Wednesday, March 9, 2011

kalpanakaranna - all issues have two sides

It was interesting to note that a JVP MP has criticized a plan to offer pleasure boat services in tanks in Sri Lanka, saying they will affect both fishing and farming adversely.

It is important that before making such statements one has to weigh the pros and cons and have a debate about it knowing that the differing opinions are determined on the knowledge or lack of knowledge of what is proposed.

If one looks at the example of my village tank next to my property, that is the beautiful Ratmale tank behind my house which is currently overflowing with water, I would like it to remain in this pristine untouched condition so I can sit by the tank and enjoy the breeze of total quiet with birds flying around and the occasional elephant coming to drink water.

Who are the guardian's of the tank? If it is determined that the village collectively are the guardian's of the tank, then it is they who can legally permit by license or other formality to give permission for persons to fish, what fish they are permitted to catch, the time period they are permitted to fish, and the size of the fish as well as the period for the validity of the license to fish. The money raised from these licenses can then used by the village council in a manner they decide.

If these same villages decide they would like to offer a boar service, or worse if I as an owner of a property adjoining the tank, request the permission of the village to offer a pleasure boat service either for money, or for my friends and family, then one has to look at the legal status of such an undertaking, and follow the law as to how I conduct this venture.

If it was just to use a small fishing boat which can at best take three people, and I use it sparingly only to take my friends on a joy ride, then it may be permitted as long I do not do this all the time, and only for a limited time occasionally not inconveniencing local fishermen and agreeing with them some terms of reference so I do not approach their underwater nets or harm them. It is when I do this in a larger scale, more as a money making enterprise that I may fall foul of various requirements like a license from the Central Environmental Authority or some such body as stipulated in Law.

We must therefore have some guidelines so that all stakeholders are consulted prior to any major change in the status quo. It is sad but true that a government that is all powerful can wake up each morning and change policies at a whim and fancy without any recourse to economic sense, overall cost benefit analysis and without consultation, so that aggrieved parties have no say in the matter. This riding roughshod over people's lives and livelihoods and consultation seems to be a hallmark of the type of dictatorship we have where too much power has been vested on people who do not have the sense and logic to realize their limitations and the limits to a reasonable use of that power vested in them.

The lack of a strong opposition is also very detrimental to the functioning of this democracy where only the people of the country are the scapegoats and sufferers susceptible to further manipulation using spurious rationale for the justification of such directives.

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