CONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY
By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil
President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada
Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum
Anti-climax to an Adventure?
Twelve brave Ceylon Hotel School (CHS) students who went on a five-day cycle trip during the Vesak holidays in 1973, were spending their one-month suspension mainly at home. I was the exception, who arranged to spend the suspension period in hiding, at the Barberyn Reef Hotel in Beruwala, as an unpaid worker. I quickly settled in my fourth part-time-job. As hotel occupancy was low, I stayed at a guest room and had my meals at the hotel restaurant, in between my manual labour. My favourite part of my stay at this hotel was jumping into the sea after a long day of work. Due to the reef, there were not many waves right outside the hotel. It was calm as a lagoon. The reflection of the moonlight on the gentle waves and the reef, were most beautiful. I simply loved my time at the Barberyn Reef Hotel.
Learning the Hotel Culture
I reported to hotel Owner/Manager, Mr Sudana Rodrigo, and did any odd job as required based on the occupancy of the day. Mr. Rodrigo had a laid-back and relaxed style of management. I noticed how the leader of an organisation, could influence the workplace culture. His small team of managers and supervisors also behaved in a friendly and easygoing manner. At times, managers, supervisors, employees and regular guests all behaved like members of one family. I loved that atmosphere and liked the fact that there were not many rules at the Barberyn Reef Hotel. Often larger hotels lose that personal touch, which is the essence of hospitality.
Every morning, Mr. Rodrigo assigned me a different job. He was impressed with the service and guest relations skills I had mastered by working at two of the best hotels in Sri Lanka – Pegasus Reef Hotel and Mount Lavinia Hyatt Hotel. During the busy days I worked as a room boy. In addition, I covered the shifts for the head receptionist on her days off. I also worked as a bellboy. I was happy to carry luggage of arriving guests because they usually gave generous tips. Since I remembered their names from the check in, I soon became an employee popular with long-staying guests.
Analysing the Bosses
I learnt something new from all my immediate supervisors in my three previous part-time jobs. Each of them had different personalities. My first boss, the catering manager of Hotel Samudra who fired me, was a ‘no nonsense’ type, whom I call, “Toughie.” My second boss, the head waiter of Pegasus Reef had a bubbly personality and loved dealing with all types of people. I termed his personality type was “Softie”. My third boss, the butler at Mount Lavinia Hyatt Hotel, had another personality type in between “Toughie” and “Softie.” Owing to his attention to details and ‘prim and proper’ attitude, I identified him in another category – “Perfectie.”
Mr. Rodrigo, my fourth boss’s personality was exactly the opposite. He was good man, but was a bit clumsy and often wore crushed clothing. He frequently got distracted, and communicated with many messages at a time. Yet, he was practical, creative, funny and energetic. He was involved in many projects at a time and was not that punctual. In my mind I commenced identifying this personality type as “Confuzie.” None of these four personality categories were good or bad. My concept helped me to be flexible in the manner in which I communicated with different personalities, particularly people who were important to me, bosses, VIP guests and girlfriends.
A Conversation with a Movie Legend
One day, I was in charge of the front office when a short but a majestic looking and extremely handsome man arrived at the hotel. As I greeted him, he said, “Good Morning, could you please inform Mr. Sud
ana Rodrigo that Gamini Fonseka is here to meet him.” I was pleasantly surprised and excited to meet the greatest movie actor of Sri Lanka, again. I first saw him in August 1962,
when the first-ever colour motion picture in Ceylon, ‘Ran Muthu Duwa’ directed by a Canadian, Mike Wilson, broke all box office records. This movie propelled Gamini as the most popular movie star of the country. Most youngsters of my generation became devoted fans of Gamini. He was a hard-working actor and a productive movie maker. Eleven years later his 41st movie had been just released and there were no stars of his calibre, talent and popularity on the horizon.
As soon as I called Mr. Rodrigo, he rushed to the lobby and greeted Gamini with a friendly hug. I realised that they were good friends and had something in common, hotel ownership. Gamini had built his own hotel, Sanasuma in Weeravila, where he often went to relax inbetween his busy schedule making movies. After lunch I had the opportunity to talk with my idol. I quickly reminded Gamini that we both acted in arguably, the greatest movie ever made in Sri Lanka, Lester James Peries’s ‘Gamperaliya’ in 1962. The character I played was Gamini’s (Jinadasa) brother-in-law (Tissa). He remembered me.
Gamini was somewhat impressed with my knowledge about Sinhala, Hindi and English movies. We spoke at length about movies and how he learnt the ropes of movie directing under the greatest movie director in the world at that time, Sir David Lean. This had been on location filming ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’. He also spoke about two of my favourite Hollywood movie actors, Marlon Brando and Yul Brynner. I then learnt that Gamini tried ‘Method Acting’, like Brando and used his technical knowledge of production to enhance his acting, like Brynner. Gamini was also a chain smoker like Yul Brynner.
We chatted about ‘Nidhanaya’ which I had seen a few months before the cycle trip. When I identified ‘Nidhanaya’ as the movie with the best acting by Gamini, he wanted to know the reasons. He tended to agree. Gamini had utmost respect for Lester James Peries for creating a masterpiece based on a short story. Although, Gamini’s unprecedented popularity stemmed mainly from movies which followed popular Indian movie ‘formulae’, he enjoyed working on artistic movies with complex characters that challenged him as an actor. That was confirmed in my mind, when Gamini told me, “Don’t call me a star! I am an actor not a star. Stars fade away…”
Inspired by My Hero
Gamini was well-read, very intelligent, versatile and philosophical. His fluency of three languages was most impressive. Although some people thought of him as proud and arrogant, I found him to be warm, charming and charismatic. I liked his personality, but I was unable to place him in either of the four personality types I had identified before. Gamini had some traits from all four personality types. To me Gamini had a complexed personality and I termed that type of personality as, “Complexie” – the fifth personality type of my evolving model. I was impressed how Gamini adjusted his communication when interacting with his friend, Mr. Sudana Rodrigo, whose personality was very different from his.
Many years later, I had a few more interesting interactions with Gamini. These were in other different roles that he excelled in, as a corporate executive (Maharaja Group) in the 1980s and a politician (the Deputy Speaker and a Provincial Governor) in the 1990s. I have continued to be an ardent fan of Gamini, long after his untimely death in 2004. I watched his funeral live on TV, and listened to the final farewell speech by a long-standing cinema actor, Ravindra Randeniya. When he quoted Shakespeare to end his tribute to Gamini, “Goodnight, sweet prince”, Ravindra failed to hold back his tears. I couldn’t hold mine, either… To me, as well as my generation of moviegoers, Gamini was simply the greatest movie actor Sri Lanka had ever seen.
Having acted in three movie projects and a play as a child actor in the 1960s, I gave up acting, to focus on hospitality. After my 1973 meeting with Gamini, I was inspired to act again, but my busy career in hospitality prevented me from doing so for a few years. In the 1980s, I managed to find a little free time to act in nine TV commercials directed by well-known Directors such as William Blake, D. B. Nihalsinghe, D. B. Suranimala and Shehan Wijeratne of Donald’s. I also appeared on a couple of TV shows, a photo shoot and a stage show. I finally came to terms that one cannot be a jack of all trades. Inspiration is important, but one must also have the time and commitment. I gave up acting after appearing in the last video clip I directed: ‘Fitness Fever”, music video of the popular song I wrote in 1993.
My fellow Iron Horses info
rmed me that they made an official complaint about Herr Sterner to his boss, Mr. Dharmasisri Senanayake. This charismatic lawyer/politician turned Chairman of the Ceylon Tourist Board, disliked Herr Sterner’s arrogance and that was advantageous to the Iron Horses. The Board had agreed that the decision to suspend 12 students for a full month was far too harsh for cutting school for two days. The principal was instructed by his superiors
to reduce the period of suspension, immediately. Although I was certainly not an admirer of Herr Sterner’s sternness on this occasion, I had a different opinion. I felt that it was not fair that my colleagues’ action led to the undermining of the principal’s authority by his superiors.
The principal was very angry and wanted to meet all 12 of us in his office. He reduced the suspension by two weeks. However, he ordered the Hostel Warden that when we return to CHS, we should be gated and strictly prohibited to leave the CHS and the hostel, for any purpose for two more weeks. I was happy to be back at CHS and the hostel, but felt like a prisoner or a caged animal. I also missed my time at the Barberyn Reef Hotel. My parents never knew about my suspension and the gated punishment! During this period, I planned my first solo cycling adventure which I wanted to do soon after the gated period.
During the cycling adventure, suspension, hiding at Barberyn Reef and finally spending two weeks as a gated prisoner, provided me with plenty of free time to think. I thought deeply about different people, their personalities and different ways to interact with them. Half the battle is won when an employee is able to analyse personalities quickly and adjust the way she/he communicates with each person (bosses, customers, peers, associates etc.). This is one lesson that helped me throughout my career.
Fifteen years later, I learnt more about personality analysis as a student at Le Meridien Institute for Hotel Management in France. Shortly thereafter I developed a full-day seminar on ‘Personality Analysis: The Best Tool for Hospitality Managers’. This program has been most popular among many of the teams of people I led as a hotelier, taught as a professor or coached as a consultant. I have presented seminars on this concept in 15 countries since 1988 – Aruba, Botswana, Canada, England, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, The Maldives, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates and Zambia.
Last month, I did yet another presentation of this concept as a webinar for 100 participants from eight countries. It was organised by The Sri Lanka Housekeepers Association (SLHA). The full video clip of this webinar is now posted on SLHA Facebook page. I was happy to present a fine-tuned version of personality types as per my categorizations done nearly 50 years ago – “Softie”, “Toughie”, “Perfectie”, “Confuzie” and “Complexie.” To me it is still relevant and useful, almost every day, when I deal with people. Influenced by my training as a Judoka, I have attempted to continuously improve my concept of Personality analysis. 改善Kaizen!
Arms race accelerating to new heights in Asia
The arms race is being accelerated to unprecedented heights in the Asian region through the introduction by some major powers of what is being described as the hypersonic missile. China was the latest nuclear-capable state to test fire this missile which could be equipped with nuclear warheads and is, therefore, invested with a mass destruction potential. However, India is making it clear that it would not be outdone by China in this competition for superior weapons technology by developing a hypersonic missile of its own.
A recent news report said, among other things, of the Chinese experiment that, “China recently tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile which circled the globe before missing its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught US intelligence by surprise.” It is the missile’s advanced space capability that is among its most notable characteristics. In this respect it is a clear upgrade over the inter-continental ballistic missile that has a very much lower strike range.
As specialists have pointed out, the ICBM has a parabolic movement and hits its target at an ascertainable distance on the same geographical plane from the launch site but it does not possess the capability of travelling around the globe. The hypersonic missile, in contrast, has this globe-encircling capability and ought to be more worrying in respect of its destructive capability. However, it is the weapon that has come to be prized by the major powers. Besides the US, China and Russia, some other states that are said to be in the running for developing hypersonic weapons technology are; Australia, France, Germany and Japan, besides India. That is, almost the entirety of the world’s regions is caught up in the race for developing hypersonic missiles, with, of course, grave implications for the security of the human race.
Considering that China and India are in an unrelenting arms race and also taking cognizance of the possibility of other regional powers, such as Pakistan, not standing idly by as this competition continuously hots-up, it could be said that South Asia’s development prospects in particular stand the risk of being progressively blighted. Needless to say, South Asia’s poverty would be greatly aggravated when defense budgets of the region’s key states acquire greater precedence over their social welfare budgets. Besides, issues such as climate change would come to be overlooked by these states, resulting in the region’s development prospects being further undermined.
Ideally, SAARC needs to take a collective policy position over climate change issues that would be surfacing at the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Glasgow but with the region’s foremost powers hardly talking to each other and arms taking precedence over ‘Bread ‘, climate change questions are unlikely to acquire the importance due to them at Glasgow and other prime climate-linked international parleys. As a result, social welfare in South Asia would be steadily imperiled in the days ahead.
Focusing on the numerous dangers faced by the SAARC region as a result of climate change questions coming to be overlooked by the relevant governments, the ADB warned some time back: “…the collective economy of six countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka – could shrink by up to 1.8 per cent every year by 2050 and 8.8 per cent by 2100, on average.”
However, it is not only the poor of South Asia who would be badly affected by the current global arms race. It would be correct to say that in degree to the proportion to which the arms race speeds-up worldwide, to the same extent would the poor everywhere be further impoverished and rendered vulnerable. This is on account of welfare budgets the world over suffering shrinkage in the wake of stepped-up arms spending. But the segment to suffer most acutely will be the poor of South Asia.
The continuing tensions between China and India on their disputed border areas would only aggravate the arms race between the Asian giants in the days to come. There are veritable eye-ball-to-eye-ball stand-offs between the armies of the two countries in the areas in contention. These tensions are currently focusing on the border India’s Arunachal Pradesh has with China. A few months back China-India tensions centred on the Ladakh region. Talks between the countries to sort out these disputes are ongoing but increasing insecurities would only stress the importance of armaments over development.
As this is being written, US President Joe Biden is heading for talks with the G20 grouping, which comprises the world’s most powerful countries. Biden would subsequently head for the climate change parley in Glasgow. Hopefully, the big powers would focus strongly on the current accelerating arms race and its consequences for the world. Put simply, they would need to discuss the ways and means of containing the arms race before it grows out of control. They would also need to understand, very crucially, that the major powers cannot credibly speak in terms of nuclear arms control and disarmament before they opt to systematically do away with the lethal, mass destruction arms which they already possess.
India and Pakistan possess a nuclear capability but they are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). From the viewpoint of these regional powers, this refusal to formally endorse the NPT is understandable because although some of the foremost powers of the Western hemisphere have signed the NPT, they are yet to say a clear “Yes” to nuclear disarmament. As long as the foremost global powers, such as the US, China and Russia, hold on to their nuclear weapons they cannot expect the prime powers of the South, such as India and Pakistan, to desist from developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Accordingly, the foremost powers could no longer gloss over arm control issues and pursue the relevant talks mechanically without connecting them to questions, such as, development, climate change and increasing worldwide insecurity. There is a logical link between insecurity, arms spending, underdevelopment and climate questions. The securing of sophisticated nuclear weapons is seen as a means to their security by powerful states, but they only create insecurities in their neighbours and the wider international community, who are in turn prompted to arm themselves with the same weapons. Thus is the arms race accelerated at the cost of human development and the environment. Slowing down the arms race is, therefore, imperative.
Ending the Dispossession of Northern Fishers by Indian Trawlers
Prof. Oscar Amarasinghe and Dr. Ahilan Kadirgamar
(Chancellor of the Ocean University and Senior Lecturer, Jaffna University, they are also, President and Executive Committee member respectively, of the Sri Lanka Forum for Small Scale Fisheries – SLFSSF)
From the beginning of the early 1980s, trawlers, from Tamil Nadu, have been crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and illegally fishing in the Palk Bay waters of northern Sri Lanka, damaging the ecosystem by bottom trawling, smuggling fisheries resources, belonging to the northern Sri Lankan fishers, damaging their fishing equipment, and undermining their livelihoods. Diverse types of interventions, by the two governments, dialogues between the fishers of the two countries, involvement of civil society actors, and others, have done little to prevent human suffering, economic losses and the volatile political situation disturbing the relations between two friendly countries that have emerged from this 40-year long story of resource piracy. The northern Sri Lankan fishers, who suffered 30 years of civil war have had enough and there is an urgent need to end this crisis.
Extracting and devastating resources
Both Sri Lankan and Indian fishers used to share the Palk Bay waters (historic waters) in the past, which they did in harmony. However, post-war developments saw radical changes in the structure and organisation in fisheries, the expansion of the market and the establishment of borders separating the Palk Bay region, all of which had tremendous influence on fisheries, especially on the type of technology employed (craft-gear combinations), target species, fishing pressure and area of operation. In this process of change, a tremendous increase in Indian trawlers was observed, which finally resulted in a serious decline of fisheries resources on the Indian side of the Palk Bay and crossing of the IMBL by the Indian trawl fleet to fish in Sri Lankan waters.
In northern Sri Lanka, over 37,000 fishers operate more than 11,650 boats, the majority of which are 18 feet FRP boats propelled by outboard engines of 8 to 25hp. Including post-harvest sector employment and dependents, about 200,000 people in the Northern Province are dependent on the sector. They don’t stand a chance against the 2500 odd 30-60 feet trawlers from Tamil Nadu propelled by 70-190hp outboard engines. Indian trawl boats are crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (which was established in 1974 and 1976) to fish on the Sri Lankan side of the Palk Bay. These boats are poaching in Sri Lankan waters in large numbers as well as extracting and devastating the resources belonging to Sri Lankan fishers. Although the process of poaching commenced in a situation where Sri Lankan fishers in the North had limited fishing opportunities due to the civil war. Today the issue has become one of the most important economic and political issues in the country, because with the end of the war in 2009, the Sri Lankan fishers in the North has commenced fishing.
The Palk Bay Pirates
Trawlers come at night, three days a week, smuggle colossal amounts of fisheries resources, and damage Sri Lankan fishers’ nets, causing enormous financial losses. To avoid the trawlers, Sri Lankan fishers often stay at home instead of going out to sea, thus loosing valuable fishing time. They are forced to adopt less-profitable, near shore operations and/or resort to destructive fishing practices (trawling, wing nets, purse seining, dynamiting, etc.). The social institutions of the fishing communities, particularly fisheries co-operatives present in every village, have been weakened due to the long decline of fishing incomes, where a fraction of such incomes are normally contributed to run the co-operatives. Thus, participatory management and coastal support for fishing communities have been undermined. The long disruption of fisheries after the war has made it difficult for fishing communities to plan for the next season, and many are slowly moving out of the fishing sector to other forms of day wage labour.
In the early years, arrests of Indian trawlers for poaching were made for security reasons, because the Sri Lanka Navy, which was fighting a war, was less interested in fisheries issues. But since the cessation of the war, the Navy arrested the intruders for illegal entry into Sri Lankan territory. The arrests were made under the Foreign Fishing Boat Regulations Act No. 59 of 1979, Immigration Act of Sri Lanka and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The impact of the arrests in preventing Indian trawl intrusion was neutralised by the arrests of Sri Lankan multiday fishers for poaching in Indian Territory, and detained in Indian prisons. Often, through the intervention of the embassies of the two countries, the Indian trawler fishers arrested and detained in Sri Lankan prisons were released in exchange for Sri Lankan fishers detained in India.
In trying to deal with this escalating crisis, the two governments drew up an MOU in 2005, which made provision for the establishment of a Joint Working Group (JWG), which among other things, would deal with issues of poaching and arrests. Although several rounds of discussions were held since 2008, no significant developments were reported, other than agreeing that fishers in both countries should be able to pursue fishing activity in a safe, secure and sustainable manner. However, some progress was achieved in the front of fisher-fisher dialogues. Several such dialogues have taken place in the past, initially organised by ARIF (Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen) and later with the active involvement of the two governments. The most important of such dialogues took place in August 2010, where the Indians agreed to stop mechanised trawl fishing in Sri Lankan waters within a period of one year, during which time, only 70 days of trawling were to be allowed. Unfortunately, the governments failed to back up these decisions, and the promises were not kept. Further dialogues took place under state patronage in March 2011 and January 2014, which did not produce any fruitful results.
In April 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena convened a meeting with the various arms of the state and the northern fisher leaders on the request of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). This high level meeting and continued engagement gave the fisher folk the confidence that their plight was a matter of serious concern to the Government, and initiated bipartisan engagement on the issue, leading to significant progress. The Parliamentary debate in October 2015 on the ecological and socio-economic damage by Indian trawlers, growing awareness through media coverage and the greater involvement of actors in Colombo, raised the fisheries conflict to the level of a national issue, rather than a problem confined to the North. Fisher leaders also took their issue to court and actively sought legal recourse towards prolonged confiscation of trawlers, and a ban of trawling in Sri Lanka. An Amendment to the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act banning bottom trawling in Sri Lanka was passed by Parliament in July 2017.
On another front, the Indian Government, in 2015, made unambiguous statements that Tamil Nadu trawlers should stop cross-border fishing. Furthermore, the increased media attention on the devastation caused to Northern Fishers exposed Tamil Nadu’s hypocrisy. The Tamil Nadu Government called for INR 1,520 crore (USD 225 million) package to convert the trawler fleet to deep sea vessels under the ‘Blue Revolution Scheme’., of which INR 450 crore (USD 66 million) was approved by the Government in Delhi, and the rest was to come from bank loans. By September 2019, close to 590 trawlers have applied for this facility. Although concerns were raised about whether such a conversion to deep sea fishing and buy back is realistic and sustainable, the engagement from Tamil Nadu pointed to an acknowledgement of the unsustainability of trawling and poaching.
An important development was the setting up of a Joint Working Group in November 2016 during ministerial talks held between India and Sri Lanka (revitalising what was formed in 2005), which would meet every three months and a meeting between the Ministers for Fisheries every six months.
The Terms of Reference for the Joint Working Group (JWG) included: i. expediting the transition towards ending the practice of bottom trawling at the earliest, ii. working out the modalities for the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for handing over of apprehended fishermen, and iii. ascertaining possibilities for cooperation on patrolling. Both Governments agreed on setting up a hotline between the two Coast Guards. Agreement was also reached on the request by the Fishermen Associations that there should be no violence and no loss of life in the handling of fishermen by the Navies and Coast Guards of the two countries. They agreed to encourage the Fishermen Associations of the two countries to meet every six months to take further their dialogue. Yet, many of the decisions taken at the bilateral Ministerial talks were not followed through towards a permanent solution.
As a result of campaigns of small scale fishers from the North, the work of researchers and activists and engagement with the governments of the two countries, and more importantly, the enforcement of the Foreign Fishing Boat Regulations (amendment) Act, a significant reduction in the incidence of Indian trawlers illegally fishing in Sri Lankan waters was noticed by 2018. Yet, the Northern fishers did not even have a breathing space for a new beginning, because the country was hit by the Covid Pandemic in early 2020. Very little action was paid against the poachers and there has been a resurgence of the incidence of Indian trawlers poaching in Sri Lankan waters, drastically affecting fishing livelihoods, which were already being threatened by the pandemic. The aggravated current situation, continues to dispossess the small scale fishers of the North; they were devastated by the war until 2009, crippled by the Indian trawlers in the decade after the war and impoverished by market disruptions with the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020.
The decision to arrest and retain trawlers that are crossing over the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) by the Sri Lanka Navy, particularly since 2013, places significant pressure on the Tamil Nadu establishment. Yet, the lower levels of arrests over the last two years (71 vessels were arrested in 2017 while only nine were arrested in 2020) is in part due to fears of the Covid-19 virus spreading through arrests. Evidently, expanding deterrence is of paramount importance in dealing with the present crises, which needs strict enforcement of the Foreign Fishing Boats Regulations (Amendment) Act, No. 01 of 2018 to arrest foreign vessels in Sri Lankan EEZ which has provisions for imposing heavy fines on trawl owners ranging from Rs. 4 – 15 million. The Trawl Ban Act. No. 11 of 2017 should also be implemented. Given that Indo-Sri Lankan relations are currently of great importance, where the priorities for both governments are in furthering trade, investment and defence ties between the two countries, deterrence is to be employed carefully. There is the need for a broader strategy that asserts pressure at different levels to ensure that Tamil Nadu addresses the issue of poaching by their trawlers; particularly given that fisheries is a devolved subject in India. Pushing for joint patrolling operations by the Indian and Sri Lankan Navy could be strategic. The Indian side needs to be convinced to install vessel monitoring devices on their trawlers to track their location. However, these efforts will prove futile unless the incidence of Sri Lankan multiday boats violating Indian maritime boundaries is brought under control.
Raising the issue both by the Sri Lankan Government towards the Indian Government and the TNA and Tamil political actors towards Tamil Nadu would be strategic, given the political realities. Strong emphasis should be made on the devastating impact of resource smuggling on the livelihoods of Northern fishing populations of Sri Lanka. Strategies to work with the newly elected Government in Tamil Nadu in relation to the fishing conflict will be necessary. Engagement by the Tamil fishing community and community leaders from the North will prove important for challenging a change of stance by Tamil Nadu Government and its leaders.
Thousands of nets worth millions of Rupees have been lost in the past decade, with no single fisherman ever being compensated and with no insurance being available. Fishers now deserve financial reparations for their lost assets and for lost fishing days. Financial reparations can also be asked from the Tamil Nadu fishers, the Tamil Nadu government or the Indian government. If such demands, however, are not met in the short term, the Sri Lankan government itself may need to find the required funds. A campaign for reparations for northern Sri Lankan fishers will help consolidate the demand for a permanent solution to the fishing conflict.
The larger aim of interventions in the Palk Bay should be to establish a sustainable, comprehensive, and socially just fisheries. Current data on the state of fish stocks in this region are highly deficient. Similarly, very little scientific knowledge on the damage caused to the environment by trawling is currently available. There is an urgent need for NARA to intensify research in the Palk Bay. This can provide the foundation for developing a rational and legitimate framework for fisheries governance. Such research will also continue to weigh on the need for a permanent solution that ends bottom trawling in the Palk Bay.
While the fisher-to-fisher negotiations conducted in Chennai in 2010 were initially widely acknowledged as promising, the follow-up was poor. Similarly, the Ministerial level talks in November 2016 were significant and even led to considerable changes, however, again follow up was poor. There is a need to build on the tremendous gains of those talks, regardless of the change of Government.
At the current moment there should be a clear plan recognising the realities in Sri Lanka and India, including the political changes in Tamil Nadu and the Covid-19 pandemic to work through a process of consensus building, but with firm resolve to end bottom trawling. There should be no setback on issues agreed at the Ministerial level talks in November 2016, and calls for licensing cross border fishing should be rejected outright.
The measures suggested above will be important steps towards resolving the Palk Bay fisheries conflict. Such measures along with the recent national attention on fisheries can also lay the foundation to ensure sustainable governance and management of the natural resource base and the people who depend on it. The establishment of effective interactive platforms (e.g., strengthening fisher community organizations, co-management platforms) and clearly laid down rights and responsibilities of participating actors, along with consultation, collaboration and coordination of all concerned actors can lead to effective and sustainable policies. Indeed, sustaining small scale fisheries in addition to solving the Palk Bay fishing conflict will encompass dialogue among relevant actors, capacity development, law enforcement and empowerment of coastal communities.
Sri Lanka at EXPO 2020
….a huge disappointment
Rajitha Seneviratne’s description of the country’s pavilion, at EXPO 2020, in Dubai, has been endorsed by quite a few Sri Lankans who had the opportunity of checking out the Pavilion, themselves.
Briefly, this is what Rajitha had to say (The Island of October 12th):
“When I saw the pavilions of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan (this country has no official exhibit but a private collector’s items), the SL pavilion is a huge disappointment, indeed. An EXPO is held to show the world where we are heading, more leaning on futuristic hope…not on showcasing only what we have/had….EXPO happens once in five years (Olympics is held every four years) and it’s a once in a decade opportunity. Where is the “WOW” factor in our pavilion? It is NOT about money but I got to know we have spent USD150 million – by any means quite a sum – and created a “pavilion” good enough to be a regular ‘stall’, at a local show, at the BMICH, in Colombo.”
And corroborating his statement are the following:
* Kumudu Abeyawardane:
I’m not someone who ever runs SL down. As messed up as we maybe, it is still the country that is home and I am one of those who chose not to leave, even when the opportunity existed.
“I was at EXPO 2020, in Dubai. I didn’t visit everything, but I visited almost all of Africa, and Asia, and, of course, Sri Lanka. What I saw was sad…as you entered there was a counter from the Ceylon Tea Board, with two very friendly girls who talked to everyone, who stopped to have a cup of tea, and did a brilliant explanation of Ceylon tea. Hats off to them! But, the experience ended there.
“The rest of the staff, except for one other lady, who was welcoming everyone, was sitting in corners, ignoring everyone….The SL brochure was only in Arabic. Someone forgot that this is an International exhibition.
“There were a few masks…a few photos that did nothing to bring out the magnificent beaches, or the heritage, or the wildlife we possess. Nothing about the development, or anything about the opportunities for investment!
SL was a sad contrast to even countries like Bhutan, or Congo, who were so eager to explain about their heritage.
“The US, and many other pavilions, were manned by student ambassadors – young and energetic, eager to talk, and happy to talk to people. Proud of where they come from.
“Let’s hope the authorities concerned will see this. EXPO 2020 is on till March 2022. We have five months to change things because we need both Tourism and Investments.”
* Akram Abbas:
“Totally agree with Rajitha Seneviratne’s article. We are living in Dubai and it was so disappointing to see the standard of our pavilion. The Afghanistan Pavilion is better than ours.”
“I visited. Can’t explain how disappointed I am.”
In the meanwhile, it’s reported that the Saudi Arabia Pavilion, at EXPO 2020 Dubai, received 23,000 visitors in one day, bringing the total number of visits to over 200,000…at the time this article was written. Probably, it would have doubled by now!
The Saudi pavilion provides visitors with diversified content, based on four main pillars: nature, heritage, bio-community, and the economic opportunities that the country offers to the world.
And, what is our Pavilion, at EXPO 2020, offering the world!
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