Here we go again – Subramaniam Swamy-Jayalalitha & Poaching Indian Fishermen

Dr. Subramanian Swamy vs Jayalalitha

Kollywood theatrics has re-entered the political scene of Tamil Nadu. Last month the Indian Central Government was held to ransom because of a cartoon that ended up showcasing India’s immaturity on world stage. Not only did India not accept an immediate apology by Sri Lanka, it went to unnecessary lengths to call Sri Lanka’s envoy in New Delhi and watched as its media sensationalized street protests, stoning of Sri Lankan offices in Chennai and thereafter going to lowest levels of sending back a team of Sri Lankan sportsmen. Now, we are again back to the same theatrics with the same subject which was conveniently evaded because of the theatrics. This time round there is no cartoon, no article but Dr. Subramaniam Swamy himself. The flip side of the present scenario is the hopeful likelihood of a grand finale to the Indian fishermen poaching issue for good.

Since the Chie Minister of Tamil Nadu deems it her right to put up posters of world leaders prostrating before her including President Rajapakse begging for mercy but feels nothing can be said against her even in form of a factual comment, it is understandable why Tamil Nadu is again afire and thankfully this time round it is an Indian at the receiving end. Though we must salute Dr. Swamy for speaking the truth.

So what has irked the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister? She took offense when the article on Jayalalitha’s letters to Modi explored the possibility of the Tamil Nadu fishing boats belonging to Tamil Nadu politicians. Now, Dr. Swamy himself says the mechanized fishing boats poaching on Sri Lanka’s waters are owned by DMK’s T R Baalu and Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers resident friend Sasi Kala. We must wonder why Sri Lanka went to lengths to apologize for a graphic artists’ innocent mistake that had nothing to do with the author or any authorities!

Nevertheless, it appears the theatrics are nothing but a sideshow to evade the real issues. Part of that sideshow is the hype around demanding Katchchetivu primarily because the areas around it are best for shrimp/prawns.

Dr. Swamy’s argument is solid. He claims that his suggestion to the Sri Lankan authorities to release the Indian fishermen but confiscate the boats was because he was petitioned to take action on behalf of the fishermen while the boat owners being rich and powerful did not require his assistance.

What must irk the Chief Minister is Dr. Swamy’s allegation that she ‘had made a business of the plight of fishermen by doing nothing but writing letters’ to the Indian PM and releasing it to the Press. Dr. Swamy’s allegations against the TN chief minister include hijacking his achievements for election propaganda and he has suggested that BJP go it alone without partnering with any TN political parties. A wise suggestion.

Here’s the problem spelt out again

  • Indian fishermen are violating a bilaterally accepted agreement that demarcates international maritime borders between Sri Lanka and India and (some 1000 boats at a given time) entering Sri Lanka’s side to illegally poach in mechanized boats that end up not only stealing fish belonging to Sri Lanka but destroying the marine sea bed because of their bottom trawlers as well as the poor quality nets used by Sri Lanka’s fishermen.
  • Indian fishermen boats (4000) all have GPS monitoring systems so they are well aware that they are crossing the international maritime border but they do so because the Indian side of the border has been ruined by them and their use of bottom trawlers which are banned because of the damage they do.
  • Sri Lanka is faced with a multiple set of problems
    • Sri Lanka’s Maritime Borders are being violated and becomes a national security concern
    • Sri Lanka is losing out MILLIONS because fish that belong to Sri Lanka are being stolen and sold in India
    • Sri Lanka’s Northern fishermen are unable to earn a livelihood because the Tamil Nadu fishermen are taking their catch and ruining their nets as well as the marine sea bed itself.
    • Sri Lanka will eventually have to face a long term scenario of no fish on Sri Lankan side of IMBL, livelihood issues for 600,000 Sri Lankan fishermen, loss of income from fishing and repercussions of allowing the marine sea bed to be ruined.
    • Sri Lanka’s loss is said to be in excess of $730m. Indian fishermen are stealing 65million kg of fish annually from Sri Lanka.

We hope that India’s Central Government do not do the same mistake it did in Sri Lanka’s case by ignoring the crux of the problem by falling prey to the Tamil Nadu theatrics used as sideshows to divert the truth.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister cannot be ignorant that not only are GPS laden Indian boats violating Sri Lanka’s maritime borders but are selling fish that are stolen from Sri Lanka’s shores as well as ruining Sri Lanka’s side of the marine bed using banned bottom trawlers.

The TN Chief Minister cannot sit in Tamil Nadu without identifying these as the key problems while pretending to solve them but not solving anything to date. The TN Chief Minister should not protest when Dr. Swamy has at least come up with a solution that frees Indian fishermen (those we believe are simply being used by corporate boat owners to violate the IMBL and enter and poach from Sri Lanka).

Yet the bigger problem of Tamil Nadu looting Sri Lanka’s fish as well as ruining Sri Lanka’s marine sea bed remains.

As a viable option it is prudent to explore the possibilities of having a mobile customs on board Sri Lankan Naval vessels and tax all Indian boats poaching on Sri Lanka’s waters.

India’s Central Government should not make the same mistake it did with Sri Lanka by chastising Dr. Subramaniam Swamy for speaking the truth.

– by Shenali D Waduge