The one (and maybe the only) positive decision taken by the government, in the recent past, was to lock down the entire island for this weekend, making it a three-day restriction. (I write on Saturday May 15). Otherwise, with the Ramazan festival coming in, we – a poor small country – would have descended to the nadir that mighty India is in, suffering death pangs due to letting the Covid-19 pandemic easily become a devastating epidemic, with full scope given to the dark Reaper to cull thousands of people with his death dealing scythe.
Blame is laid fairly and squarely on India’s leader PM Modi. He is responsible for the mass deaths and rampant infection in the subcontinent. He will suffer defeat at the next elections, unless, of course, brainless Indians – surely there are these among the ultra-intelligent over there – will be like us Sinhalayas with short memories and blinding sycophancy.
What most sensible people of this Paradise-gone-to-rot want is that the country will be locked down during the next festival, too, from Tuesday 25 May through Thursday 27 May. Never mind Vesak, or should I say because of Vesak. Wise head monks have closed the gates of their temples and allow people in after screening them with Covid-19 procedures. During Vesak, the ultra-religious might think they have to go to temple and offer flowers, light pahanas and chant, mostly asking for benefit to themselves. The young and not-so-young may get the urge to saunter around in the moonlight, though there will be no illuminations and moneymaking trades like sale of food, drink and baubles. This is a hoped-for situation; I mean the decimation of lights and festivity. Much more truly religious is to follow the Buddha’s Dhamma of quiet solitude, reflection and meditation. TV channels, bless them, amply provide programmes for Buddhist thought and direction.
Thus, we plead to the President and the Covid Prevention Task Force to lock all people of Sri Lanka during Vesak Poya days – never mind protests of a minority of Buddhists and a few monks who may shout traditions being tampered with. Dire situations call for dire preventive measures. The mistake made during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, of giving total freedom to the people for popularity’s sake – the principal cause of the swelling wave of infection – MUST not be repeated. Close the country from Tuesday 25 to Thursday 27 (both days included) and if needed, throw in an extra – Friday 28. Consider the health and lives of the people, not being popular and winning votes next time around. The Sinhala Buddhist majority will appreciate such a move, because though some people given an inch take a mile, most others have brains to think correctly.
An appeal to President
This is to request President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to allow burial of COVID -19 infected corpses of Muslims in the burial ground close to the residence of the diseased instead of sending them to Otamaavadi. It goes without saying that all Health protocols and regulations will have to be stringently adhered to for the burial at the existing burial grounds.
I hope that this request will be granted as the experts in Virology have confirmed that there is no ground water contamination with the burial of those dying of Covid-19.
This will reduce considerably logistic issues and cost to both the State and the family members of the deceased and at the same time expedite burial.
COVID-19 has opened up the doors for an umpteen number of “talk shows”: of various types, conveying different TV messages to our people on how to cope with the many daily problems faced by them, including the now prevailing pandemic.
At a time the public are very effectively advised by the relevant health authorities delegated with that task, and highly competent to educate the masses how to cope with this pandemic, what purpose these “shows” give our people hungry for news is left for anyone to guess.
Recently. I happened to watch two such talk shows telecast one after the other, where the same person was interviewed by two different interviewers on the same subject, as if competing with each other. More amusing was the pose shown to the camera by one of the interviewers at the end of the show, as if asking the viewers “how do you like my ‘show’?
These Talk Shows, similar to the virus, seem to be able to develop variants with time to cover other fields, too, such as economy, Port City, reforestation and lesser known local small industry entrepreneurs, diplomats and academics; and how to make Colombo a green city by a programme to plant thousands of trees to get off the ground immediately. Everyone knows that what is being planted are not trees but young plants, only a few weeks old, and no one knows when they will ever grow into a tree as imagined, if they survive the test of time and we are lucky to live till then. But repeating these shows as happening at the moment is a waste of time.
What I appreciated most in one special case was the liberal use of highly scientific jargon, even if the person to my imagination never studied science and more so the use of good English that was encouraging. But what worried me most was if someone else asked why these programmes are not conducted in Tamil?
Finally, the Telecom beats them all, where every call taken precedes a lengthy message on prevention of the Coronavirus pandemic, sometimes repeated twice. It all ends with the message only. But not the call.
Eng ANTON NANAYAKKARA
Protecting Sri Lanka’s maritime rights
Your editorial, Poaching: Grasp the nettle (The Island of 09 June), provides a good analysis of the issue concerning the poaching of fishery resources in Sri Lanka waters, particularly in the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar.
The maritime boundary between Sri Lanka and India was settled by two agreements entered into by the two countries in 1974 and 1976. Accordingly, fishing vessels and fishers of the two countries were debarred from fishing in the waters, the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone of each other.
Subsequently, the Maritimes Zones Law, No. 22 of 1976 was enacted with provisions for the President to declare the limits of the agreed maritime boundary between the two countries, and different maritime zones of Sri Lanka, such as the historic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, pollution prevention zone and the continental shelf. This law prohibits unauthorised fishing in any of the maritime zones of Sri Lanka by any foreign vessel. The President did declare the maritime zones of Sri Lanka by a proclamation published in the Gazette 248/1 of 15-01-1977. Since then unauthorized fishing by Indian vessels on the Sri Lanka side of the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar became illegal.
However, part of the agreement relating to fishing has never been honoured by India, whose fishers continued to fish on the Sri Lanka side of the Palk Bay, and on the Sri Lanka side of the Gulf of Mannar, which jointly form the historic waters of Sri Lanka. According to the Presidential Proclamation, waters on the Sri Lanka side of the Palk Bay form part of the internal waters of Sri Lanka while those on the Sri Lanka side of the Gulf of Mannar form part of the territorial sea (provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention of 1982 relating to internal waters and territorial sea do not contradict such declarations provided they are made on the provisions of the customary international law). On the other hand, although prior to signing of the Maritime Boundary Agreement of 1976, Sri Lankan fishing vessels were fishing in the Wadge Bank, which fell in the EEZ of India since the Agreement came into effect, no Sri Lankan vessels has been found fishing in that area.
At present, three days a week more than 1,000 Indian trawlers fish on the Sri Lanka side of the maritime boundary in violation of the law relating to fisheries in Sri Lanka. Any Sri Lankan vessel, irrespective of the part of Sri Lanka where it is fishing, should have been registered as a fishing vessel of Sri Lanka and obtained a fishing licence. Further, no such vessel is allowed to engage in mechanised bottom trawling.
There have been many discussions between the two countries since the 1990s to stop this illegal practice by Indian trawlers. Such discussions only end up with agreed minutes, but no solution. Fisheries (Regulation of Foreign Fishing Boats) Act, No 59 of 1979 provides for a High Court Judge to impose a penalty of a fine of Rs. 1.5 million on any foreign vessels engaged in unauthorised fishing in Sri Lanka waters. However, this provision was never used against any Indian trawler caught in Sri Lanka waters with unauthorised fishing, owing to practical difficulties. Subsequently, in 2017, the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Amendment) Act, No. 11 was enacted to impose a two-year jail term or a fine of at least Rs. 50,000 with a view to controlling this problem. Although the Sri Lanka Navy takes into custody Indian trawlers and hands them over with fishers to Fisheries authorities, the moment they get a letter from the Indian High Commission asking for their release, all are released. In this context, sinking unusable buses in the sea in this area appears to be a practical solution to the problem. For that also India has expressed objections. Sri Lanka has sovereign rights to take any decision in regard to its internal waters, and territorial sea (subject to the right of innocent passage of any foreign vessel) and historic waters (these form part of either internal waters or the territorial sea). Therefore, it is not necessary to stop this activity, just because India is objecting.
As regards the claim by India that Sri Lankan vessels also engage in unauthorised fishing in India waters, it should be noted that they are taken into custody rarely in very small numbers; that, too, mostly in the Indian EEZ, while they are returning after fishing in the Arabian sea. Any vessel has the right to navigation in the EEZ of any country. Even when innocent Sri Lankan fishers happen to be caught by the Indian authorities, they are made to suffer in Indian jails.
A few years earlier also, you expressed concern on this issue by an editorial, Saying it with fish, when Sri Lanka released all Indian fishers who were in jail in Sri Lanka pending trials, as a gesture of thanks for India’s vote at the UN in favour of Sri Lanka. Thank you for your concerns.
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