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The US Constitution, the Star Spangled Banner and Old Glory

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by Vijaya Chandrasoma

Both the Constitution of the United States and the National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, were adopted during the “halcyon days” of slavery. Old Glory, the original flag of the United States, was saved from the Confederate Army during the Civil War and its modern version has been proudly flying in the name of the United States throughout the world. Even on the Moon!

The Constitution of the United States in operation since 1789, is the longest surviving written charter of government. The original document, however, bears no relation to the Constitution as it is today, changed beyond recognition by a series of Amendments.

The use of the words “We The People” in its famous preamble did not mean that the Constitution was framed to protect the rights of all people, as it does today. The words really meant “We The White Men”, as the rights of all women or African American slaves were excluded. The brilliant minds of the framers took for granted that white men were the only human beings, people, whose rights were worthy of protection.

Black men were valued at three-fifths of a white man, and Black men and women lived under Jim Crow laws of apartheid, harsher than the South African model, until The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Would you blame an African American for refusing to celebrate the Fourth of July, America’s Birthday, when that day signified America’s independence from the British, but the African American remained in chains, denied of independence, as the chattel of the white man.

As the great Frederick Douglass said “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn”.

The Star Spangled Banner, adopted in 1814 as the National Anthem of the United States, is rendered today only with the lyrics of the first stanza of the composition of Francis Scott Key. The third stanza, however, represents more accurately the contempt of white America first against the slave, then against the black man who lived under the Jim Crow Laws of apartheid, and today, against the black man just for being black, in spite of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These unsung lyrics are:

“No refuge could save the hireling and the slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

Would you blame an African American for refusing to respect a National Anthem, which, even in an unsung verse, warned his grandfather that only the “gloom of the grave” awaits him if he sought refuge in the “terror of flight” for freedom?

Would you so blame a Native American “when the banner in triumph doth wave o’er the land of the free and home of the brave”. The land and the home that was stolen from the brave, the common term used for a Native American warrior. No longer his home, no longer his land, and whoever remains after the genocide of his race today despised and controlled by the invader.

The rights of white women and all African Americans have evolved through Amendments and legislation. The 19th Amendment of 1919 guaranteed women’s suffrage, but in practice, the rights of women of color were excluded, as they also lived under the discriminatory laws of apartheid.

Blacks may be legally deemed equal today, but they are practically subject to racial discrimination in all levels of society.

The original archaic and racist reason for the Electoral College to be the final arbiter of the presidential election was to ensure that a president will always be elected from one of the slave states of the Confederacy. These Southern states today remain the bastions of the Republican Party, and the Electoral College still favors them in the election for the presidency. The Electoral College, established by Article II Section 1 of the Constitution, is the only law used to confirm the results of the presidential election. All other elections, from dog-catcher to Senator, are decided by the popular vote.

If American presidential elections had been decided on the conventional popular vote, no Republican would have been elected to that high office since 1992. Imagine where the country would be today without the catastrophic 12 years’ administrations of the sheer stupidity of George W. Bush and the criminally incompetent Trump. Admittedly, George W. Bush won a second term in 2004 by a popular vote over John Kerry. But had he not been gifted the presidency in 2000 by his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, backed by a compliant Supreme Court, he would have retired to trimming shrubs at Crawford, Texas, a job to which he has proved to be admirably suited. And Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000, would have certainly won a second term in 2004.

Another amendment immediately necessary to maintain the integrity of the presidential election is to remove, or at least minimize, the Lame Duck period of 11 weeks after the defeat of a president. The loser in November enjoys all the fearsome powers of the presidency for nearly three months, however comprehensively the electorate had rejected him.

Trump has given us foreknowledge of the havoc which could be wrought during the 11 weeks of a Lame Duck presidency by a criminal president desperate to hold on to power. He has used this time to give classified information to our adversaries, to obstruct a peaceful transfer of power, he has attempted to subvert the Department of Justice and election officials of the swing states to call the fairest election in the history of the US as fraudulent; and finally, to plan and incite a violent insurrection to overturn a legal election. A violent coup that was within an inch of success which would have assured the destruction of American democracy.

The congressional investigation is just learning just how close Trump came to carrying out a successful coup in overturning the will of the voter. It was only the integrity of a few people in the Department of Justice and Law Enforcement that thwarted his treasonous intent to remain in power.

A more evil president in the future (difficult as it is to imagine one) could incite his private militia of white supremacists to subvert a future election with their arsenal of military style weapons, which will surely cause Civil War II. Remember there are 390 millions of firearms, many of military capacity, in the hands of US civilians.

A week after the insurrection, the attempted coup, Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell accused Donald Trump of “inciting the January 6 attack on the Capitol”. Kevin McCarthy, Republican House minority leader, echoed McConnell’s accusations on the House floor, “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was enfolding”.

Then something happened. McConnell and McCarthy, who enjoy, via Trump, the complete sheep-like loyalty of all but a few of the Republican members of Congress, met the treasonous former president. The ring was kissed. New lies, contradicting previous statements about the insurrection were shamelessly invented.

A complete volte face emerged. They swore their allegiance to Trump, and attempted to whitewash the insurrection as no big deal, “a peaceful protest, a tourist visit to the Capitol, there was love in the air”. Love which has killed eight people, injured hundreds and caused millions of dollars of damage to the seat of America’s democracy. In full view of the world.

When Speaker Pelosi proposed to convene a bipartisan congressional commission into the insurrection, both McConnell and McCarthy objected, on the grounds that the Justice Department was already conducting an investigation. Speaker Pelosi decided on conducting a congressional commission over these objections.

There are two Republicans who have not fallen in line with the McCarthy’s congressional flock of sheep. They are Congresswoman from Wyoming, Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and Congressman Adam Kinzinger from Illinois, a vocal critic of Trump even before he lost the election. Both are strong anti-Trump conservatives. They are the only two Republicans in the bipartisan commission.

The hearings of the special commission started Tuesday, with evidence from four members of the Capitol Police, who gave emotional evidence of their harrowing battles for their lives, in the protection of the Capitol and the lives of the Representatives and Senators within.

On Wednesday, Republicans were questioned about the previous day’s tear-jerking testimony about the life and death struggle of these officers on January 6. They tried to whitewash the violence, ridiculously describing it as a peaceful protest, a tourist visit. They whimpered that their words had been taken out of context. These blindly treasonous Republican morons do not seem to realize, or simply don’t care, that their criminal actions and lies are on record.

Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Congressman Mo Brooks and Donnie (Trump) Jr. made fiery speeches to incite the assembled mob to breach the Capitol and stop the formal counting of the Electoral College, constitutionally declaring Biden as the President of the United States of America.

These speeches are on video. Trump used the word “Fight, fight like hell” 14 times during his speech, Rudy Giuliani called for “Trial by Combat”, Mo Brooks told MAGA white supremacists to “take down names and kick ass”, and Donnie Jr. said “You can be a hero, or you can be a zero. The whole world is watching, folks, choose wisely”. The evidence of their treason is there.

But, even though Speaker Pelosi will subpoena these traitors, the subpoenas will be contested in the courts and the procedure delayed for years. They will never have to tell the truth under oath.

The congressional investigation is learning just how close Trump came to carrying out a successful coup in overturning the will of the voter. The January 6 insurrection was long planned by Trump and his QAnon and white supremacist cult, and it was only the integrity of a few people in the Department of Justice and Law Enforcement that thwarted his treasonous intent to remain in power.

After the investigations of this congressional commission are concluded, a voluminous report will be submitted to the public proving that Trump and his cronies actively organized the January 6 insurrection. Nothing of note will ensue. No one will be punished. Leaving Trump free to attempt more violent coups in the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential elections.

Despicably, Republican governors like DeSantis of Florida and Abbot of Texas are exhorting citizens in their states not to exercise basic precautions against the pandemic like wearing masks and getting vaccinated, which are freely available to everyone in the nation. In the name of Freedom. They are prepared to risk the lives of Americans to ensure that Biden fails in his presidency, while proposing voter suppression laws with an eye to winning majorities in the House and the Senate in the midterms of 2022, which will pave the way to winning the trifecta of the Presidency, the Senate and the House in 2024.

America’s democracy and its system of governance continues to be under serious threat by an insane wannabe tyrant backed by an armed mob of white supremacists. Shades of George III, the mad king of England, who lost America. As Trump will lose the America we knew and admired until 2016, given four more years of his criminal lunacy.

The next armed coup could well be successful. With Trump and the lily-white Republicans at the helm, we could end up adhering to the original Constitution of the United States, when only the rights of the white people were protected. The Star Spangled Banner will be proudly sung with the third stanza. Old Glory, the original Stars and Stripes will be replaced by the Flag of the Confederacy and the MAGA cap at the Smithsonian.



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Arms race accelerating to new heights in Asia

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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.

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Ending the Dispossession of Northern Fishers by Indian Trawlers

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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.

Early Interventions

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.

Post-2015 developments

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.

Moving forward

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.

Concluding remarks

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.

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Sri Lanka at EXPO 2020

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….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.”

* NM:

“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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