Plus - Letters to the Editor

Say NO to poaching

It has been announced that the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fishing between Sri Lanka and India will meet for the first time since its creation, tomorrow in New Delhi.

The plight of the long suffering Sri Lankan fisher folk particularly our brethren from the North has come to the public domain after the end of the Eelam war in May 2009. It is to the credit of the Sunday Times that the people of this country became aware of the hidden hand of the Indian bureaucracy and its connivance with Tamil Nadu politicians in demanding the "right" for Indian fishermen to poach in our waters.

In the light of the JWG meeting that is coming up, it is important for the people of Sri Lanka to be reminded that the Indians are determined to subjugate Sri Lanka's tame officials who will attend these talks and take a march on that infamous "Agreement of October 2008". That "agreement" which was a mere press release issued after a visit of a Presidential advisor to New Delhi, for the first time accepted a category called "bona fide fishermen crossing the IMBL".

The Sri Lanka envoy in New Delhi and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo have failed to realise that by agreeing to this illegal entity, they were granting de facto poaching rights to Indian fishermen. Each and every fisherman out of the one thousand who crosses the maritime boundary into our waters daily and engages in fishing in Sri Lankan waters, is a poacher. Poaching is not only an offence in a commercial sense but is a violation of the immigration laws of the state.

We, the people have to remind the Sri Lankan officials who will meet the Indians at the JWG that they should be mindful not to sell the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity to maintain "good relations" with India.

Sri Lankans should also realise that the "Agreement of October 2008 on fishery" was a temporary arrangement that was conceded by persons who did not see the long term implications or the fact that it was a violation of the Maritime Boundary Agreements. No Sri Lankan official should have given up our maritime rights in such a flimsy manner. The Indians on the other hand should realise that forcing Sri Lanka to disregard the Maritime Boundary Agreements of 1974 cannot be sustained. They should know that the people of this country are intelligent enough to understand that India has never been sincere on this matter.

We are now compelled to witness the "show" put up by the Indian High Commission after their Jaffna Consul General's outrageous and unacceptable behaviour vis-a-vis the judiciary. The Sunday Times was the one national newspaper that had the courage to condemn the Consul General's undiplomatic behaviour. We are yet to be officially told by the government of what action it took against this Indian Official.

At the time of writing this letter, the Indian Envoy in Colombo has announced the visit of a Tamil Nadu "Fishermen’s Association" to Sri Lanka to talk to our fishermen in the North. It was down right foolish for any GOSL agent to have given the blessings to such a visit prior to the upcoming JWG meeting. What the Indians are trying to do is to introduce the "bona fide fishermen" a.k.a. 'poaching hordes of Tamil Nadu' into the deliberations of the two governments. This is totally unacceptable and unnecessary. It is like asking 'human smugglers' to attend bilateral talks to prevent illegal migration! The Indians set the stage for this tragi-comedy to be enacted by encouraging thousands of poachers to cross the maritime boundary in recent times. The intention clearly was to overwhelm our Navy and our fishermen while allowing the Tamil Nadu politicos to raise the ante.

Sri Lanka should not buckle down to this kind of veiled threats any more. From the past behaviour of our officials who have been dealing with the India issues for some time, it is apparent that they are more bent on "pleasing" the Indians than fightingfor the rights of our own fishermen and more importantly to safeguard the sovereign rights of this country. We would have never, even temporarily, agreed to allow Indian fishermen to poach, which was granted indirectly by the infamous "October 2008 Agreement".

People of this country must never forget the cold blooded murder by shooting(by a sentry) of the President of a Sri Lankan Fishermen’s Association who went to a Tamil Nadu Prison to visit Sri Lankan fishermen who were incarcerated there. This happened a few years ago but our officials have conveniently forgotten these vital matters. A representative of the Sri Lanka Navy must be in the government delegation to JWG. The brave sailors of our Navy have been the sole protector of our territorial fishing grounds. They have at all times carried out the sacred duty of protecting our motherland to the best of their ability. We the people salute them.

We pray that the officials who will go to New Delhi for the JWG will not sell the sovereign rights of the motherland but fight to the last for the rights of not only our fishermen but for every inch of our territorial waters.

Please do not agree to legitimise poaching or give licences to poachers, it is an act of treachery.

N.R Alfred Appuhamy, Negombo

Nuclear energy for Lanka: Look at Japan, Chernobyl and think twice

The Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan was the biggest and most intense for the past 140 years, though Tokyo sits on the Ring of Fire. The tsunami waves rose 33 feet and shifted the earth’s axis by 25 cm. This tsunami travelled at a speed of 800 km per hour and swept 10 km inland.

Japan is one of the most seismologically active regions in the world, and the Japanese are no strangers to earthquakes. This tsunami has devastated Japan. There were 125 aftershocks which also brought untold hardship to the Japanese.

A tsunami approaches the Fukushima nuclear power plant about 40 minutes after the magnitude 9 earthquake struck in Tomioka, Fukushima prefecture, in this still image taken from a March 11, 2011 video. REUTERS

Tokyo sits above 2 fault lines – the Philippine sea plate dives under the Eurasian continental plate, right under the city. The Pacific plate dives under that. The cooling systems of 4 Nuclear reactors failed as a result of the meltdown, and the atmosphere has been contaminated. Many people have been exposed to radiation. Japan, lest the people panic, earlier denied that there was exposure in and around Fukushima nuclear reactor, which has a mixture of plutonium and uranium. But now, they have been forced to admit that 3 nuclear reactors are emanating radiation.

Authorities are now frantically distributing Iodine to protect the people from exposure. The thyroid gland absorbs radiation and therefore Iodine is given to protect this gland. It is therefore dangerous to contemplate Nuclear Energy. The Chernobyl disaster was not triggered by a tsunami, but by the incompetent handling by the staff and sub-standard reactors. That disaster is still having a ripple effect, even after several years. It killed almost a quarter of a million people.

Sri Lanka is a tiny island, in comparison with some of the countries that have installed nuclear energy. Even those countries are now contemplating whether they should shut down their nuclear reactors, and shift to other forms of energy. If, due to accidents or incompetent handling, there is nuclear fall-out, the whole island will be exposed.

Before spending any money even at the initial stages, we must advise the government to completely abandon any thought of installing nuclear reactors, (a) as this is a long drawn out plan to generate electricity in 2025, that is 14 years from now and (b) it will be far too dangerous for a tiny country like ours.

Instead, I suggest that we explore harmless options such as (1) generating energy from ocean waves and (2) recycling water in our existing hydro-catchment areas, so that they will never run dry even in the drought seasons.

This has been done in many countries with success, even though expensive. Due to the entire Arab world being enveloped in trouble, we may not have oil at all, and even if we do, it will be so expensive that running thermal plants will be prohibitive.

Jayantha Gunasekera, Via e mail

ID card promises priority to senior citizens

Not every government officer or employee seems aware that persons carrying senior citizen identity cards are entitled to priority treatment. The ID card says the bearer should be given priority in health, transport, bank, police, legal, and other services.

The card is issued by the Ministry of Social Services and Social Welfare and signed by the chairman of the National Council for Elders. However, it has been observed that employees at some state institutions, including hospitals, are not aware of the significance of these ID cards. Perhaps, they have not been instructed on how to respond when these cards are produced.

The card entitles senior citizens to prompt attention, to save them the hassle of waiting in long queues.
The government that issues these cards should ensure that all government servants, from the top to the lowest rungs, know what this card is about.

T. Kumar, Jaffna

Why bombard us with noise pollution?

This letter is on behalf of the residents of Davidson Road, Lorenz Road and the adjacent roads with regard to the noise emanating from the nearby Kovil. We have been living in this locality for the past 50 years and have never experienced such a problem all this time.

We are blasted by the noise emanating from the loud speakers and those responsible for it have little regard for heart patients, elderly folk etc of the area. Believe it or not – this noise pollution has compelled some of the residents to shift to other areas.

The residents have no objections with regard to religious observances conducted at the kovil. But, why should they disturb the peace in the area? I am sure, no right-thinking God will permit this kind of disturbance. The noise starts at 5.a.m. and continues till 7 a.m. and again in the evenings from 4.30 to 8 p.m. on a daily basis.

I doubt the environmental authorities sit around to hear the ear-splitting sounds day and night. I hope and pray this letter will get the attention of the relevant authorities to take appropriate action.

Disgusted residents, Colombo 4

Judiciary should be put in the dock

Open letter to the President

Sri Lanka’s legal system, including the administration of justice, is far from satisfactory. It seems that the system serves the interests of the lawyers more than the citizen seeking legal redress. Our legal system is amended by lawyers who ensure that their interests are protected. The judges side with the lawyers by postponing cases indiscriminately and not starting courts on time.

Many criminal cases are postponed because the Government Analysts’ reports are not ready. There are hundreds of chemistry graduates without jobs. Beef up the Government Analyst’s department with these chemistry graduates and speed up the legal process. In land matters, cases drag on for years. Most of these cases could be settled in two court sittings.

If this state of affairs is allowed to continue, the country will never become the “Wonder of Asia.” We need not only a simple tax system but an efficient judiciary that dispenses justice without wasting productive man hours in courts. We wait patiently for justice, only to be told that the case has been postponed by another three months.

Hundreds visit the courts daily, but these courts lack basic facilities. We cannot even hear what the judge says. Most of the time, it is a transaction purely between the judge and the lawyers.

There has been no good political leadership to reform the judiciary. No government so far has taken steps to cut delays and minimise waste and corruption and protect litigants from exploitative lawyers.
There should be a Presidential Commission, comprising professionals, the majority non-lawyers, to evaluate the judiciary on efficacy, efficiency and usefulness (to the general public) in the administration of justice, and to recommend reforms.

If our children as young as five years can be in the classroom by 7.30 a.m., why can’t our judges be in court at 7.30 a.m.? If the President wishes to clear the huge backlog of cases and develop this country fast, he will have to take tough decisions, including one on the judiciary.

The government comprises the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary. Many believe that since Independence we have neglected the judiciary. It is the least developed and most inefficient arm of the government, costing the country millions of rupees in lost man hours and causing the masses untold hardship. The only thing it does well is enrich the black-coated fraternity.

Yohan Fernando, Colombo

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