By Nishthar Idroos –
The Indian media has gone schizoid over what Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had said about Indian fisherman straying into Sri Lankan waters. For Pete’s sake this is not a declaration war, it’s certainly not a declaration of love either. It’s a simple and innocent reminder and reiteration that no one should dare to violate the sovereignty of a friendly neighbor. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe only knows too well the infamous parippu drop by the then Prime Minister of India Mr Rajiv Gandhi. This was doubtless a blatant act of aggression calculatingly launched on a neighbor who is intimately connected to India historically and many other ways.
It was a flagrant act of oppression which most Sri Lankans haven’t forgotten. Our self-respect and dignity was compromised. Did India ever apologize to Sri Lanka for its act of rowdism? So why would she go bonkers over a statement when she is the one who went well and beyond and made the loathsome act of transgression in 1987. Let me also remind the restless Indian media that the Gandhi/Dixit era was a very dark period in Indo-Lanka relations. I am irresistibly propelled to go into graphic detail of the horror that characterized this period yet out of respect I would curb my penchant.
Some politicians in India went to the extent of condemning the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe quite unnecessarily for the supposedly controversial remarks regarding Indian fishermen and had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cancel his visit. Anyone with functioning faculties watching the interview would doubtless give consideration to the context, tone, atmosphere, non-verbal factors and conclude that it was nothing but a very friendly reminder to respect limits. Stealing another countries resource is no good neighborly relations.
We’ve never heard of unfolding red carpet to intruders. Its mind boggling that so much steam had been released over something really insignificant. The statement made by the Sri Lankan Prime Minister is an honest legitimate statement. He is after all the Prime Minister and is well empowered by the people to make appropriate statements to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. I am happy atleast one Sri Lankan leader summoned the courage to air a very important comment though it stoked an unexpected and unintended controversy.
The Tamil-majority region in Sri Lanka, hit out at Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for his controversial comments on shooting trespassing Indian fishermen. Mr C. V. Wigneswaran had apparently said, “That is not the way for a head of government to say to a friendly country. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had kicked up a storm, saying Indian fishermen will be shot at if they violate the maritime border. “If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. Why are you coming into our waters? Why are you fishing in our waters? Stay on the Indian side. There will be no issue,” Wickremesinghe had said.
Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran , a respected member of the Tamil community and an ex-Supreme court judge also joined the bandwagon. I sympathize with the gentleman and fully understand his frustrations. His hands are being tied by the Central Government. He is unable to find permanent solutions to the various problems faced by his people. Mr C. V. Wigneswaran should pay heed to the sincere advice extended by the Indian Prime Minister. The Chief Minister should work with the Central Government without resorting to any form of antagonism. We don’t need another hero. The people in the north need leaders with character and intelligence and Mr Wigneswaran is quite emblematic of that combination, yet a leader also needs tons of patience which the Chief Minister should work on.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was making a clean breast of the affairs and he was not for all needs and purposes stoking any controversy. By jumping the gun Chief Minister Wigneswaran lost a great opportunity to work with the new Prime Minister who is genuinely interested in finding a permanent resolution to the problem. There are lots of issues at stake and an intelligent man like Chief Minister Wigneswaran need not be told how to do things especially in the context of a brutal war that came to halt in 2009 and the highway robbery that ensued till 2015. Lives of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims alike were lost and billions of dollars worth properties and national wealth destroyed and plundered. Immaturity is not a suitable instrument to navigate the future.
The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the most comprehensive attempt at creating a unified regime for governance of the rights of nations with respect to the world’s oceans. The treaty addresses a number of topics including navigational rights, economic rights, and pollution of the seas, conservation of marine life, scientific exploration, piracy, and more. The treaty, one of the longest in history, is comprised of 320 articles and 9 annexes, representing the codification of customary international law and its progressive development. Sri Lanka’s Formal Confirmation, Accession, Succession and Ratification of this convention was completed before India did. So we have the right of the senior and can certainly remind our friendly neighbor.
Let’s hope the two nations can work together in a peaceful and diplomatic manner. What’s at stake here is the livelihood of the fisherman of northern peninsular of Sri Lanka. They went through hell and need not go through it for the second time during peace times. We wish the winds of Yahapalanaya would embrace northern Sri Lanka and resolve their problems one by one. Patience and Character are really important to achieve this.