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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1859

Kumudam’s Adventure to Katchativu: An Open Letter to Attorney General

The Honorable Attorney General,
Colombo 12

Dear Sir,

Amazing indeed is the silence of the Government of Sri Lanka and yourself in particular to the 'adventure' of a Tamil Nadu journalist into Katchativu, which belongs to Sri Lanka. Even if the foreign office prefers to take the journalistic adventure in its stride may be with a view to not to annoy of Delhi, I wonder what prevented you as the first law officer of the land to take cognizance of the unauthorized 'visit' and initiate legal proceedings against the journalist. In my capacity as the Chief Editor of Asian Tribune, (www.asiantribune.com) online news daily published from Sweden, I wish to bring up this public interest issue to your attention for necessary action.

Let me quickly recap for your benefit the 'event' which we at Asian Tribune had reported on August 17, 2008,(http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/12778). Journalist Pushkin Rajkumar, of Kumudam a leading Tamil weekly from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India reported in the August 20, 2008 issue of the weekly in graphic detail how he entered Katchativu island along with his 'accomplices', and makes very disparaging remarks against Lankan Navy which on a casual perusal show that the aim was as much to bring the Lanka navy into disrepute as to expose Sri Lanka in bad light. The visit cannot be brushed aside as a journalistic enterprise. If it is for genuine journalistic purpose, the Kumudam writer would have approached Lanka government through the deputy high commission in Chennai and visited the place with proper clearances. The very fact that he had visited the islet, which some Tamil Nadu political parties wanted the Government of India to take back from Sri Lanka, without clearance from Colombo or any competent authority, shows that his intentions were not fair. And that the visit was illegal.

You may be aware that islet of Katchativu is an integral part of Sri Lanka. This has been confirmed as well as reconfirmed, not once but twice by the Government of India in 1974 and in 1976.

On 26 June 1974, an "Agreement between India and Sri Lanka on the Boundary in Historic Waters Between The Two Countries and Related Matters," was entered. By this Agreement the two sovereign nations determined their international maritime boundaries. According to the Agreement, India has agreed that Katchativu islets falls within the territorial waters of Sri Lanka.

"The Agreement with Colombo that New Delhi signed on 28 June 1974 set out the geographical coordinates of the points constituting the boundary between the two countries." Swaran Singh, a former External Minister of India said in the Lok Sabha, Indian Parliament, and maintained that there was a "dispassionate examination" of the historical records and the claims and counter claims of two sides. The legal principles and New Delhi's policy of "peaceful settlement of disputes" were adhered to. Swaran Singh characterized the Agreement as "fair and just equitable to both countries" Lok Sabha debates 23 July 1974. Cols. 186 – 201 – as quoted by V. Suryanarayan in his "Conflict Over Fisheries In The Palk Bay Region.”

Accordingly Article (4) of this agreement clearly depicts: "Each Country shall have sovereignty and exclusive jurisdiction and control over the waters, the islands, the continental shelf and subsoil thereof, falling on its own side of the aforesaid boundary." The emphasis on the word, "the islands" is mine.

However Article (5) says – "Subject to foregoing, Indian fishermen and pilgrims will enjoy access to visit Katchativu as hitherto, and will not be required by Sri Lanka to obtain travel documents or visas for these purposes.

Kindly note by including this sub clause, "and will not be required by Sri Lanka to obtain travel documents or visas for these purposes, India has very clearly confirmed that Katchativu islands is within the territorial waters of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Government has condescended the humanitarian request of the Indian Government .

According to W.T.Jayasinghe, Secretary of Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry, who led the delegation to negotiate the Agreement, writes – This provision is specifically made subject to Article 4 regarding sovereignty and exclusive jurisdiction. The access that was granted under this article was thus limited to visits by (Indian) fishermen for the purposes of curing fish and for visits by pilgrims during festival season and does not extend in any way to fishing activities – emphasis is mine.

A humanitarian gesture of the Sri Lanka Government to allow the Indian fishermen to dry their nets and visit to the church festival was construed by the Tamil Nadu political leaders as something ceded to Sri Lanka, as India has gifted Katchativu to Sri Lanka.

However Asian Tribune has already dealt with this slur by the Tamil Nadu leaders in our report "Hands of Katchativu" as follows:

"W.T.Jayasinghe , the former Sri Lanka Foreign Secretary (1972 to 1989) and one of the key officials who participated in the Sri Lankan delegation in the negotiation of Indo – Sri Lanka maritime borders wrote in the preface of his book: Katchativu: And The Maritime Boundary of Sri Lanka, regarding the subject of Gifting Katchativu to Sri Lanka as referred mischievously by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister as follows:

"I was prompted to write a book on Katchativu, in order to dispel the misconceptions that India "gifted" or "ceded" Katchativu to Sri Lanka, through goodwill and in the interests of our bilateral relations. Such view is held understandably, in South India, even in Sri Lanka, and in circles who should be better informed.

The Oxford Dictionary defines gift as "voluntary transference of property without consideration." Katchativu was at no time the property of India, as Sri Lanka had been exercising sovereignty over the island from early times. India, however, did make a claim to Katchativu, which she withdrew when facts were presented to the Government in New Delhi and she recognized Sri Lanka's sovereignty over the island. There was also 'consideration' in that both Sri Lanka and India resolved the issue of Katchativu in a sprit of compromise and "give and take". This book was published by the author in the year 2003.

The book describes how Sri Lanka maritime boundary was negotiated between Sri Lanka and India. The author who was involved in these negotiations brings to bear an intimate knowledge of the progress of the talks and provided the first detailed account of the negotiations.

In March 1976, a second agreement was entered into between India and Sri Lanka, which delimited the boundaries in the Gulf of Mannar and in the Bay of Bengal, to the west and east of the boundary line already delimited in 1974.

In the 'Agreement Between India and Sri Lanka on The Maritime Boundary Between The Two Countries in the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal and Related Matters was signed on 23 March 1976, the anomaly in the 1974 Agreement (Article V) was brought to the notice of the Indian side and it was agreed not to include it in the 1976 Agreement.
This Agreement clearly put an end to all those concessions given by the Article 5 of the 1974 Agreement. It pointed out Indian fishermen have no rights either to enter the waters around Katchativu, or enter into Katchativu or fish around Katchativu.

Many India news medias when reporting about Tamil Nadu fishermen they use to point out that Sri Lanka Navy arrest or harass Indian fishermen whenever they were fishing around the Katchativu seas. This is an open admission that they have entered into the territorial waters of Sri Lanka and poaching.

Furthermore according to the Letter from Kewal Singh, Foreign Secretary to the Government of India to W.T. Jayasinghe, Secretary in the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Affairs, Government of Sri Lanka dated March 23, 1976.

"An Agreement has been concluded between India and Sri Lanka on Maritime Boundary between the two countries in the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal and Related Matters which was signed on 23 March 1976. Our two Governments have also exchanged views on the substance of our proposed maritime legislation. With the establishment of the exclusive economic zones by the two countries, India and Sri Lanka will exercise sovereign rights over the living and non-living resources of their respective zone. The fishing vessels and fishermen of India shall not engage in fishing in the historic waters, the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone of Sri Lanka nor shall the fishing vessels and fishermen of Sri Lanka engage in fishing in the historic waters, the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone of India, without the express permission of Sri Lanka or India, as the case may be. "

Accordingly it has been agreed that "The fishing vessels and fishermen of India shall not engage in fishing in the historic waters, the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone of Sri Lanka nor shall the fishing vessel."

Subsequently, Sri Lanka enacted its Maritime Zones Law on 1 September 1976 and India its Indian Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zones and Other Maritime Zones Act No. 80 of the same year.

Unmindful of these legal agreements and instruments, leaders of the political parties in Tamil Nadu as well as the Tamil journo are creating confusions by interfering into internal affairs of the sovereign independent country – Sri Lanka.

As per above facts and the legal implications I urge you to take this matter as top priority and use your good office to protect the interest of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka by sending letters of demand to the relevant authorities and issue a public statement.

Also I wish to urge your honor to institute legal actions against the Kumudam weekly, and against its Publisher, Editor and Reporter for violating the laws of Sri Lanka and challenging the sovereignty of Sri Lanka in an appropriate jurisdiction in Sri Lanka.

Yours faithfully,

K.T.Rajasingham,
Chief Editor – Asian Tribune,
www.asiantribune.com

Also Read:

1. Kumudam - an Indian Tamil Magazine, aided and abetted its reporter to enter Katchativu illegally

2. Hands off Katchativu

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