| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(October 28, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) First the European Union banned Indian mangoes early this year citing infestation and now Sri Lanka is forbidden to export its fish due to unethical fishing practices.

The European Union will not lift a finger when it comes to asylum seekers who land on their shores from South Asia and while it turns a blind eye to those who are designated White from East Europe its partisan politics breaches international and UN norms. The arrogance of EU knows no bounds. We should not rely on EU or the rest of the Western nations to market our produce abroad.

During summer, Wembley’s Ealing Road in North London used to sell delicious Indian and Pakistani mangoes for less than £4.00 a box of six. With EU ban they fetch around £7.00. Karuththakolumban mangoes sold in Sri Lankan super-markets are saturated with carbides to prematurely ripen them and hardly taste as nice as the ones we used to have in Jaffna.

What irks EU to ban our fish is beyond comprehension. Our sea produce consisting of fish, from tuna to seer, sardines, mackerels, sharks, skate fish, prawns, lobsters and crabs hardly are contaminated and fishing methods are far more ecological than those in the West.

Jaffna blue lagoon crabs are still a delicacy and Colombo’s little kades are frequented mostly by the Sinhalese who want a taste of Jaffna sea-food reminiscent of the olden days when they savoured them as they served in public service or visited friends in Jaffna. The shops in London sell them at around £8.00 per box of 750.00 gms for cut and cleaned ones.

Dambulla has a plethora of mango varieties, melons and vegetables grown in the arid climate suitable for growing brinjals, onions, chillies and tomatoes among others and it supplies its organic produce to the mushrooming five star hotels in the vicinity of Sigiriya and Pollonaruwa.

As you traverse Kadawatha you can take your pick from its mountains of delicious pine-apples. Up Matale and Haputale way, durian, mangoosteen, avocadoes, bread fruit, guava and jak fruit are aplenty. I did not taste paniwarakka until I came to Enderamulla. This is a thorn-less fruit smaller of the jak variety which tastes of pure honey with a touch of ambul and is grown wild in the richest red soil of Kelaniya.

Malwana is replete with delicious rambuttan both Malaysian and local variety. I ended up with sore throat when I consumed too much of the rambuttans which I bought by the tree at a nominal price after eating all I can before getting the fruits measured by the landlord. Kadjugama was another of my haunts as I escaped to the hills in Haputale where I bought kadju puhul and nuts from those damsels in cloth and jacket .

It is not without reason Sri Lanka is called the Garden of Eden. We live in a paradise isle and it is a pity we hardly recognise our own worth whereas foreigners enjoy our bounty as they slay us in EU for unethical practices in farming. Our islets are classed in the Lonely Planet as unspoilt beaches and natural environments and we should cherish our heritage. Kalpitiya where my mother and father had coconut lands was undiscovered and unspoilt until Aitken Spence and other entrepreneurs moved in and exploited it to the detriment of the humble fisher folk.

Not unlike Maldives in the 1970’s where bonito fish or red tuna (an essential delicacy when it is parboiled and called umbalakade in Sinhala or Maasi in Tamil) measuring three feet could be bought for 50 cents Sri Lanka had its bounty of seafood affordable to all. Not anymore. CeyNor, a Norwegian enterprise started exporting our sea produce from the 1970’s with China and Japan too fishing in our seas with their advanced technology. This bid adieu to our daily diet of prawns and crabs affordable to ordinary folk.

There is perception not quite unfounded that Norway entered into peace negotiations with Sri Lanka over its ethnic conflict not out of benevolence but due to its business interests in our fishing industry and possible oil potential in the Mannar Basin.

Resisting EU and its move towards controlling our resources should be nipped in the bud by stringent regulations as much as the EU places hurdles on our fishing exports. There is plenty more fish in the sea and Sri Lanka should seek markets elsewhere for its exports to warn EU that it cannot dictate terms to us.

(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at pearltheva@hotmail.com)