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Storm in a Tea cup – India looks ridiculous in its over-the-top reaction to an article by a Sri Lankan writer

By Supun Mudalige —–


In today’s highly monitored international scene a country, big or small, is judged by the way it conducts itself. To make a mountain out of a molehill or create a storm in a tea cup i.e. getting very angry or worried about something that is not really that important would reveal a state of mind that reflects poorly either on the individual or even a Government of a country.  The Government of India is now unfortunately placed in such a situation, partly due to circumstances beyond its control.


India will look back and regret in hindsight for the manner in which a very unimportant matter has been handled and allowed to blow out of proportion leading to the international community and even India’s neighbors doubting how well India can ever handle a world power status. An article appearing on the Sri Lankan Defense website with a satirical graphic is what has caused the uproar mostly confined to the State of Tamil Nadu. Let it be reminded that the State in question is well-known for placing massive hoardings degrading even world leaders and its response to the said article has been to virtually place the entire country in bad light.


An ‘unqualified‘ apology from the Govt. of Sri Lanka


What a ridiculous position the public authorities in India put themselves in without immediately putting to an end the issue after receiving an ‘unqualified’ apology from the Sri Lankan Government. Should they allow the very tantrums that the article in question by Shenali D. Waduge was accusing the State Chief Minister of? Has anyone making the accusations even read a line in the article? There are enough of satirical political commentaries all round the world, there are thousands of cartoons drawn on world leaders. Do they cause an entire State to go bonkers, stone airline offices, burn national flags, burn down effigies of the President of a neighboring country, deport cricket teams comprising school children from friendly countries, and people who have not read or seen the article taking sleeping tablets or even contemplate sacrificing their lives in protest for a wholly undeserving cause? What kind of baloney and hot air are some people in India allowing to generate?


Tail wagging the dog

The previous Government of India led by Manmohan Singh of the Congress Party, which was routed at the last General Elections, allowed Tamilnadu to have the last word in some of its foreign policy making in a typical case of the tail wagging the dog. It would be disastrous for India if that unintelligent line of the previous Indian Govt. is continued to be followed by the new Govt.


What an unnecessary and trivial issue this has been. The article has nothing that India or Tamil Nadu can really complain about. The heading is compared to any heading used in a political satire. The graphic is the only contentious area but there are scores of cartoons appearing on world leaders in far worse positions and conditions. The Sri Lankan Government was gracious enough to make a quick apology and remove the graphic including the article though there was no requirement to do so. Yet, leaving aside the Tamil Nadu frolics the Indian Foreign Ministry officials too have been using strong statements making the situation worse and pumping oxygen to Tamil Nadu politicos clutching at straws given their situation of being unable to influence the Central Government decisions after the Modi victory.


De minimis non curat lex


We can draw an analogy from the administration of the law in this situation. There is a common law principle drawn from the Roman law which reads in latin as ‘De minimis non curat lex’ whereby judges will not sit in judgment of extremely minor transgressions of the law.

It has been restated as: the law does not concern itself with trifles because it brings the entire judicial system into disrepute.


In one case People v Durham, Justice Robert Steigmann of the Appellate Court of Illinois had before him Daniel Durham who did not like a traffic citation he had received and seeking $5 compensation.


The Judge said:

“Litigation like this brings the judicial system into disrepute. Rational citizens (not connected to the law) would deem this appeal an utter waste of time and resources for all concerned. The time and money already spent bringing this appeal amounts to squandered resources. We will not be part of further squandering.


“The maxim de minimis non curat lex retains force in Illinois and is wholly applicable in this case. This maxim applies even to constitutional claims, and its function is to place outside the scope of legal relief the sorts of injuries that are so small that they must be accepted as the price of living in society rather than made a federal case out of ”


The rationale behind the legal principle of ‘‘De minimis non curat lex’ is also applicable in the areas of governance. The high and mighty of the land and in positions of power should not concern themselves with trifles because it brings the entire system of governance and conduct of international relations into shame.


Being subject to criticism, ridicule, cynicism, satire, sarcasm, parody, invective, mockery, lampoon, caricature and the like is the price of engagement in politics in a modern democratic society.


Both India and Sri Lanka have strong claims to having excellent credentials and commitment to democracy and free speech. Let us keep it that way without engaging in morally indefensible witch hunts of journalists and political cartoonists.




The article appeared in www.defece.lk

How meaningful are Jayalalitha’s love letters to Narendra Modi?


Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned they say and that aptly puts to context the feelings of Jayalalitha towards Sri Lanka. But, the BJP high powered delegation led by Dr. Subramaniam Swamy who arrived in Sri Lanka at the invitation of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies recently made explicitly clear that Tamil Nadu would not come between Indo-Lanka relations and also thanked the Sri Lankan President for arresting but releasing the Indian fishermen while confiscating the boats. It was the boat owners that forced the Indian fishermen to poach into Sri Lankan waters because the Indian side had no fish. These are some realities that the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu cannot ignore and her tantrums are dampening the otherwise positive outlook of the Modi-led BJP Government. She should be advised to stop her tantrums and start looking at how the Indian fishermen can be absorbed into a new avenue of livelihood if there are no fish to fish in Indian waters.

The International Maritime Border Line drawn up in 1974 and 1976 is a bilateral agreement between India and Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister can cry and hoot but she cannot change the legality of this agreement honored by the 2 sovereign nations.

Katchchetivu came under the jurisdiction of Sri Lanka following the IMBL and Sri Lanka’s claim to Katchchaitivu was made in 1924 while as far back as 1876 the island was referred to as belonging to Sri Lanka even the colonial invaders regarded the island as belonging to Sri Lanka.

Thus, with a bilateral agreement in place it is Tamil Nadu fishermen who are violating the IMBL and the arrest of fishermen poaching into Sri Lankan waters cannot be faulted on Sri Lanka.

We realize that the issue at hand is as a result of the Indian side of the marine bed affected as a result of internationally banned bottom trawling. It is because commercial fishing has ignored to look after the source from which it makes money that there are no fish on Indian waters along the Tamil Nadu coast. Sri Lanka is not to be blamed because there are no fish in the Indian waters. The Tamil Nadu Government must take blame for allowing internationally banned bottom trawlers to operate.

We are well aware that India had been making millions from poaching into Sri Lankan waters using bottom trawlers and stealing the shrimps, prawns and fish that ideally belong to the fishermen of Sri Lanka. These poached fish calculated into years would account for theft and loss of millions of revenue to Sri Lanka. This cannot go on not just because it is a violation of territorial rights, theft of fish that do not belong to India but more importantly the manner of fishing will end up totally ruining the marine environment and destroying marine life and eventually lead to no fish on Sri Lankan waters as well.

The environmental impact and future of marine life is what should take prominence in any diplomatic discussions.

The Tamil Nadu Government and its Chief Minister should accept fault on several angles.

  • Tamil Nadu fishermen violating internationally recognized IMBL and bilateral agreement between India and Sri Lanka
  • Tamil Nadu fishermen using bottom trawlers that are internationally banned
  • Tamil Nadu coast marine bed destroyed because of bottom trawling and so no fish for the Indian fishermen to fish

If the Indian coast had no fish as a result of the Indian fishermen destroying the marine life, should the Tamil Nadu authorities have taken measures to look into how the Indian fishermen and their families would survive? The solution is not to poach on waters that belong to other nations. It is not a long time solution or a viable solution. It is as a result of Tamil Nadu authorities not taking to account these realities that their fishermen are facing a predicament of no livelihood and Sri Lanka cannot be blamed for this.

Would Indian fishermen be allowed to poach in territorial waters that belong to other nations just because the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister comes out with a list of reasons giving them right to?

The BJP Government is commended for taking a stand and appreciated for approving the measures taken by Sri Lanka in arresting and releasing the Indian fishermen but confiscating the boats. Tamil Nadu seem to have forgotten that it is the Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen whose livelihood was affected as a result of Tamil Nadu fishermen poaching on Sri Lankan waters. The TNA ever ready to find fault with the Sri Lankan Government has not come to the rescue of its own fishermen or brought up the grievance of the Sri Lankan fishermen denied livelihood and this speaks volumes of the sincerity of the TNA towards its own people too.

With the latest letter of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister directed at demanding the release of the boats, we can but wonder whether some of these may belong to her or her supporters!

When Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is aware that the Tamil Nadu fishermen are violating internationally demarcated waters and poaching while also using internationally banned bottom trawlers, it is unjustified to ask the Indian Prime Minister to take action against Sri Lanka. Obviously she is attempting to dent the popularity of the Indian Prime Minister while also disturb the amity that is being built between the two nations. Her actions are obviously aligned to the undiplomatic and unscrupulous policies followed by the Sonia-led Congress Government where the Central Government of India was virtually kept strangulated and on a noose by successive Tamil Nadu Governments.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister may learn sooner than later that Narendra Modi is not a puppet to dance to her tantrums or threats. She should not attempt to embarrass Mr. Modi by her unjustified outbursts. It will not look good on the new Indian Prime Minister if he were to demand that Indian fishermen be allowed to cross the IMBL into Sri Lankan waters….is this the mischief that Jayalalitha is upto?

With the Modi mantra directed towards better and practical governance it is best that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister directs her attention at how to meet the livelihood challenges of Indian fishermen who have no fish to fish on Indian waters. Poaching is not the solution.

Shenali D Waduge


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