A life of uncertainty

Christy Cooray

Kalkudah, Sri Lanka

Der Fischer Christy Cooray vor seinem Haus in Kalkudah. Der Fischer Christy Cooray vor seinem Haus in Kalkudah.

Christy Cooray’s fishing family has been displaced from their boat’s mooring site in the past, to make way for hotels. Today, they live in immense uncertainty because the government wants to take away their new mooring site as well.

“We are treated like street dogs which have to get out of the way whenever a car comes along and return later,” says Christy Cooray in despair. He is afraid of being displaced from his mooring site by the government yet again. In order to combat this, Christy has already attended two of our workshops and has even presented his concerns to Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization.

The 51-year-old fisherman has lived in Kalkudah, a fishing village in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, since the day he was born. He lives with his wife and three daughters in a modest house, more than three kilometres away from his boat’s current mooring site. Recently though, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Christy and his fishing colleagues that they will now have to leave this site as well. If it comes to that, Christy and the other fishermen will be forced to dock in the port of Valaichchenai, eight kilometres away, which is very difficult for him to reach. Christy also fears that he will never be accepted by the fishermen who are based there, because they see him as competition. He feels helpless. “Fishing is our vocation,” Christy says. “We can’t do anything else and we don’t want to do anything else.”

“It was because of the hotels”

Christy Cooray and his fellow fishermen had already been displaced from their previous mooring point two years ago, which was much closer to his home. “It was because of the hotels,” says Christy dejectedly. “They complained about us fishermen.” The local authorities and the tourism authorities complied with the hotel operators’ demands. There are now 14 luxury hotels by Passikudah Beach.

Christy and his family used to have a house directly on the beach. His wife would help him with the work by preparing dried fish. The tsunami changed everything for the family: their house was destroyed and the government resettled them further inland. Since then, Christy’s wife has no longer been able to help with the work. The family has to contend with huge losses of income. Moreover, their future remains uncertain: contrary to the government’s promises, they are yet to receive any deed of ownership for the land on which they were resettled.

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