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Catholics protest to save church

Fishing families on a western island are threatened with beach developments.

Catholics protest to save church
Private owners have put up some boards in Kalpitiya area reporter, Chilaw
Sri Lanka

June 14, 2011

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Catholic protesters waving banners have demonstrated against the possible seizure of land belonging to a church in a government-designated tourism zone. More than 300 villagers, including priests, organized a silent protest at Mohoththuwaram island in Kalpitiya on June 11. Father Vincent Anthony Jeyarasa, Our Lady of Good Voyage church, Kalpitiya, claimed that land belonging to the church had been appropriated and sand excavated for drainage was blocking access to the church. Father Abraham Barnaba, director of Caritas Chilaw, said: “We could not find original land titles to show our ownership even though some of our villagers went to the relevant authority in search of it.” The project as proposed by the government will affect 14 islands in the northwestern coastal area of Kalpitiya. More than 10,000 people there depend on fishing for their livelihood. Catholic fishing families on a western island are threatened with beach developments. More than 130 families live in Mohoththuwaram. Recently they were prevented from getting to beach seines and to anchorage points by barbed wire fences. Protesters believe private developers are hiding the original land documents. “They should respect our right for a religion,” said Dinesh Suranjan Fernando, general secretary of the All Ceylon Fisher Folk Union.

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