Let us Proudly Commemorate International Year of Small Scale Fisheries & Aquaculture - 2022

The loss of lives of fishermen is a reflection of collapse of the system

                                                                                                                            10 June 2013

                                                                                                                         PRESS RELEASE

The storms and the adverse weather condition on Saturday early morning, in the rough sea have destroyed more than 60 beloved fishermen's lives around the West, South/West and Southern coasts in Sri Lanka. Some of the media messages say there are 31 including 30 fisher people dead, 29 injured and 31 missing people, including 37 boats that disappeared.

These are alarming messages we are receiving since last Saturday. The whole fishing community is shocked to see all these irreparable damage to their lives and negligence of the authorities concerned. The families are cursing the authorities who should have been responsible to timely report to and inform the people to be affected by the recent damaging  weather conditions.

In Sri Lanka, we have the Ministry of Disaster Management with a system of disaster mitigation, signal towers that have been established along the coast, the Department of Meteorology to forecast weather, and the Ministry of Fisheries to announce weather conditions on regular basis. 

We have a big question then. Do these authorities accept and take the responsibility for the lives of the people we have lost due to the irresponsible reporting of weather?

Our authorities and some ministers talk proudly that we are now very close to being declared the greatest wonders of Asia. Yet, simple weather forecasting  is not being done on time and unable to save the lives of those people. Most of the fishermen whom we met told us there was no any adverse weather forecast by the concerned authorities at all.

The Government cannot compensate the life of those people by simply giving compensations for the funerals of those fishermen.

We cannot agree to the way the responsible authorities behaved in this national calamity.
Now the Minister of Disaster Management says that he wants to submit a cabinet paper to renovate the met department. This has not been a priority in our national disaster mitigation plans prepared so far and now only they think how to renovate the outdated met department for people's safety.

At the same time, some media reported that Minister of disaster management is ready to take actions against the officials who are responsible for not reporting.
This is not only an irresponsibility of the government officials. The whole government should take the responsibility and be accountable.

Even after such a national calamity, the affected fisher people had to come to the streets and to awake the authorities, blocking the railway tracks and causing agitations to get the assistance to properly and justly manage this disaster, rescue people in danger and prevent any more similar tragedies. This itself is a clear message how un-concerrned the authorities have been about the lives of the fisher people.

We urge from the government as follows;
1. to have an independent study of what happened to the responsible authorities on that day and recommendations to follow strictly in the future,
2. to compensate not only to the funerals and the final respects of the people, but to the affected vulnerable families, children's in the families for their education and other matters adequately,
3. to ensure an effective disaster risk information scheme with the responsibility of national interest,
4. to reactivate the established disaster information towers along the coast for an effective services,
5. to develop a workable plan with proper consultation with fisher groups.
6. to provide subsidy system to purchase life jackets to the fishermen,
7. to utilize the learning of tsunami rehabilitation programs to make an effective disaster mitigation program with wider participation of the society,

Herman Kumara,
Convener-National Fisheries Solidarity Movement.[NAFSO]