Whither the Displaced Communities in the East Coast?: Development Displacement at Oluwil Harbour Site at Ampara district.

She stood in the door frame of her temporary home in Sinna Palamunai, in the East coast of Sri Lanka, tiny little woman with long, slightly grey hair pulled back in a ponytail, covered with the saree. In her hand she held a small piece of paper. She showed it to everyone who passed. There was no way I could understand what she said in Tamil but as I looked at the papers, I found this is some thing related to her land and she is thoroughly depressed due to the situation of the displacement. I understood the tone. It was one of absolute grief. Her name is Missakeen Bhava Fareena, a Muslim woman who displaced due to the Oluwil Harbour construction project narrated her story in Tamil and her story was slowly revealed through a translator. “We have been living here for decades and we our selves developed this barren land with our sweat and flesh. Now, we need to leave the place and no body cares about our situation. We were forced to vacate the area and there is no any alternative. The hardest part of the story is there is no any compensation for us too. “However, some people got the compensation where as we are not entitle to get compensation at least. I have my papers I got from the DS, my number is AD/34/ES/496/388. So, why we do not get any compensation for our lands, our cultivations, our homes ?” So, Missakeen Bhava Fareena is narrating her story to every one possible for a solution and there is no solution found yet. She is one among the other women who lost their land and also the livelihood due to displacement. The Government had vested the dwelling land and cultivation fields of 29 persons in Sinnapalamuani and 24 persons in Oluvil for the harbour construction. In addition to that when discussed with these people they say that, they have cleared the forests close to this place and were planting various crops and have built dwellings too. They have made the areas as long term beneficiary like planting Palmyra trees, coconut trees and also short term crops. They say that they have developed their lands to share for their future generations. When inquired from the 29 families of Palamunai, only one person has a deed and 9 persons have the government permit and others have the evidence letters provided by the mosque and justice of the peace. The revenue for these lands is not paid. The grama sevaka also could not certify their lands .there for they could not get any compensation from the government or port authorities. So they had to leave their lands and either living with their relations or living in rented houses. But, there should be a social justice to the affected people as they have the customary right to their coastal lands and waters for generations.

Problems of Small scale fishermen, canoe fishing and small fish vendors.


It is not only the women in the area affected but also hundreds of the fisher families affected by the harbour project. Small fishers, beach seine fish workers, and beach seine owners are affected with the project. So, the fishing communities who are living in Addalachenai, Oluvil and Sinnapalamunai of Ampara District of Eastern Province are facing huge socio economic and Cultural problems. The normal life of the above people was in harmony are in danger now, due to the Oluwil harbour construction work in the eastern province. Fishing is the main livelihood for them. Their livelihood is very much affected as the harbour work is going ahead. In the mean time, they have lost their hereditary land rights and are unable to raise their voice against the harbour construction work by the government. These people have lost their lands, coastal and aquatic resources too. They were trying to fight it through the District Fisheries Solidarity,[DIFSO] but everything was in vain. There are three main problem identified from the discussion with the 3 fishing communities including Sinnapalamunai community are as follows according to A.J. Thanees, the coordinator of DIFSO, and a villager of Sinnapalamunai, Ampara district. > Land adoption > Problem of fishermen of beach seine fishing. (Mathal) > Problem of Small scale fishermen, canoe fishing and fish vendors. “This will affect hundreds of families in 3 fishing communities”, added Thanees. Mr.M.H.Meerasahebu and Mr. I.M. Meerasahebu representatives of the small scale fishers and members of Oluvil Al - Shaba Fisheries Society are narrated their story as follows; “The entire fishing carrier is affected and day to day survival is in question. We go fishing within one Km distance from the shore. Because of the order from the ports authority that we should not go fishing around the area they are suffering. Oluvil port is being constructed in the low level area where more fish is normally found. Each boat is loosing Rs.5000/- per day. 50 small fish vendors who buy and sell daily from the small fishermen are also affected”. Beach Seine Owners, Beach Seine Operators and Small scale fish vendors: The beach seine owners are some what well to do people though the beach seine operators are the most affected due to loss of their day today earning for their survival. “When we loose the coastal land, it is not only land we loose but also our traditional fishing grounds, our access to water, our livelihoods means we loose everything in our life.” Mr. A D. A. Caseem, a beach seine owner from Oluwil village narrated their grievances. “There are 18 beach seines will be removed from the area which will affect around 900 fishers, fish worker families in the area. Each beach seine provides more than 50 jobs for the people in the area and will be loose the jobs in the long run.” “We heard, the government have paid the compensation for the beach seine owners and operators, though most of us got nothing” Caseem added to the story. Fishing has been their only job people know and they have been doing it for years and years and they are now deprived of this job. Around 2000 fisher folks are affected after Oluvil


harbour project started. Mothers from each of these families too find it difficult to run their home front for fish and other expenses. For example find it difficult to cook their meals and curries (fish). Mr.S.M.Sithik, another beach seine fisherman was expressed his views as follows; “In 1994 ports authority released a list of names of 9 deep sea net fishermen who were going to be affected and also this compensation was to be paid within two years. Then in 2002 a list of names were changed and about 835 people were paid Rupees 150000/= each as compensation. But most of the fisher folks did not know about this. In the 2006 it was announced through the divisional Secretary, fisheries inspector and District Fisheries Extension Officer, that the 76 new beach seine operators[fish workers] who started fishing after Tsunami will not be paid compensation. When complained regarding this to Divisional Secretariat office these complaints were torn and thrown. After that we tried to meet Hon. Minister A. M. Athaaulla and there was no response from him. Hon. Minister Uthumah Lebbe also could not do anything regarding this. “We were able to convene two meetings with the fishermen concerned on 28 August 2008, and decided to take legal action and call for another meeting on 3rd April 2009 to get the advice of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement.” Says Mr. Sithik. “We will not give up the fight till we get the just solution for our problem. We loose land, our jobs, our customary rights and our culture of fishing.” Says, Mr. Sithik, Mr. A.D.A. Caseem, the president of Vallarasu fisherman’s Society, also work hand in hand with them for their rights.. “Before Tsunami out of 9 beach seine fishermen six were compensated. Details are given below”: 1. Rs.500,000/- each for 6 Mathal owners 2. Rs.300,000/- each for 6 small boat owners 3. Rs.200,000/- each for 12 floaters 4. Rs.150,000/- each for 650 Koolies (labourer) But 3 beach seine fishermen were not compensated. When we went in to these details we came to know out of this six beach seines, another 124 persons were left out. These affected fisher folks complained about their grievances in various levels but could not get a favourable response. Details of their correspondents are given below; 1. A letter was sent on 12.01.2000. To the Minster of Fisheries, Mahinda Rajapakse. 2. A letter was again sent to the same Minster of Fisheries in December 2000. 3. A letter was sent in the year 2005 to the President Chandrika Kumaranathunga Bandaranayake.


4. A letter was sent to the Ampara District Government Agent, District Fisheries Extension Officer on 11.11.2006. 5. Letters were sent on 2006.11.17 to the President Mahinda Rajapakse ,Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe, Minister A. M. Aththualla 6. A letter was sent on 16.01.2008. to Minster Felix Perara. 7. Letter was again sent on 06.05.2008. to the President Mahinda Rajapakse ,Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe, Minister A. M. Aththualla ,Colombo Ports Authority ,Oluvil Ports Authority, Additional Government Agent Ampara, Fisheries Extension Officer Ampara. 8. Lastly a letter to the Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan (Date not given) Nobody replied to these letters except for a letter from Ports and Aviation Minister dated 19.12.2007 and received on 06.05.2008. to take necessary action and a copy of the letter was sent to the District Fisheries Solidarity Association.[DIFSO] As an organization work with the coastal communities, DIFSO is struggling to get organize the people in the area. They want to get at least a reasonable compensation for the fisher families of small scale boat operators, beach seine owners and fish workers, the women who lost their land and their livelihoods, fish vendors etc. The main demands of the people are as follows;  Compensation for the people who loose the land and the livelihoods due to Oluwil harbour project,  Reasonable resettlement program for the women and also the other people who lost their land, and jobs,  Treat equally for all the displaced communities and consider the grievances of the people based on social justice,  Do not evict people from the lands they live forcefully with out fullest consultation and consent of the potential victims, As organizations work on land issues we have realized that the necessity to have a serious and in-depth advocacy and lobby campaign to change the land laws, which are only in favour of the ruling class and the bureaucrats in the country. Our main demands are;  to change the land rules and regulations in favour of the people,  To include the right to life as a fundamental right in to the constitution, There should be a series of campaigns for achieve above goals and to receive the justice to Missakeen Bhava Fareena, S.M.Sithik, A.D.A. Caseem, M.H.Meerasahebu and Mr. I.M. Meerasahebu and hundreds and thousands of fishers, fish workers, fish vendors, fisher women and beach seine operators and owners. Otherwise, we pose the same question we raised above: Whither the Displaced Communities in the East Coast? : Development Displacement at Oluwil Harbour Site at Ampara district. Herman Kumara,hermankumara@gmail.com, fishmove@slt.lk Convener, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement, No.10, Malwatta Road, Negombo. Sri Lanka. 14 June 2009 4

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