Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Vigneswaran speech in the Workshop on Sustainable Fisheries Development Project Funded by Asian Development Bank
Held on 1st September 2016 at 8.30 am
at the Public Library Auditorium, Jaffna
Chief Guest’s Address
Mr.Sivagnanasothy, Secretary, Ministry of Rehabilitation and Resettlement, The Government Agents of Jaffna, Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi, Our Chief Secretary, High officials of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) including Ms.Manjula Amerasinghe, Resource Persons of the PPTA, my dear brothers and sisters,
This workshop funded by the ADB to ensure sustainable Fisheries Development in the Northern Province is to be welcomed. The fact that this workshop is organized to share with us the preliminary findings of the Technical Teams of Asian Development Bank is to be welcomed. The inputs from the grass root level or sea base level technically, needs to be taken into consideration when such Projects are undertaken. I must congratulate the ADB as well as the Rehabilitation, Resettlement Ministry for organizing this workshop to find out the view points of the people and their representatives.
You cannot expect a technical perspective from me. But I might flag in, an overview of what needs to be kept in mind when undertaking Projects of this nature or more correctly when dealing with the Fisheries’ Industry.
Needless to say we need first to evaluate our Fisheries potential. What are our natural sea based resources? How adequate are they to utilize them for our livelihood and sustainable development are questions that need to be answered.
Next it might be necessary to assess the impact of the war on the basic infrastructures so far in place. Then we must identify the proper and plausible manner of infrastructure development for Fisheries. The idea is to develop these structures to cater to the sustainable livelihood requirements of our people first and for markets local and International next.
Our livelihood has been affected for a long period of time due to extraneous interference. In our war affected areas the fact that so far Navy has controlled our Fisheries’ Harbours and fishing in general, needs to be taken into consideration. Such interference must now cease. We cannot prolong exercises no more relevant in our areas.
We need to bear in mind the crosscutting principles of the Right to Development enunciated by the UN at this stage. Freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom to live with dignity have been stressed. In other words our people must be freed from their poverty brought on them by the war, ensured security which ironically is disturbed by the presence of the Navy and other Military personnel and guaranteed equity which is what living with dignity is all about.
Our fisher folks who lived well and prosperously in the early days have had their livelihood affected, their living security disturbed and have been relegated to a non – equitable lifestyle much like the poverty stricken segments of our society. I met an old lady in Myliddy in 2013 who said their families never took loans from anyone since they were always prosperous. She was in tatters when she said that. I am sure your Technical Team of Experts would have given their thoughts to all these and are aware of the plight of our fishermen today. Fishing has been a major source of our livelihood requirements and economy.
Let us not forget Fisheries Development has the unique opportunity for quick impact on the restoration of livelihoods of our people. That is why this Project is timely and is to be welcomed.
Let us now go through the steps in the Fishing Industry. Firstly having surveyed and understood the nature of our sea resources fishermen need to catch the fish. Therefore the fishermen need to be provided with fishing gear and educated on the legal and illegal modes of fishing.
The second step would be storage. Having caught the fish we need to store them with adequate refrigerator facilities.
Thirdly we need to take them to the market. The infrastructure for quick transport needs to be looked into at this stage.
Then comes pricing. The middlemen have a way to taking away the legitimate dues of the fishermen. How best to ensure fair marketing should be studied. In this supply chain the Economic Zones could play an important part. Storage facilities in such Centres needs to be ensured. Fair price for the fishermen needs to be ensured.
In this whole process linkage to the cooperative system needs to be understood and developed. Historically the co-operative system thrived in the North until political interference set in, in the 1970s and thereafter. The need to link co-operatives with the Fisheries Industry must be studied. It would ensure horizontal integration. Looking at it vertically the next step in the Fisheries’ Industry would be the canning of fish and packaging of fish. What canning is, is known to all of us. The packaging of fish relates to special types of fish or sea life which must be processed and packed such as lobsters, giant prawns, sea weeds and so on.
While developing the Fisheries’ Industry it is not only the infrastructure development that needs to be considered. Side by side the institutional and educational development must be attended to. We need to educate our people with
the latest methods of fishing, fish preservation, marketing of fish both locally and internationally and many other aspects of the Fisheries’ Industry. We should educate our Fishermen correctly if we are to become competitive in the Fisheries’ Industry. We need to make the Industry export-oriented. High yield is paramount in Tourism oriented Export.
Our sea resources have type and taste. We must specialise in areas which could bring us exclusive markets. The Northern Provincial Council is prepared to involve itself in the Institutional and Educational Development of Fisheries if the ADB would help us.
It is in this background you have orgainsed today’s workshop. I find that the due diligence team has identified fishing harbours, anchorages and landing sites including aquatic development interventions for the Northern Province Fisheries Sustainable Development Programme. I am wondering why the natural Fisheries’ Harbour of Myliddy has been left out in your selection of areas. Point Pedro, Gurunagar and Pesalai have been identified but not the natural fishing Harbour which catered to almost one third of the Island’s Fishing needs in the past.
I spoke to our amiable Jaffna Security Commander a few days ago. He said in due course the Myliddy Harbour could be released. There cannot be any other reason for your Team not selecting the Myliddy Harbour except for political considerations. Our brothers and sisters from the South will realize how politics is playing havoc on the lives of our people. When I was shouting from roof tops that demilitarization was very necessary for our people to return back to a natural and normal way of life, I was branded a racialist and communalist. But this has something to do with our people’s livelihood and the preservation of our traditional way of life. Hope Myliddy would be given the importance it deserves by our Technical Teams.
I find one of the matters to be discussed today refers to poverty, social and gender situation. I need to refer to the poverty that has been forced on our fishermen. The single women headed families are the reality in certain areas due to the war. Our social cohesiveness, social traditions and wellbeing have been affected by the continued presence of the Military including the Navy in our coastal areas. It is wrong to believe that the Military should be a permanent feature of our lifestyle. Increase of police stations even double fold could deal with the security of our people. The need for a Military which has lost its importance after 2009 must be reassessed. Such assessment should not be based on fanciful ideas of hatred and suspicions towards our people but on ground realities.
We need not hereafter be told by the Navy what to do while fishing on our seas. We need not be curtailed in our fishing while selected persons from the South are brought to the North to do illegal fishing with covering help being given by the Military.
Freedom is necessary for our fishermen. We need to work according to the UN Post 2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development which has given a blue print for sustainable development. Private Sector development, Provincial or Official Sector development and the NGO Sector including the co-operative sector development must be taken through in an integrated manner.
We have asked for a Multi-Lateral Needs Assessment of the entire Northern Province from the UN, WB, EU and ADB themselves. What you would be attempting must make their Needs Assessment, the Post 2015 UN Agenda and even the 2015 Geneva Resolution as terms of reference when you are proceeding. All are inter related. A holistic understanding of our problems would lead to proper progress towards successful sustainable development.
We need to ensure freedom of our fishermen, end their poverty, formulate ways and means which will have quick impact on their livelihood development, ensure food security for the war affected and in the long run ensure the sustainable development of the Northern Province and its people. May be the Northern Provincial Council needs to prepare a policy framework in this regard and the Government and the ADB can help us in this direction.
At a time when 13th Amendment is being reviewed we must ensure that concurrent lists are given up and bring in Fisheries both sea and inland, entirely within our purview. That does not mean that we jettison the Centre as it is made out in the South. The Centre must realize that its function should be more of the kind of parental affection shown towards children who have come of age and are employed rather than the protective interference they indulged in when their children were still in their teens. Please realize we in the North have come of age and we need your affection and not your interference!
I thank you for your patient hearing.