The perspective of the coastal people of North is that the States of Sri Lanka and India collaborate in the destruction of Eezham Tamils, said Mr N.V. Subramaniam, a fisheries society leader from Maathakal in Jaffna, who is taking part in the Northern Provincial Council elections representing the Tamil National Alliance. Based on his experience in the grassroots activism and participation in the negotiations and meetings held in India and in Colombo, Mr Subramaniam said the coastal people of North had lost all hope in negotiating with the Establishments of both the States. Instead, the only hope for the fishermen now is strengthening the understanding between the fishermen societies across the Palk Strait and also with the fishermen from South in a people-to-people discourse.
The Eezham Tamil fishermen have been facing three external problems so far: poaching trawlers from India, trawlers coming from the South and the intruding fishermen from south who are deploying illegal methods of fishing. But now, adding to the woes, is the arrival of Chinese trawlers carrying Sri Lankan flags fishing in our waters, he said while briefing the journalists in Jaffna on Friday on the plight of fishermen.
150-feet boats from China are fishing in the territorial waters of Eezham Tamils carrying Sri Lankan flags. After the news of the arrival of these Chinese vessels, many more Indian trawlers are poaching close to our coast, he further said.
The average Eezham Tamil fisherman going to the sea using traditional fishing methods is unable to get a catch of 1-2 kg of fish for their survival.
Combined with the interests of exploiters, a big power play is unfolding in the seas. Amidst this, our protests remain useless.
While the fishermen have to struggle for their daily food how can they concentrate on chasing away the Chinese trawlers one day and the Indian trawlers the other day, he questioned adding that the fishermen are now questioning whether there is any further use in continuing their protests adding that there is no political will in Colombo or New Delhi to resolve this.
On the contrary, the SL military even cooperates with the intruding trawlers from India. Sometimes, receiving some catch, the SL Navy allows the trawlers to proceed through its ports near KKS Harberview Hotel, he says.
He was also referring to a protest and the conversation he had with the Consul General of India in Jaffna, Mr V. Mahalingam sometime back.
When the Consul General received an appeal from the protesters and witnessed our plight, he was asking us to come with some ‘achievable’ demands. Even he had to admit that politics is in play, Subramaniam said.
However, the fishermen societies in Jaffna were firm in continuing to raise the issue through protests and various actions, he said.
Now our only hope is to engage with fisheries societies at people-to-people level across the Palk Strait and also with the fishermen from South, he said.
“I am aware of the type of people owning the trawlers in Tamil Nadu and the workers deployed in the exploitation. Those who come in trawlers to our shores are poor workers, who do it for a wage of 400 rupees or for some fish catch they are given for their food. Understanding this, we don’t allow any of our fishermen to harm them in our protests against the Indian poaching,” he said.
No politician or parliamentarian from any of the political parties has done anything meaningful to address the plight of the Eezham Tamil fishermen, he said.
The SL Fisheries minister Rajitha Senarathne organised a meeting where the fishermen representatives explored some arrangements, but the move had no follow-up and ended as an eyewash arrangement.
Although the matters related to fisheries are in the control of the central government in Colombo, Mr Subramaniam said he was seeking to articulate the problems through the provincial council mechanism.