Connect with us

Features

Of heroin, drug dealers, and pastors

Published

on

by Hemantha Randunu

(Translated by Uditha Devapriya)

It was the first week of April 2019. A conspiracy was hatching in secret in a dark cell in Negombo Prison. “Pastor you have nothing to fear. We can do this job easily. If we load a load of heroin from Pakistan we can become millionaires.”

Ibrahim, a Maldivian national was talking to Dunstan, a Catholic pastor. “Pastor you know all boatmen do this kind of things to live. Don’t worry. We can do this job easily.” Ibrahim was explaining to the pastor about smuggling heroin into Sri Lanka.

The pastor, interested in making money by any means, agreed to Ibrahim’s proposal.

“A friend of mine called Abdullah is in Pakistan. He’s trying to send a large load on Sri Lanka. We need to set up some boatmen. You can do that easily, pastor. Please handle that side of the plan. I will prepare the plan. We’ll earn millions.”

The pastor was listening quietly. At the end of Ibrahim’s request, he raised his voice.

“I can’t do this job in Prison. We will have to wait for bail. As soon as I go out, get started.” The pastor held Ibrahim’s hands tightly.

Pastor Dunstan was a resident of Sangammana in Chilaw. From the beginning this pastor was known for fraud. Claiming that the power of God heals the needy; he would leech money from innocents. The 44-year-old had perfected the art of human trafficking. Not one, but six cases of human trafficking were pending in courts against him. For years, he had been extorting hundreds of thousands of rupees from innocent people by illegally and dangerously smuggling them to Australia by sea.

This pastor was married. He had two daughters and they too were married. His legal wife lived in Chilaw and his mistress in Nittambuwa. The pastor had chosen to make money through human trafficking to feed these families and lead a life of luxury. But then things gave way. He was arrested by the police one day in April 2019 for engaging in human trafficking.

He was caught trying to smuggle out 56 people to Australia in a small boat under very dangerous conditions. Following his arrest by the police, he was detained at the Negombo Prison. There he met a large-scale heroin trafficker called Ibrahim. Realizing that heroin could make a lot of money more easily than human trafficking, he agreed to join Ibrahim’s drug business.

Ibrahim, who had been arrested with heroin in his possession, had been held in the Negombo Prison for several years.

Despite imprisonment, Ibrahim continued his heroin business with the help of a group of corrupt officials at the Negombo Prison. Ibrahim wanted the pastor, long engaged in people smuggling by sea, to be involved in his business.

Secret discussions between them about this heroin racket took place for almost a year. The pastor said it would be difficult to get involved in the racket until he was released from prison; so during that time Ibrahim took steps to make life easier for him.

Ibrahim contacted Abdullah in Pakistan and introduced the pastor to Abdullah. “If we get together the pastor can do a lot of big work and a big roll. Let’s start the work as soon as the pastor get released.” Abdullah then contacted the pastor by telephone from Pakistan and explained his future plans.

The leader of the heroin gang that Ibrahim and Abdullah were involved in was a Sri Lankan: Sanju, or Battaramulle Sanju. Arambewelage Don Upali Ranjith (alias Soththi Upali) was a big name in the country’s underworld. He became a mastermind of the underworld in the country in the 1980s under the patronage of the then UNP government. Soththi Upali was assassinated in 1995 after the UNP lost power. Hei had a daughter who later married Sanju.

Following in the footsteps of his father-in-law, Sanju became a large-scale racketeer in the country. Soththi Upali’s racketeering and violence took place mainly in Sri Lanka. His son-in-law Sanju took his racketeering overseas. Sanju had fled to Dubai a few years earlier, after having been involved in a large-scale heroin racket in Battaramulla. He became a millionaire in a very short time by smuggling heroin in bulk to Sri Lanka.

Ibrahim contacted Sanju and introduced the Pastor to him. Sanju was specific. “Send 200 kilos of heroin soon. Everything is ready. The pastor has to bring it in a pile, and I will pay him Rs. 35 million for his services.”

The pastor thought himself lucky to be able to earn tens of millions of rupees in this way. ” I’ll have everything ready as soon as I get out. Let’s play do the job as soon as we can, ” he told Sanju over the phone. Ibrahim was encouraged. “Ok Pastor, I will give you an advance of Rs. 10 million. All you have to do is use the money to get the boatmen ready. As soon as I come out I will give you a phone with which you can coordinate better.” Ibrahim and Abdullah were the main partners in Sanju’s heroin gang. Eventually Pastor Dunstan also joined the gang. After nearly a year in the Negombo prison, he was released on bail in April of 2019.

The pastor arrived at Sangammana in Chilaw on bail. From then on, he began to plan the future of the heroin trade. On Sanju’s instructions, the pastor went to Dehiwala and got a satellite phone. That was through one of Sanju’s acolytes. In addition to the phone, the pastor also received Rs. 1.5 million. It was his responsibility thereafter to bring the consignment of heroin safely to Sri Lanka.

The pastor was searching for someone to enlist into the racket.and thought of Priyanga, one of his accomplices. Most of the people smuggled to Australia were on trawlers belonging to the Priyanga. He was highly trusted. The pastor invited Priyanga to join him and Priyanga agreed. “OK Pastor I will do it; I want 35 lakhs for this. I’ll get the others on board too.”

Priyanga told Nihal, the operator of his trawler, about the pastor’s proposal. Nihal also wanted to bring heroin to Sri Lanka. He demanded Rs. 7 million for that. Priyanga’s elder brother, Dixon, also worked with him. Dixon also agreed to join on the promise of Rs. 200,000.

“Pastor, before we go on this trip, we need to give an advance to those who will join us. Otherwise, they will not come. We also need to refuel our boat at sea for another month,”

Accordingly, the pastor arranged for them to pay all the expenses.

After informing Sanju in Dubai, he paid the advance in the relevant accounts. He also paid Rs.8.5 lakhs for the boat fuel. “I do not have a bank account. Put my advance in my daughter-in-law’s account,” Priyanga told the pastor. The daughter-in-law also did not have a bank account. She gave the Priyanga the account number of the owner of the shop she worked in. Accordingly, Sanju had credited Rs. 1.5 million and Rs. 8 lakhs to the account on two separate occasions.

After completing these transactions, the ‘Rajina’ trawler left Talawila beach on October 26 saying that it is going for fishing. Nihal was the captain of this fishing expedition. In addition there were seven people on board, including Priyanga and Dixon. Priyanga also involved his son in the heroin operation. Priyanga’s son was tasked with coordinating communications between the boat and the mainland.

Seven days after trawler sailed into deep sea, on October 28, it was joined by an Iranian ship. The Iranians had brought 99 kilograms of heroin that had belonged to Sanju in Battaramulla. They handed over the consignment to the trawler. Priyanga and his group were hoping to receive 200 kilograms of heroin. But the Iranians had given them only 99 kilos.

Priyanga immediately told this his son who was in Sri Lanka. The son relayed that message to Pastor Dunstan. The pastor contacted Sanju in Dubai right away.

“Okay … okay … don’t be afraid Pastor. We could not send 200 kilos in the same boat. Tell them to stay at sea for another three or four days. Another ship is ready to give them the rest..” Sanju was calm..

It is common practice to give a pistol as a gift for every 20 kilograms of heroin sold in an international trade and the Iranian nationals who arrived on the Iranian ship were ready to hand over five pistols for the 99 kilograms of heroin. However, the group including Priyanga refused to accept the five pistols. The Iranian ship that brought the heroin sailed off.

On the morning of November 13, Priyanga received a call from his son who told him that a ship from Dubai would arrive that day carrying the remaining stocks of heroin.

Another mission was secretly underway in the trawleri. Little did Priyanga know that Nihal and Dixon were exchanging messages with a group of excise officers. They had passed on all the information about what they were doing very secretly.

On the night of November 13, the Dubai ship approached the ‘Rajina’i and delivered 100 kilograms of ice. The trawler carrying 199 kilograms of heroin and ice was to set sail for Marawila beach after staying at sea for two more weeks. It due to reach Marawila on December 6..

Meanwhile, acting on information provided by Nihal and Dixon, a team of excise officers had launched an operation to seize the drugs. They arrested the four persons who had come to take delivery after cordoning off the entire Chilaw area. There was wides media coverage of the drug raid. Excise officials were keen on bringing the arrested drugs and suspects to justice as soon as possible.

It is common practice to hand over further investigations to the Police Narcotics Unit when such a large-scale drug raid is carried out. However, the Excise officials refused to hand over further investigations to the Narcotics Division. Their excuse was that the informants would be exposed. According to the Excise Ordinance, Excise officials do not have the power to detain and interrogate suspects.

Nihal,, Dixon and Priyanga, who were on the boat carrying the drugs, went missing. We do not know what happened. They are known only to the persons who brought the drugs and the excise officers.

Meanwhile, OIC of the Kelaniya Divisional Crime Investigation Unit, Inspector Linton Silva had received intelligence. It was said that big money was being suspiciously credited to an account of a private bank in the Peliyagoda area.

Linton Silva and other officials found the businessman who held the Peliyagoda Bank account and inquired about suspicious cash transactions. “Sir, this money is not mine. It belongs to a girl working in my office. She lives in Chilaw. Money that her father-in-law obtained from selling his land for has been deposited in that account. That girl didn’t have a bank account, so she put the money into mine.”

The police officers found the girl who was working under the businessman and questioned her. She told them the same story. While the police were investigating, Inspector Linton Silva received a tip from another informant..

“Sir … a pastor from Chilaw is trying to go to India in my boat. Her was involved in one of these rackets.”

Inspector Silva briefed Senior DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon in charge of the Western Province and SSP Roshan Dias in charge of the Kelaniya Division about the information.

Linton Silva and other officers went to the Mannar area and launched an operation to arrest the pastor. With the help of the boatman, they were able to bring the pastor to Mannar. It was then that Pastor Dunstan was taken into custody by the Kelaniya Divisional Crime Investigation Unit. He had to divulge all information in the face of questioning by police.

With the given information, the police team arrested Priyanga’s son and his wife on the same day. The information that confused the police officers was revealed during this interrogation.

“Sir… our father and his brother Dixon were on the team that brought the heroin. He told me that after the ‘kudu’ was brought ashore, it was mixed with 60 kilograms of wood dust. Mahappa told me that this was with the knowledge of the Excise officials. Mahappa also said that 60 kilograms of heroin were taken away by some excise officers.”

The information provided by Priyanga’s son was very serious. Linton Silva briefed his seniors Deshabandu Tennakoon and Roshan Dias on this. Tennakoon has said that no investigation should be carried out against the Excise Officers until the analyst’s report of the seized drug was received.

The truth of these allegations, incidents, and accusations must be immediately revealed. Despite the capture and raid of tons of heroin, there is no shortage of heroin addicts in Sri Lanka. It appears that cocaine and heroin are still being marketed in bulk. We do not know if and when heroin enters the market through raiding officers. All we know is that no matter how much heroin is seized, there is plenty in the market. Why?, we must ask.



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Features

Who does Sri Lanka’s fuel subsidy really benefit? 

Published

on

by Prof. Amal Kumarage

In a recent article, parliamentary MP and former VP of CitiBank, Eran Wickremaratne said Sri Lanka’s policies are skewed towards the rich and not the poor of the country.  He was referring to fuel subsidies where the government pays the difference between the high global fuel price and the price it is sold at the pump to cushion the people.  But the MP says it is not the man on the street who benefits from this subsidy but the wealthy private vehicle owners with big vehicles that require more fuel.

“As a country, when we choose this subsidy, we are actively choosing to give more money to wealthier families to drive their large vehicles. We are saying that our government would rather support the businessman with a fancy gas-guzzling car in Colombo over the school children in Monaragala who are struggling from a lack of food.”

Pump prices of petrol and diesel in Sri Lanka, even after the increase, are still lower than in most neighbouring countries. It is ranked 50th lowest from 170 countries listed, with almost all those having lower fuel prices than Sri Lanka being oil producing countries. Sri Lanka then becomes a country having the lowest pump prices for a non-oil producing country. It is also lower than the inflation-adjusted price in 2008 when global crude oil prices exceeded $100 per barrel, and the US dollar was only LKR 110. Oil crossed $100 per barrel even in 1981-82 during the Iran-Iraq war when the US dollar was just LKR 20. Sri Lanka has weathered such price hikes before. But what is needed is not just a temporary tiding over in terms of the fuel over-consumption, but a permanent policy that will make fuel use sustainable.

It is becoming more and more clear that the widespread practice of cushioning people from fuel price shocks in the long term, no longer works and it has also come to a point where the country can no more afford it. There is just too much oil consumption and eventually, it is the affluent heavy consumers who benefit from the subsidies.  Incidentally, the cost of kerosene in Sri Lanka is the lowest in the region, sold at a concession of around 60%.  Yet, it is manageable since the consumption is only 206 million litres per year, which is around half the domestic use of LP gas and around 5% of the fuel used for transport.

Therefore, efficiency targets should be given to fuel companies (CPC/LIOC) to reduce operating costs by 20%, equal to Rs 1 per litre of fuel, enabling the savings of Rs 3-4 billion per year.  This should be connected to programs supporting the reduction of fuel consumption in the long term.

Unlike other goods, fuel imports should not be restricted or just rationed as it is necessary for almost every category of economic production. But at the same time, our selling prices should be pegged to market prices with a reasonable tax component introduced.  This will discourage heavy consumption and encourage alternate use.

Most countries build in a tax for fuel that goes to assist in developing public and alternative modes of transport. This should be an important aspect of our long-term fuel policy as improved public transport means more people using it, and this would bring us another step closer to reducing our massive fuel costs. Countries that have implemented this successfully have been able to reduce their fuel consumption without reducing productivity or convenience.  In the current Sri Lankan context, adopting a similar policy will allow more funds to be allocated for goods that are vital for daily living.

While annual car imports keep adding to our fuel bill, another issue is the concessionary permit system provided by the government to certain state officials to import cars with tax benefits. According to statistics, the concessionary permit system is a huge loss annually to the Treasury averaging Rs. 94 billion per annum.  This figure is almost equal to the LKR 97 billion per annum the Treasury gathers from the country’s overall car imports. Furthermore, because of the tax concession, permit holders tend to go for more expensive vehicles in consideration of the resale value and more often than not, these expensive choices are heavy on fuel consumption.

Therefore, policy readjustments such as scrapping the concessionary vehicle permit system, and allowing concessions only for electric vehicles, should be brought in.

(Prof. Amal Kumarage is a transport sector professional with over 35 years of experience in academia, government and consulting. He is a Senior Professor in the Department of Transport & Logistics Management, University of Moratuwa, a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and Founder President of the Sri Lanka Society for Transport & Logistics. He is a graduate in Civil Engineering from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. He completed his PhD at the University of Calgary, Canada.)

Continue Reading

Features

PM hints at full term, opposition in boycott mode, no relief for queuing public

Published

on

by Rajan Philips

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe made yet another statement in parliament last Wednesday (June 22). Apparently, these are biweekly statements he has committed himself to make “since taking over the reins of this government,” as he put it. With cynical self-deprecation he acknowledged the mockeries directed at him for making too many statements with too little action or results.

Sajith Premadasa and Anura Kumara Dissanayake have taken the criticism to another level by boycotting parliament until the PM and the government present a plan of action to address the economic crisis. This is the first instance the two leaders have reached common ground in the current parliament. Ironically, their agreement is not over some positive intervention but inexplicable abdication in the face of national suffering.

One appreciates the enormity of the challenge that the Prime Minister and the government are facing and the extremely limited and constantly diminishing assets available to them. People know that supplies are chronically short and they are going to get severely worse. What nobody gets is why cannot the government arrange orderly distributions of limited supplies, and spare the already suffering people the additional trauma of standing in long queues for something they are not going to get in any case.

A case in point is the supply of petrol, diesel and cooking gas. They have been in short supply since February, and nothing has been done to regulate their distribution. Those who have little or nothing, stand and suffer to get nothing much, while those who can afford – send proxies to collect more for the purpose of hoarding and potentially reselling.

The young and confused Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera, has promised to have a quota system in place by July. That is already too late and would be far too little as well. The bigger question is why the PM and the government are not thinking about implementing a system of priorities for procurement and distribution – food, medical supplies, cooking gas, and allocate fuel only to public transport (including three wheelers) and lorries involved in internal food transport. With all the shortages and closures, it makes no sense continuing with fuel supply for private vehicles and transport.

Given that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is leading a cabinet of old worn-outs, the onus is on the Opposition to constantly raise these matters in parliament and force the Prime Minister and government into taking concrete action. Instead, the SJB and the JVP are running away from parliament apparently intending to force the government to come up with a plan. JVP leader Dissanayake who made big splashes in parliament last year and announced that the JVP is ready for national leadership, is now missing in action and missing out on opportunities to demonstrate his and the JVP’s readiness for leadership. Sajith Premadasa has become the occasional Leader of the Opposition. After weeks of silence, he appeared in parliament only to announce his boycott of parliament.

Political opinion is divided, as the Prime Minister himself acknowledges, between those who ridicule his ‘statements,’ and others who welcome his apparent openness and transparency. The problem is that Mr. Wickremesinghe has not been able to dispel the perception that he is still playing his old political games while appearing to provide a new form of leadership. The Prime Minister and the President are not at all working together. This is the same as what it was during the yahapalana administration, according to former President Maithripala Sirisena. There is a huge difference, of course. Sirisena and Wickremesinghe were elected to work together, but between them they botched a joint venture that began with much promise. On the other hand, Wickremesinghe and Gotabaya Rajapaksa have come together by mutual consent and out of desperation. It makes no sense for them to work at cross purposes now. It only weakens the administration and adds to public cynicism.

There is no politics without gossip, and the going gossip is that the Prime Minister has been trying to get one of his sidekicks to step in as the new Central Bank Governor when the Governor’s current term expires. That would mean the replacement of Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe, who came out of premature retirement from Australia to head the bank in a state of crisis, by a rank outsider and a new Arjuna Mahendran. Why? Why would Mr. Wickremesinghe repeat the same colossal blunder that ended his legitimate political career? Fortunately for the country, and for himself, he may not be having his way around this time. But it only shows that there is no end to playing political games even when the country’s economy is in flames.

Full Term as PM

The Prime Minister statement last week included a surprising hint that ‘his’ interim government would go on until firm economic recovery is achieved and only then elections will be called. In a pertinent paragraph towards the end of the statement, the Prime Minister shifted his target audience from parliament to the people, and said:

“Once we have established a firm economic foundation you can hand over power to any political party as per your wish at an election and elect 225 suitable representatives to parliament. The responsibility and power to do so lie with you, the citizens of this country. You will be then given the opportunity to reject those you believe were responsible for the predicament Sri Lanka is facing today.  In turn, the new government will be given the mandate to bring those responsible before justice. But all this can only be achieved following the revival of the country.”

“A firm economic foundation” is not going to be established within the next two to three years, which would mean there will likely be no opportunity for an election sooner than when it will be normally due in 2025. That is full term for the current parliament and near-full term for Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. The President has already indicated that he will serve out his only term in full. If the Prime Minister wants parliament also to continue for its full term, he must state his intention clearly and categorically to parliament and to the people. It must not be conveyed through hints in a single paragraph in a long statement. Without transparency, there will be no trust.

For instance, the PM cannot be extending his hand for co-operation from the SJB and the JVP for an interim administration of less than a year at most, while seriously thinking of going on for the next three years. Among the people at large the expectation is that the Prime Minister Wickremesinghe will steady the ship of state out of the Rajapaksa chaos, reach agreement with the IMF, implement constitutional reforms as widely understood, and then – in the span of about a year, set the stage for a general election. Beyond Mr. Wickremesinghe’s role, there have also been expectations for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign from office and abolish the system of elected-executive presidency. All of these expectations now seem to be water under the Aragalaya bridge.

President Rajapaksa has announced that he will not resign before his term is over, but he will not contest for a second term. With all the talk about a parliamentary election, the Election Commission has started the process of updating the voter registry and lists. That work is expected to be finalized only in October. So, practically no election till October. In any event, for an election to be called this year, parliament has to pass a resolution for it to be dissolved. This is unlikely given the current dynamic in parliament under the Ranil-Rajapaksa government.

After March 2023, the President will have the power to dissolve parliament and call an election. There has been considerable expectation for an election some time in 2023. That may not happen if what Prime Minister Wickremesinghe suggested in parliament last Wednesday is also shared by the President and their cabinet of Ministers. The Prime Minister may have very good reasons for suggesting that a fundamental economic recovery is necessary before there can be a parliamentary election. But his reasons are not an open book unless he shares them with others. And there is more.

It is the Prime Minister who has been consistently saying that there is not only an economic crisis, but also a political crisis, and that the former cannot be addressed in isolation from the latter. If a full term of parliament is needed to address the economic crisis, what is the implication for the political crisis?

Can the present parliament continue as it is for three more years? Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s 21st Amendment might be acceptable as a stop-gap measure for a limited period, but can it meet all the constitutional reform expectations over a longer period? How will the government handle the next presidential election that will come up before the parliamentary election, if the mode of electing the Head of State is not changed beforehand?

Specific to the executive presidency, how will Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and President Rajapaksa deal with the question of abolishing the elected-executive presidential system over an extended three year period? The Supreme Court has again stipulated, in its ruling on the SJB’s (ill-advisedly rushed) 21st Amendment Bill, that a referendum will be required to abolish the presidential system or to change the mode of presidential election. This is unfortunate in that the court may not have been sufficiently presented with the benefit of sound legal arguments questioning the appropriateness of extending the referendum requirement to matters that are not specifically included in the referendum provision in the constitution. Prof. Savitri Goonesekere and Dr. Nihal Jayawickrama have both expressed this opinion many times in the public domain, and no less a person than Dr. Colvin R de Silva proffered the same opinion 35 years ago during the forensic debates over the 13th Amendment.

Regardless of the legal position, it would be politically conclusive to decide the future of the executive presidency in a referendum of the people. That is what Prof. Savitri Goonesekere suggested in this newspaper a few weeks ago – to bite the bullet and put the question to the people. But government leaders and the current Minister of Justice do not have the courage for it, and are hiding behind the referendum bogey to keep the presidential system going. The question will become a hot potato for the Prime Minister. It will be over a full term that he seems to be fancying now, and not just in the interim as others understand it.

Continue Reading

Features

A Strategy for the Restoration and Rebuilding the Agri-Food Sector of Sri Lanka

Published

on

Submitted to the Government by the members of the Faculties of Agriculture of the State Universities of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has caused immediate uncertainties regarding whether (a) required food supplies are and will be available, (b) the agri-food sector is and will be able to sustain the livelihoods of those engaged in crop, livestock and poultry farming, fishing, food manufacturing, food distribution and allied activities, and (c) the agri-food sector is and will be able to provide food security for those most affected communities by the crisis. As these concerns are particularly pertinent to the agriculture sector, the Faculties of Agriculture of the State Universities of Sri Lanka joined in proposing a plan of action that has been communicated to the President and the Prime Minister through a letter dated June 15, 2022, and signed by the Deans of all Faculties of Agriculture.

The proposal addresses the present crises by identifying immediate actions to address the most pressing needs of the current moment and also identifies actions requiring immediate attention that if unaddressed can exacerbate the crisis in the long-term. The action plan is designed to address the two objectives of ensuring food and nutrition security and of protecting and sustaining livelihoods and employment in the agri-food sector. It focuses on the entire food system considering all economic actors and priority sub-sectors in the agriculture value/supply chains.

The prevailing situation has brought to the forefront serious concerns, especially relating to increases in food prices and shortages in food. Food inflation in Sri Lanka during May 2022 (year-on-year basis) has stood at an all-time high of 57.4%. The recent appeal from the United Nations (UN) to the global community for USD 47 million in humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka to provide lifesaving assistance to 1.7 million people indicates, to some extent, the depth of the crisis. It is estimated that 4.9, 3.5 and 2.4 million people are in need of food security, agriculture and livelihood, and nutrition, respectively (United Nations, 2022). Although national-level data on the depth and breadth of the crisis is unavailable and the situation is still not well understood by many, we note with concern that if the country continues its current trajectory, especially with respect to the food consumption patterns, it will move beyond crisis into a state of emergency and potentially famine (United Nations, 2022).

Within this context, we recognize and acknowledge the short-term measures adopted to-date by the Government of Sri Lanka to support agriculture; for example, import of agrochemicals and seed stock with the support from World Bank and Asian Development Bank, , urea fertilizer with support from the EXIM Bank of India and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and prioritizing seed paddy supply for the Maha season 2022/2023. This, however, neither reflects the broader set of urgent concerns that the sector confronts nor provides solutions to the overarching problems that we face as a country.

The proposal providing A Strategy for the Restoration and Rebuilding the Agri-Food Sector of Sri Lanka, submitted by the members of the Faculties of Agriculture of the State Universities of Sri Lanka includes two sections of activities. The first section is an emergency preparedness plan that specifies a list of actions addressing four broad areas: (1) immediate food security issues of Infants (under five years of age), adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating mothers, and elderly groups. It recommends a screening process for malnourishment, strengthening pre-school and school lunch programmes, the distribution of dry rations and supplements for particularly vulnerable groups, (2) The estate sector and war-affected areas are identified as a second vulnerable population and recommendations include providing essential nutrients, support with growing food sources for carbohydrate requirements, (3) To support low-income groups, food rationing to ensure equitable distribution, improvements in marketing and distribution channels, encouragement and support of community kitchens, and facilitation of access to emergency funds and foods through the support of private actors, NGOS, foreign sources are recommended, and (4) A series of actions to protect industries that are critically important to the nation’s food supplies and foreign exchange, specifically the rice farmers, export agriculture, and poultry industry are identified. These activities must be complemented by awareness, extension, and educational programmes.

The second section of the proposal includes short-, medium- and long-term actions organized by sector (crop and animal production and processing, and cross-cutting) and identifies the relevant government agencies whose attention is sought in implementing each action. The attached figure is a graphical representation of a summary of the proposals. We note that the problems confronted by society today are a result of a lack of a consistent long-term policy and action programs for agriculture, which could have prevented a crisis of this nature from occurring. Such a policy must be developed and must include mechanisms to address future crisis situations by effectively using knowledge, other resources, and institutional structures (state and others). It must use consultative processes in a holistic manner that ensures that a system to address pressing issues, over the long term, in a sustained manner, is developed in which relevant institutions and bodies are represented with nominees identified through proper channels of communication.

We wish to note that the Faculties of Agriculture are committed to address the problems faced by the people of this country and will gladly extend support to any follow up actions of the State in implementing this plan.

Continue Reading

Trending