is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Parallel to that, a four-day international conference (11-14 July) is currently underway in Pasikudah, Batticaloa District (Eastern Province) under the auspices of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.

However, land expropriations for tourist development in Sri Lanka "do not create any kind of development, peace and reconciliation among Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese and Tamil,” say critics who spoke to AsiaNews.

Rights activists, fisher people, and Catholics oppose the conference because it is designed mainly "to attract big investors, businesses and corporations that can finance and develop the tourism sector following the civil war."

What big international institutions and President Maithripala Sirisena’s government forget is that people want only one thing: to have their land back.

As the guest of honour, the president himself is scheduled to address the conference tomorrow when it closes.

Various social groups led by the National Solidarity Movement along with the Praja Abhilashi Network and the Peoples' Alliance for Right to Land had organised a number of counter meetings on the margins of the official conference.

“Activists wanted to put the spotlight on the conditions of local communities,” said Francis Raajan, Praja Abhilashi Network coordinator. “However, CID* officials summoned protest leader to the Valachchanai police station and warned them not to demonstrate. The also threatened to stop fishermen from fishing during the conference unless they scrapped their planned protest.”

"After the warning, our fishermen were frightened. We were forced to stop everything,” said P. Nevil Christy Cooray, a Catholic fisher leader.

“It was really painful that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasignhe came to tell us that we should give up our fishing areas to make room for hotels. Although a leader of the people, he did not inquiry about our pain."

The man is not tender with UN agency as well, since the latter supports this type of "tourist expropriation".

Other people are saying that the government plans to set up elephant corridors to attract tourists.

A. Saleema, a Muslim woman living at Kalpitiya, a group of islands, said that that the previous government under Mahinda Rajapaksa seized her land and destroyed her crops.

Activist Ruki Fernando is also upset that the international conference was organised without any local input.

"No one knew anything,” he said. “Neither fish industry operators nor restaurant and hotel owners knew anything. Local war victims will get nothing out of this meeting, which will benefit only big business.”

* CID: Central Investigation Department


Report: Melani Manel Perera 

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