An interview with a ‘people smuggler’
The Australian : Among the smugglers
Amanda Hodge | October 21, 2009
THE boat owners of Negombo have a message for the Rudd government: give us a year and a stack of cash and we can end the wave of asylum-seekers washing up on your shores.
“Without our knowledge no one can get into the sea,” Justin Waranakulasuriya boasts to The Australian as we sit in the front yard of his home. Dripping in gold and wearing a traditional lungi, the secretary of the Sea Street Kudapadu Conciliated Fisheries Society appears to carry weight in this fishing and tourist village on Sri Lanka’s westcoast.
As we talk, some similarly bejewelled male visitors pay their respects, and a party of men sits inside eating fried fish and drinking Johnnie Walker Black Label.
Justin says he has already met Australian officials who have sought the society’s help in cracking down on the thriving people- smuggling trade operating along his patch. His society has been promised dozens of lifejackets, fishing nets and at least 200 chairs in return for spruiking the perils of the Indian Ocean crossing.
The Rudd government is also preparing to offer micro loans and community grants for job creation programs to improve life for poor Sri Lankans at home to reduce the likelihood they will attempt to seek a better life in Australia. But the society wants more.
“They (Australian government) want to organise street drama to show how dangerous it is,” he says, referring to the Australian Customs-funded advertising campaign being rolled out along the west coast to dissuade would-be asylum-seekers.
“There is a very good relationship between us and the (Australian) officials.
“You can take my word: if the Australian government can assist us, help us to improve the economy, I give a guarantee not a single person will try to reach your country by boat from Negombo.” More