Fishermen, Are They Criminals? An Open Letter To Prime Ministers of Sri Lanka And India
By Ravi Nitesh
14 March, 2015
I, as a citizen of South Asia region condemn the statement of Mr. Ranil Wickremsinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in which he told that ‘If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed, law allows me to do that," he said in the interview to Thanthi TV broadcast on Friday night. "This is our waters. Fishermen of Jaffna should be allowed to fish. We stopped them from fishing. That's why the Indian fishermen came in. They (Jaffna fishermen) are willing to have a deal. Let's have a reasonable settlement but not at the cost of the livelihood of northern fishermen .”
I see this statement as unfortunate and highly condemnable. This statement is not only against humanity but even also differs and violate the international law such as UN sea laws. Being a primeminister, Mr. Wickremsinghe must know the importance of humanitarian approach in resolving the conflicts among countries and groups.
Sea boundary of India and Sri Lanka attracts fishermen from both sides to earn their livelihood. Fishing as a traditional business is very old in its practice and it exists since the time when division of sea was not made stringent in such away. As a group of human being, fishermen represent a common interest group and identity of ‘being fishermen’. Conflicts between the countries, politicization and high pressure of increasing financial growth are working negatively in terms of collective solidarity, friendship and living style of fishermen.
South Asia is already a region vulnerable for such activities of crossing boundaries in search of employment and reducing poverty. We, as a south asian must know the situation of our countries that is similar and filled with challenges of poverty, hunger etc. But at the same time, unfortunately, we also spend a lot ‘against’ each other rather than ‘for’ each other.
I believe that any such conflict must be raised in suitable forums and through mutual dialogues. Government of India and Sri Lanka must work together to stop such activities that restrict livelihood of Sri Lankan fishermen.
Sri Lankan fishermen and Indian fishermen are not enemy of each other, they both earn their livelihood from the same sea and the only requirement in present situation is the requirement to fix their access to a certain sea boundary. This can be done easily through mutual discussions and decisions without provocation of people.
I demand Sri Lankan PM to express his apology over the statement because it was against humanitarian approach, against UN sea laws and most importantly against the unity of fishermen. He must apologise that he see fishermen not as ‘criminals’. He must also apologise to people of Sri Lanka that he doesn’t believe what he said is a common belief of Sri Lanka’s people and fishermen. We know that even fishermen of Sri Lanka will never support his statement.
I also demand Govt of India to become involve in dialogue with Govt of Sri Lanka so that any such dispute can be resolved at the earliest and can save dignity of Indian fishermen as well as livelihood of Sri Lankan fishermen.
Ravi Nitesh is a Petroleum Engineer, Founder- Mission Bhartiyam, Core Member- Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
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