“We are small Scale fishers’ representatives. We feed the nations with much stress and difficulties. But, we can solve the issues of the food security, energy crisis as well as the global warming in the globe today. So, we are not the part of the problem of major crisis in the globe today. We are part of the solution.
While welcoming the gathering at the small scale fishers National Convention, Ms. Geetha Lakmini, the Secretary of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement shared her views.
There were around 200 small scale fishers, scholars, researchers, university teachers attended the small scale fisher’s convention representing from 14 districts in the island. Most of them were hopeful to share their views with the minister of fisheries and were frustrated with the absence of him and his top officials. So, the people were shared their frustration and the anger against them.
Mr. Chinthaka Wijewardana, coordinating secretary of the Deputy Minister(Susantha Punchinilame) of Fisheries & Aquatic resources had participated this national convention on behalf of the ministry. But most of fishermen and fisher women who shared their view told medias that he was not the right person to participate in this National Convention of Small scale fishermen and he was failed give right answers answer over fishermen's questions.
Mr.Ansel Fernando, a small scale fisherman of Wathuregama, Balapitiya, very strongly condemned the absence of the minister and further stressed that there was no point in having such a fisheries ministry to the country.
“The ministers and the politicians do not have any solutions for our issues. That is why they do not come to meet us. Why we invited them? We wanted to tell what we expect to build up this industry. What they can do the help the sustenance of the small scale fishers. They are not concern about us. But, this is the way they want to make the Sri Lanka a wonders in the Asia.”
Ansel shared his anger with firing speech which was received highest attention and appreciation from the audience.
However, what Sarath Fernando said is some thing opposite to the above sharings.
“We need not to bother about the absence of the Minister or the Politicians in our gathering and need not to echo our grievances. We should learn how to work while neglecting them. Although, we think the elected ministers and the regime is there for the people, it is not so. So we need to plan out our proposals and do what ever possible for our own destiny.” Sarath Fernando, a veteran social activist, coordinator of Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) narrated at the open discussion held at the National Convention on Small Scale Fisheries, under the theme of
“Let us build up an International Instrument for sustainability of Small Scale Fishing industry and the fishing communities.” Which was held at SLAAS at Colombo.
The Committee on Fisheries [COFI] of Food & Agriculture Organization the Rome based agency of the United Nation, has decided to formulate an international instrument for the small scale fisheries and will be organized 3 regional conferences aiming at to discuss the out comes at the COFI 2011. The World Forum of Fisher Peoples’ [WFFP] has seen the importance of having national consultations prior to the regional conferences in order to discuss the national issues in depth at the respective countries.
So, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement , a WFFP member organization in Sri Lanka, had organized series of consultations at the community level to district levels prior to the such national consultation.
“ We planned to get wider participation of small scale fishers through the series of workshops from village level up to national level in this process. As a result we were able to organized 3 major workshops among the fisher women, inland fisher people as well as with small scale coastal fishers and the fish workers in the multiday fishing boats. With this work we were tried to open the debate on sustenance of small scale fishers as they are supposed to be extinct in the near future. Do we allow this to happen or do we commit to change this situation? It is in our hand as small scale fishers. ”
Herman Kumara, the national convener of National Fisheries Solidarity Movement challenged the gathering at the presentation of the objectives session.
“We do not allow to loose our fishing grounds with selling the coasts to tourism or aquaculture investors. We want to emphasize our customary rights. If any one wants to protect small scale fishers, they should protect the fishing environment, sustenance of fish stocks, post harvest products of our fisher communities. We expected to submit our issues as well as the possible solutions to the authorities. They are not present here today. Then who are the responsible people to tell our issues.?” says Loyel Peiris, a small scale catamaran fisherman, and a fisher leader from Barudalpola, Thoduwawa in the North Western Coast of the island.
The organizers were attempted their best to get the fisheries authorities to the occasion and some of them promised to do so. However, with their reasons none of them participated and not informed too.
So the fisher groups were not discouraged and decided to go to the fisheries ministry and meet the fisheries minister and the officials. All the people in the gathering agreed to go to the fisheries ministry and submit the proposals they prepared.
At the sharing of inland fisheries, issues of fisher women and the issues of northern and eastern provinces, all the people expected strong intervention by the government while getting the support of the fisher communities.
A.J.Anderson, small scale fisherman of Parakrama Samudraya at Polonnaruwa, shared the necessity to reorganize the fisheries cooperatives as one of the main tool to fisheries management purposes as well as sustenance the livelihoods for inland fishing communities.
“Small Scale Fishers need freedom from the Investors. Most of them are under the custody of the Mudalalis and the fishermen do not get any reasonable share from them. Most of the time the families are suffering as they can not survive with the small amount of earning of the bread winner.” That was the voice of A.I.M. Zackiras of District Fisheries Organization at Pothuwil, Ampara district.
“Indian fishing fleets are destroying our waters seriously. They are dangerous too. Three days of the week we do not go to the sea due to fear. Mannar and Jaffna district fishers who were affected very badly by 30 years long war are affected again with this situation. They engage in bottom trawling which is very harmful to the fishing industry. This situation should change to sustain the fisheries in the country. At the same time, most of the fishers were displaced due to war. Some are still in the camps. Others did not receive proper treatments for so called resettlement process.” Vincent Lambert, a fisherman of Arripputhurai fishing village at Mannar, a war tone area in the north shared his views at the national convention and proposed possible direction to build up the small scale fishers in the north and the east.
The report prepared for the purpose of management and sustainability of the inland fishers with the research conducted at 14 sites in 7 districts among the coastal and inland fishing communities were also launched.
Mr.Nalaka Rozairo, the coordinator of Policy Studies of NAFSO presented to research findings at the convention which are alarming for actions and need highest and immediate attention of policy makers as he shared. The most importantly, analysis of the technology, management practices, institutional structures, leadership and environmental aspects were covered at the research which are very important on policy making process of the authorities.
As decided by the group with consensus, every one participated at the convention went to the Ministry of Fisheries and decided who will be the persons participate the meeting with the minister and his officials. There were 15 people volunteered to meet the Minister though the group got only the promise to have another appointment with the minister due to the unavailability of the minister and the officials at the time the group reached the ministry.