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People received a temporary Victory over Sea Plane Issue at Negombo Lagoon

Written By Joining Hands Network on Thursday, November 11, 2010 | 8:55 PM

"We need development in our country. But, we do not want to disturb the lives and livelihoods of the lagoon fisher people". So, we need to find an alternative as we want to develop our country too.We promise to stop temporary this sea plane project in Negombo lagoon and the excavations going on at the lagoon. There should be a dialogue between fishermen and Hon. President, to find an alternative." Said Dayasritha Tissera Hon. Deputy Ports and civil aviation minister who attended the meeting with fishermen at Negombo Town Hall today.People were delighted to hear this message from the dep. minister Daysritha, though the other dep, minister Sarath Gunaratne was not happy with this announcement. Even Nimal Lansa, the Provincial Council Tourism minister did not emphasis the project at the meeting though the other deputy minister played a role against the people.

Alliance for Protection of Negombo Lagoon, organized protest staged against the decision taken by the Rajapaksha Government for landing sea plane on Negombo lagoon today. There were thousands of fishermen and women gathered at Negombo Town Hall this afternoon to discuss their issues they face due to implementation of Sea planes at Negombo Lagoon. There are 3500 fishermen directly depend on lagoon for their livelihoods which include 10,000 households from 35 villages around the lagoon. Civil Aviation ministry has proposed sea planes to boom tourism industry in which provide luxury facilities for 2.5 million tourist to be expected by 2015.
As the deputy minister got delayed, the people who were anxiously waited at the Town Hall and started agitations displaying plakards, and voice out slogans demanding to protect the lagoon.

Ranjith Fernando, the chair person of Negombo Lagoon Management Authority very strongly opposed the ongoing excavations at Mada Bokka [Mud Bay], "Mada Bokka is one of the most rich prawn breeding ground. Who ordered to dig this area? In 2006, it was dug because the Navy wanted to use high speed boats for security reasons. Now there is no such threats and need not to disturb and destroy our lagoon any more. We are totally against this destruction and urged strongly to stop this."

People are really disturbed and opposed vehemently against the project. Even catholic priests were not able to control the situation. Dep. Minister Sarath Gunaratne worked up and started blagarded to the gathering and said, "this behaviour is a shame to Negombo.
We came here to discuss the issues related to fishermen. We can not continue this dialogue any more, if the people behave like uncivilized."
However, dep. Minister could not stop the people as they did not want to listen to his roaring voice against them. People did not stop their voice even, the dep. minister Gunaratne openly ordered to Police to find who are behind the shouting.

Some women were also came forward to voice out against their un justices.

Shirani Fernando, a fisher woman leader of Sri Vimukthi Fisher Women Organization, very strongly and with tears in her eyes said, "We all are depending on our Lagoon. If our lagoon disturb or destroy that is end of our life. We educate our children through the little income we earn through lagoon. Any body want to destroy our lagoon, first destroy us and do it. We do not want any sea planes to Negombo Lagoon."

There were various fishing gear type fishers attended the meeting. The stake and Net fishery is one of the most traditional and historic fishing type in Negombo lagoon. Joseph Peter, a Stake net fisherman addressing the gathering said, " We are living simply with what we earn from the lagoon. We educated our children from the income. Even, we speak today with the strength we gained from what we earn from lagoon. We need not to go beyond this. Our simple way of life is enough for us. But, please do not put us down with disturbing our mother which is our Lagoon."

Responding to the people's agitations in side of the town hall, the Arch Diocese Vicar General Rev. Patrick Joseph said, we all are human beings. We can solve our problems with discussion. So, no point of voice out and agitate unnecessarily. Let us have a committee appointed and meet Hon.President to solve this sea plane issue. We are always with the fishermen who the majority are catholics."

Rev. Fr.Lester Nonis, the Fisheries Chaplain for Arch Diocese has convened the meeting upon request of Hon.Dep. Minister Dayasritha Tissera, had said that, "I am not in a position to organize a committee to meet Hon.President as people very clearly delivered their message to you all. People say no to Sea Planes at Negombo Lagoon. What else we talk to Hon.President.? You are our representatives and you can deliver this message to President. You all can see the people's voice. They will throw me out too."

As a result of the strong agitations by the people, and strong request to stop the digging the lagoon, Hon.Dep. Minister agreed to stop temporary the project till permanent solution will find after discussion with the President.
People realized this is a temporary victory and need to continue their agitations further till people get a permanent solution.People dispersed with high moral as they were able to halt the project temporary and to continue their agitations vigourously.
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