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Jayalalithaa’s 24-page memorandum

Jayalalithaa, who had a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, last month handed over to the latter a 24-page memorandum. It begins with references to Sri Lanka. She is seeking the return of Kachchativu, an island in the Palk Straits, the seas that divide India and Sri Lanka. Here are the relevant highlights:

Memorandum submitted by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Selvi J. Jayalalithaa to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
15 June 2011
(a) Action required against War Crimes in Sri Lanka
“During the closing days of military action of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces against the Tamils, there had been many reports of indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians and non-combatants and human rights violations.
“A large number of Sri Lankan Tamils were affected in this conflict. Despite an attempt to black out the coverage by independent media, enough information is available to show that the Sri Lankan Government was responsible for large scale atrocities. The Panel of Experts appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation found the following serious credible allegations against the Sri Lankan Government:
(i) killing of civilians through widespread shelling;
(ii) shelling of hospitals and humanitarian objects;
(iii) Denial of humanitarian assistance;
(iv) Human rights violations suffered by victims and survivors of the conflict, including both IDPs and suspected LTTE cadre; and
(v) Human rights violations outside the conflict zone, including against the media and other critics of the Government. Therefore, the Government of India should take up this matter with the United Nations Organisation to declare those found guilty of such war crimes as war criminals.
(b) Equal Rights for the Tamils in Sri Lanka
The genocide of Sri Lankan Tamils at the hands of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces has led to their large scale displacement from their homeland. A major part of the Sri Lankan Tamil community is still languishing in refugee camps with their rights to citizenship severely compromised. It is imperative to provide a pragmatic Political Package to the Sri Lankan Tamils and restore their equal rights of citizenship on par with the Sinhalese Community. In Sri Lanka, the Tamil speaking people have historically inhabited the North and East Provinces, while the Sinhalese have lived in other parts. The Government of India should impress upon the Sri Lankan Government the need to enable the Tamil people to participate fully in their own governance in the North and East. Political reforms should be urgently introduced with further possible delineation of powers to the Provinces by transferring some of the items from the Concurrent List to the Provincial List as per the aspirations of the people, especially the Sri Lankan Tamil community.
(c) Economic Sanctions against Sri Lanka till the Tamils in Camps are fully rehabilitated. Though Sri Lanka became independent, the Tamils living in that country were struggling for many years against the injustice of being treated as second class citizens. Instead of appreciating the justness of their demand and ensuring that Tamils in Sri Lanka lead a life of dignity, with equal rights and self-respect through necessary Constitutional Amendments, the Sri Lankan Government was taking all possible action to exterminate them.
There is overwhelming evidence of the large scale deaths of innocent Sri Lankan Tamil Civilians and other grave human rights violations by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. There have been no tangible efforts to ensure proper rehabilitation of the large number of displaced Tamilians in the Northern & Eastern part of the country. The Government of India should initiate action by working with other Nations for the imposition of an economic embargo on the Government of Sri Lanka until the Tamils, who are now living in camps, are resettled in their own places and are allowed to live with dignity and with equal Constitutional rights on par with the Sinhalese.
(d) Reimbursement for Welfare Schemes extended to Sri Lankan Refugees
The Relief and Rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Refugees have been constantly engaging the attention of the Government of Tamil Nadu. The Government of India have been reimbursing the cost of housing, basic amenities, food and clothing along with establishment costs to the extent of 44.74 crores per annum. The State Government provides additional benefits like aid and apparatus for differently abled, supply of sports materials, marriage assistance etc. at a cost of 6.11 crores per annum for the refugees welfare. To enable them to live with dignity, the Government of Tamil Nadu has now taken a decision to extend the following special welfare schemes presently in operation for the people of Tamil Nadu to the Sri Lankan Refugees also.
1. Social Security schemes for the old and destitute.
2. Free Rice Scheme up to 20 kgs.
(Note: There is no 3 in the memo).
4. Supply of ration commodities at subsidized rates
5. Girl Child Protection scheme.
6. Fee concession for the first graduate student in professional colleges
7. Free supply of sewing machines.
Marriage assistance schemes at enhanced rate. Extension of these schemes would cost the State Government an additional sum of 14.10 crores per annum. The Government of India is requested to extend reimbursement of the cost incurred by the Government of Tamil Nadu for these additional Welfare Schemes also.
(e) Retrieval of Katchatheevu and Restoration of traditional fishing rights of Tamil Nadu Fishermen
Katchatheevu is a small island of an extent of approximately 285 acres in the Palk Strait off Rameswaram, part of Ramanthapuram District. It was originally under the ownership of the Raja of Ramanathapuram (Survey No.1250) as per the Ramanathapuram Gazetteer. A large number of evidences, including lease deeds, in the past prove that Katchatheevu was part of India geographically, culturally and historically. The Indian fishermen were enjoying fishing rights in and around the island of Katchatheevu prior to the execution of the 1974 Agreement. As per this Agreement, Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka. Article 6 of the above Agreement states that “the vessels of India and Sri Lanka will enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they traditionally enjoyed therein.”
The Government of Tamil Nadu has always maintained that such rights include the traditional fishing rights as well. A second Agreement was entered into with Sri Lanka in March 1976 for settling the boundaries between the two countries in the Gulf of Mannar. By these two agreements, the fishermen of Tamil Nadu have been deprived of their fishing rights around Katchatheevu.
In 1991, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passed a resolution seeking the restoration of Katchatheevu Island and the sea adjacent to it to India. Further, a proposal was sent to the Government of India in 2003 to examine the feasibility of getting the Island of Katchatheevu and adjacent seas on a ‘lease in perpetuity’ solely for fishing and other activities associated with it while negotiations for the return of Katchatheevu are on. A Writ Petition (W.P. (Civil) No.561/2008) was also filed in this regard in the Supreme Court of India in 2008 and is pending. The Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passed a resolution on 9.6.2011, stating that, as per the order of the Supreme Court of India (Berubari case of 1960), a part of territory owned by India can be ceded to another country only through a Constitutional Amendment passed with the approval of both Houses of the Parliament.
However, Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka through the 1974 and 1976 Agreements without getting the approval of both Houses of the Parliament. This Government is of the strong view that the ceding of Katchatheevu without a Constitutional Amendment approved by both Houses of Parliament is contrary to law. The Government of India should, hence, take steps to retrieve Katchatheevu and restore the traditional fishing rights of the fishermen of Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu has a coastal length of 1,076 kms. There are 591 fishing villages across 13 coastal districts, with a total marine fishermen population estimated at 10 lakhs. At present, over 6200 mechanized fishing crafts and 54,000 traditional crafts are engaged in marine fishing. The last three decades have witnessed increasing tensions between India and Sri Lanka over fishing rights, especially in the Palk Bay area, due to the close proximity of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) to the seacoast. It is required to augment the infrastructural facilities in the fishing harbours across the coast of Tamil Nadu, especially in the Palk Bay area, and also to modernise the fishing technology to promote deep sea fishing with a view to ameliorating the fishermen’s socio-economic status……….”


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