Brutalizing our voiceless
Date: August 16th, 2019
On 13th August 2019, in his address at the ceremony for the ‘Inter-Agency Memorandum of Understanding for Collaboration in Regulating Fishing and Fishing Related Activities and Relevant Trade’, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Clarence Rambharat referring to the Draft Fisheries Management Bill, is quoted as stating that “he expected to lay the proposed legislation before the Lower House next month”. Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) congratulate the Minister for intending to lay the century old Draft Fisheries Management Bill, after a 20-year long delay.
However, fishing associations and stakeholders have a right to be consulted, particularly when it would affect their lives, income and operations, and we were never consulted on this latest draft version. In 2009/2010, FFOS along with its Attorneys conducted nation-wide consultations with fishing associations, at which eighty-two (82) comments and recommendations were submitted to the Fisheries Division. No feedback has ever been provided as to the status of our written submissions and whether they were incorporated and if not why not. In 2011, 2014 and 2015, the Draft Fisheries Management Bill was brought to Cabinet without even publicly publishing the final draft of the Bill, effectively locking us all out. Is this good governance?
On 12th June 2018, the Fisheries Division held a ‘sham’, ‘exclusionary’, ‘invitation-only’ ‘public consultation’ to discuss this Bill, which now contains even more draconian measures, with penalties increased by over 70,000 per cent! Since then a final draft of this Bill has not been circulated for stakeholder consideration and comment. The vast majority of artisanal stakeholders who form the bulk of the Fishery and control the majority of landing sites, were never even invited and copies of the draft were not provided in advance. Only one copy per table was provided at the “consultation”. While the Bill is being drafted, consultation must be conducted with those who are most affected. Stakeholder endorsement is necessary to empower the Law and for the intended regulations to be upheld, yet meaningful consultation has been bypassed with those who are most affected, hoodwinked and left in the dark.
If the Minister circumvent a participatory and inclusive legislative process, he would be further banishing this Bill in our nation which holds the world record for the most ancient Fisheries Act (1916). In its current form, this legislation will cause the further brutalization of an already impoverished, voiceless and suffering sector.
FFOS appeal to our Honourable Government to hold meaningful public consultation and to act with a sense of benevolence and wisdom.