Fisheries sector to contribute in a big way to economic growth -
Deputy Minister of Fisheries
Deputy Minister of Fisheries Neomal Perera
The resettlement of the largest number of IDPs in the North took
place recently with 41,685 IDPs resettled in Vavuniya, Mannar, Mulaitivu
and Kilinochchi. Excerpts from the interview the Sunday Observer had
with Deputy Minister of Fisheries Neomal Perera on his observations on
the resettlement and in particular on the resettlement of fisher folks
in the above regions.
Q: Could you describe the recent resettlement process?
A: I had the opportunity to witness the resettlement
activities carried out recently in Adampan in Mannar. The people who
have been resettled in their original places have been provided with all
necessary requirements to immediately begin their livelihood. Farming
equipment, utensils and building materials to put up their houses have
been provided to those who have returned to their original places.
Rs. 5000 along with dry rations and a letter from President Mahinda
Rajapaksa greeting them on their return to their original places were
also handed over.
The places of worship in the war-torn areas in Vanni have been
rebuilt along with the schools that were damaged. Clergy and teachers
have also been allowed to engage in their activities in the areas where
the resettlement has taken place.
University students have been allowed to leave the IDP centers on
priority basis to continue with their higher studies.
I would say it is important to note that the resettlement process has
been expedited. Unlike in other countries with IDP problems, Sri Lanka
has taken prompt and swift measures to resettle the Vanni IDPs.
Q: What were the measures taken to provide with vital
documents such as birth certificates and Identity Cards to those IDPs
who have lost them?
A: They were re-issued and the IDPs were made to be
comfortable in looking into their day-to-day official matters.
The Grama Niladhari offices and Police posts were recreated to cater
to the needs of the people who have been resettled.
Q: What is the process of clearing land mines in those
A: The clearing of land mines is being done swiftly. A large
team of experienced personnel are employed in clearing land mines.
No causality has been reported so far due to land mines. Land mines
are not visible. Therefore, one must be careful in clearing them. People
and animals are used to detect them. The Army is making its best effort
to detect land mines and it is hoped that there will not be any
casualties in future when more people are settled in those areas where
presently land mines are earthed.
Q: What are the facilities the government has provided to the
resettled people in the development of the agricultural sector?
A: Government has provided lands and supplied water for the
paddy fields and farms.
Apart from that, farmers were given all necessary items such as
mamoties and other equipment for farming. Cattle, paddy seeds and
fertilizer will also be provided once they start farming. Once they
harvest their crop, they will be given a standard selling price for rice
which they didn’t receive during the war period.
The capacity of the Giant Tank has been increased. Other lakes and
tanks have also been repaired and extended. And culverts, sluice gates,
canals etc. too have been repaired to provide water for lands which can
be utilized as paddy fields.
We believe that with the facilities provided to them they will get a
good income for themselves and thus contribute to the GDP of the country
Q: How does the Fisheries Ministry assist these resettled
people in developing a sound economic background?
A: After all, water bodies were repaired. Fisheries Ministry
has provided them with fingerlings prior to the resettlement process.
With the present rain all new water bodies are getting filled and this
is the ideal period for fish breeding.
During the rainy season farmers will be provided with fingerlings
once again. These fingerlings will weigh around 500g in another four to
five months’ time. Fish is a good source of protein and they can be
self-sufficient with their harvest or if they produce harvest in great
deal, they may sell them. Fisheries Ministry has initiated all plans to
start fish industry in all tanks in the areas where the resettlement
took place. Farmers will be provided with necessary equipment for
selling of their fish harvest such as motorbikes, bicycles with ice
boxes fixed on them. Further we plan to build a hatchery in Iranamadu
area which is estimated to cost around Rs. 200 million to provide
fingerlings to the five districts in the North. At the moment we have
only three hatcheries in Dambulla, Inginiyagala and Udawalawe which
provide fingerlings for the entire country. I must mention that we
intend to reduce inland fish prices in near future. Our intention is to
provide fresh inland fish for people in areas where they do not get sea
fish. There are advantages in inland fishery industries such as there is
no wastage and inland fisheries industry can continue to provide
whatever the amount of fish despite being affected by seasonal weather
conditions. There are no huge inputs such as power to run motor boats.
It is by paddling they harvest inland fish.
The restrictions for fishing in coastal areas which were imposed due
to security reasons have now been removed. Fishermen can engage in
fishing twenty four hours in those areas. Another important action the
government has taken is the reduction of import of canned fish for which
government spent 50 million dollars two years ago. We now plan to
increase the duty imposed on those canned fish. Our aim is to encourage
people to consume fresh fish.
Q: Have you made any plans to introduce ‘ornamental fish’
industry in those areas?
A: Ornamental fisheries industry is yet to be improved because
there are several hindrances connected to it such as these people do not
have connections with European and Middle East countries where the
Q: Do you think that the resettled people will make expected
contribution to the country’s GDP?
A: There is no doubt about that. Those people are impressively
hard-working. There are a lot of virgin lands which have not been
cultivated for the last three decade.
Those people will be utilizing them and I am on a positive view that
they will make positive contribution on the country’s GDP.
Q: What measures have you taken to improve the country’s
fisheries industry in general?
A: There were several endangered fish species which were
banned and the Fisheries Ministry is planning to import those species
and breed them to export them. With the development of the tourism
industry after the war, there will be lot of flights coming in and we
will be able to provide a lot of cargo. We intend to increase the
contribution from the fisheries sector by a great deal. Sea weeds,
inland fish, tuna, coastal fisheries, sea weed culture etc. will be
produced and our aim is to contribute to the GDP twice as much we did
two years ago by 2010.