Today the government continues to sell harbours, mineral sand deposits, oil tanks and lands. Now the government has presented a cabinet paper to sell fishery harbours. About 200,000 families engage in the fishing industry as their livelihood in our country. The economy of the country can be strengthened by the fishing industry. Our country owns a sea area eight times its land area. It is a very large resource for our country. If we utilize the resources we have in the sea around us we need not go begging from other countries. However, rulers of our country who have been ruling the country for 69 years have failed to develop the fishing industry or the economy of the country through it. Instead, their moves break down the fishing industry,” said the Information Secretary of the JVP, Comrade Vijitha Herath MP.
He said this at a press conference held at the head office of the JVP yesterday (12th). The National Organizer of All Ceylon Fishermen’s Federation Comrade Rathna Gamage, its General Secretary Comrade Nishantha Ferdinando, the General Secretary of Lanka Fisheries Corporation Employees Union Comrade J.K. Nishantha and the convener of Collective of Employees to protect Fisheries harbours Comrade Gamini Wickremesinghe also addressed the media.
Speaking further Comrade Vijitha Herath said, “There are 20 fishery harbours in our country. 10 other harbours have been identified as harbours that could be developed for fishing industry. As such, we have 30 fishery harbours in our country. The main function of these harbours is to provide infrastructure facilities for the fishermen. Providing fuel to local boats and water and fuel to foreign vessels our country could earn a large income. When Mr. Indika Gunawardene was the Minister of Fisheries the functions of a fishery harbour was gazetted. Accordingly, maintaining ice factories and preserving fish too could be done in a fishery harbour. This would assist the whole fishing industry.
However, former Minister of Fisheries Rajitha Senaratna leased Modara Fishery harbour to a British company in October, 2014. When the government assessor’s valuation for the 1.42 hectares owned by Modara Fishery harbor was Rs.1.7 million a month, Rajitha gives it to the foreign company for Rs. 125,000 a month for 25 years. The loss to the government is more than Rs.470 million. This is a big crime. There has been a fraud here. Rajitha Senaratna is responsible for this fraud.
The Modara Fishery Harbour supplied 25% of the fish caught by foreign fishing vessels. When the harbour was administered by the Fisheries Corporation the fish caught by foreign vessels could be supplied to the consumers in the country for reasonable prices. However, once Rajitha Senaratna leased out the harbour this activity stopped and the Corporation doesn’t get fish from foreign vessels. The Corporation had to buy fish from private traders at higher prices. The corporation had to run at a loss. Now the Corporation is to be sold.
What former Minister of Fisheries Rajitha Senaratna did is continued by the present Minister of Fisheries Mahinda Amaraweera. A cabinet paper has been presented to sell all the fishery harbours. On 12th October 2016, a cabinet paper was presented. In it observations by the President, also as the Minister of Defense and that of former Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayaka have been stated. The President and the Minister of Finance have not opposed the cabinet paper to sell fishery harbours. The cabinet approval has been given. The government is attempting to lease out all the fishery harbours and anchorages. Already, estimates have been prepared for the head office of the Ceylon Fisheries Corporation and 11 harbours. The value estimated for the head office of the Corporation is Rs. 280,443,000. Estimates have been already prepared for fishery harbours at Tangalle, Kirinda, Mirissa, Puranawella, Kudawella, Suduwella, Nilwella, Valaichena, Kalpitiya and Codbay. The total valuation is Rs. 1,692,753,950.
As a result of handing over these harbours to the private sector the national security of the country, the livelihood of the fisher folk and the fishing industry in the country are jeopardized. The national security would be an issue when these fishery harbours are administered by private companies. Drugs could be easily smuggled into the country through these harbours. Our fisher folk would have to be under rules and regulations of private companies. Despite the government saying the SL Navy protection could be given, the Navy would not be able to control everything happening in the harbours. Already, Indian trawlers poach in our waters. The Navy has not been able to prevent it. Hence, we tell the government to stop immediately the criminal move to lease out fishery harbours. Don’t sell fishery harbours, the livelihood of our fishing folk. We are prepared as the JVP and All Ceylon Fishermen’s Federation to rally with all employees of Ceylon Fisheries Corporation and the general public to take measures to stop the reactionary move of the government.”