31 December 2013

Fishy business

Daya Dissanayake, bi-lingual novelist and commentator on all things he believes deserve comment, offered one of the most pertinent observations on the Indo-Lanka spat over fishing rights.  The following is a rough translation of Daya’s thoughts:  ‘I am reminded of the Aggangnga Sutta when I think about people make claims on the fish in the sea.  I cannot understand how the fish could belong to the Indians or to us.  They belong to the ocean.  They were born and they exist but not to satisfy our hunger.  There are enough things in this good earth for us to consume; we don’t have to kill fish or any other creature.’

This is the real question of tenure but one which no one bothers to address.  Instead we have Tamil Nadu politicians up in arms over the way the Sri Lankan Navy treats fishermen from that Indian state. We have Sri Lankan fishermen who have strayed and are languishing in Indian jails like their Indian counterparts do in our jails. 

It is the contradictions that fascinate.  Tamil Nadu politicians often behave as though they love Sri Lankan Tamils more than Sri Lankan Tamils love themselves.  Sri Lankan Tamil politicians behave as though Tamil Nadu politicians are their saviors.  The fishermen themselves must wonder who their leaders really love; if they can love in the first instance of course. 

Now there are some hard facts that Tamil politicians on either side of the Palk Straits simply don’t want to talk about.  First, this was a non-issue while the LTTE was THE ISSUE in this corner of the Indian Ocean.  Both groups either loved the LTTE or were forced to claim that they loved the terrorist group.  At worst they would mutter ‘de facto sole voice of the Tamil people’.   During ‘LTTE Time’, the fish had a lovely time.  The fishermen didn’t have cause to complain and the politicians didn’t have to shoot accusing arrows in both directions on account of fishing brethren being ill-treated.  They simply didn’t fish.  They simply couldn’t take to the seas.  There was a war and it was fought as much on water as it was on land. 

But all that ended in May 2009. Now what?

Well, by and by, those who lived by the sea and believed they owned the lives of fish began to claim self-granted right. They went to sea.  They strayed, knowingly or unknowingly into ‘foreign waters’.  That’s how we came to where we are on the vexed question of fishing rights and all related issues. 
And yet, the TNA which so loves the Tamil people and believes the ‘Sinhala’ (sic) Government is out to do in the Tamils, not only does not say ‘thank you’ for creating conditions that allow these people to engage in chosen livelihood, but indulges in navel-gazing when they ought to be looking 
Jayalalitha and other in Tamil Nadu in the eye.  The Global Tamil Forum and other groups who toed Prabhakaran’s line and even now spend their time practicing Eelam-Speak, don’t seem to care about the plight of their fishing brethren.  Lesser citizens of the ‘traditional homelands’, are they?

We don’t know if the fish are aware of these political realities, but if they’ve studied the political and economic commerce between the two countries and are aware of the relevant rhetoric, AND if they could utter word, one can be sure they will whisper, ‘Hypocrites All!’