As the seething fury of Sri Lanka’s farmers spills over onto village roads and sets the country ablaze with war cries of ‘give us fertilizer to farm our crops, our paddy lands and our vegetable fields,’ the best role that an utterly inept and incompetent Opposition can play is to refrain from polluting this anger [...]


Give heed to the war cries of Sri Lanka’s farmers


As the seething fury of Sri Lanka’s farmers spills over onto village roads and sets the country ablaze with war cries of ‘give us fertilizer to farm our crops, our paddy lands and our vegetable fields,’ the best role that an utterly inept and incompetent Opposition can play is to refrain from polluting this anger by putting their grinning faces in front of that mass outpouring.

Were the covid-19 ravages not enough?

The anger of this nation’s tillers of the land is genuine. It transcends party divisions and party loyalties. That should not be insulted to score cheap political points. What drives that movement is the hunger of their families and the despair of agricultural communities left adrift by a disastrously mismanaged policy decision by this Government to abruptly switch over from chemical fertilizer to organic fertilizer almost in a day as it were. It was almost as if the great ravages brought about by the global pandemic were not enough even as deaths increase and the economy collapses in a dangerous spiral of debt.

Thus, it is as if the gods above said, ‘no, this suffering is not enough.’ More misery had to be piled on top of already unbearable pain, as eminently avoidable as this may be. Meanwhile medical men have metamorphosed into agriculture experts who hold forth on ‘food security’ and ‘food safety’ in caricatured speeches. Indeed,one wonders whether members of the medical fraternity in this country are dumb, deaf and blind in that the decent, the sane and the professionals among them cannot seem to stand up to  trade union charlatans in a government medical officers association.

But all that is distinct from the duty of those to whom the electorate had entrusted the task of governance. As the Abayaramaya Temple’s head priest, once the leading proponent of the ‘Rajapaksa wave,’declared this week to a captive audience, ‘Has this Government been captured by some mysterious supernatural force for it to act in such disregard of public opinion?’ The venerable priest may  be reminded, with good reason, that this was an inevitable result of the conferral of too much power on politicians at any point in time for which they hold a distinct share of responsibility.

Denunciations of misrule fall on deaf ears

Elsewhere the Catholic and Christian clergy issue stern denunciations of misrule. Regardless, an unfeeling Government ploughs on and the country’s malnourished rub their growling stomachs. A few days ago, vegetable cultivators of Bandarawela fell to the very ground that they had once tilled, shouting that they cannot feed their children. Is there no humanity left in us as a nation to watch these deranged scenes, unmoved? By this time, surely a responsible Government would have, at least, ensured that sufficient stocks of fertilizer would be made available for this season. But no, what we have is the contrary.

Conflicting statements by key Ministers that there is no fertilizer shortage and if there is, this is due to unscrupulous hoarders is no excuse. These are crooks working hand-in-glove with powerful political interests and protected likewise. State law enforcement officials act at the speed of lightning to arrest a troublesome critic here or a shouting protestor there. But they inexplicably loose their way when proceeding to nab powerful and profiteering businessmen who violate the law with impunity. The political nexus influencing the chain of command in the police is so clear that it is visible to a child.

In fact, the very sight of the police media spokesperson regularly holding forth on violations of the law has become a grotesque charade. A favoured Mayor of Kurunegala who held a birthday celebration in blatant violation of existing health restrictions (for which the police of the area supplied cake no less in a parody of the Marie Antoinette injunction to the French masses to eat cake if there is no bread) remains immune from the reach of the law. But there is no guillotine for the politically privileged in these strange and desperate times.

A progression of our inhumanity

Instead, they make rich profits off the suffering of the public as activists are routinely rounded up for street protests, lawyers and poets remain in custody on absurd charges under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. We are no strangers to these disparities. Our constitutional promise of equal treatment before the law had become a grand farce for many decades as the law privileged the politically, economically, socially and ethnically privileged. In the name of war, from North to South, children were executed in front of their mothers and fathers.

Transitional justice, reconciliation and reparations became catch words, to be tossed back and forth between politicians when it suited them. So the catapulting of this nation down the slope of  starvation as our crops dwindle and farmers weep is perhaps just another progression of that inhumanity. Nonetheless, the State must address the cries of farmers that they are not asking for handouts but simply to be given the assistance to work their lands. That this is being denied to them by a political leadership which seems deaf, dumb and blind to their pleas and merely reduces that to the level of compensation speaks to the terribly inhumane plight that we find ourselves in.

That said, the sight of Opposition parliamentarians, who were complicit as the Central Bank of Sri Lanka  was ‘robbed’ in clear sight by white collar crooks who were given a place in the ‘yahapalanaya’ sun, holding placards of protests in this struggle is not edifying. Whether it is the electorally humiliated ‘Maha Gedera’ of the United National Party (UNP) or the infantile ‘Podi Gedera’ of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) makes little difference. In fact, at each and every turn, the curse of this country is not only its rulers who abandon all sense and sensibility when thrust into power but also the political opposition that we invariably find ourselves saddled with.

Propaganda beyond a point

Nothing is beyond twisting for political gain or flaunted and shouted about if points can be scored and no truth is sacred enough to respect, acknowledge and admit that mistakes were made. As the Opposition pontificates about protecting the freedom of the media as independent journalists are threatened by the gatekeepers of this regime, it is opportune to ask exactly what it did when in power during 2015-2019 in regard to the many instances of killings and assaults of journalists and editors over whose bodies they came into power in January 2015?

Adding insult to injury, some in the opposition ranks have the gall to claim that if the Counter-Terror draft that it proposed while in power had been adopted, the European Union’s threat of withdrawal of the EU-GSP Plus facility may have been averted. That shocking piece of propaganda casually bypasses the fact that the draft that was proposed at the time was worse, in manifold respects, than the PTA that it sought to replace. It was unforgivably vague in its definitions of what constituted terrorism, gave far too much unfettered power to the police and trespassed upon individual liberties to an unprecedented extent.

Do these Opposition propagandists believe that the lies they spin can be so easily believed? If so, they must be roundly informed that they are mistaken. Where the struggles of Sri Lanka’s farmers are concerned therefore, these deeply compromised political acrobats must keep themselves out of the movement challenging a political establishment that has ceased to listen to the voice of the people.

Otherwise, this would be be akin to (proverbially) spoiling a fresh pot of milk by putting not one but several drops of dung into its depths.

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