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Prof. Vitarana says re-streamlining co-op movement the only way to save farmers from middlemen



By Saman Indrajith

LSSP leader Prof. Tissa Vitarana said that re-streamlining the cooperative movement is the only way to save farmers from middlemen who prevent both producers and consumers from enjoying decent prices in the market.

Participating in the third reading stage debate on budget 2021, MP Vitarana said that middlemen and miller mafia have become the bane of farmers.

“The middlemen and miller mafia get the farmers into a debt trap and buy their produce at prices they determine. If the cooperative system was strong, it could have purchased the produce of farmers at a decent price. That would also make way for the consumers to buy at a lower price. Re-streamlining the cooperative movement would be the solution to this,” he said.

“I was the Governor of the North Central Province during the first quarter of this year. It is an area known for its centuries-old irrigated agriculture. More than 65 percent of the people in the province depend on basic agriculture and agro- based industries. The province has immense potential for investors to start their businesses, especially in the agriculture, agro-based industries and livestock sectors. But I was sad to notice that malnutrition was prevailing in the province so badly”, he noted.

Prof. Vitarana further said: “As per the latest statistics, the province’s malnutrition was at 12.5 percent. One in every eight persons was suffering from malnutrition which was high among farmer families. I visited villages in the province and made inquiries. The villagers told me that they do not get the due price for their paddy. Owing to the debts, they had been compelled to sell to the middlemen and miller mafia.

“During the times of the Yahapalana government, their other sources of income also dried up. Two companies have got hold of controlling cattle farmers. Those who engaged in sand mining and brick manufacturing too have lost their incomes. I found that most of the families in the province have only one meal a day.

“The LSSP has an Agriculture Committee headed by Dr. Lionel Weerakoon, who was the former Director, Research of the Agriculture Department. We conducted a thorough research with him and researchers of the University of Rajarata, Mahailluppalama Field Crop Research and Development Institute and officials from the Mahaweli, Agriculture Department, Agrarian Services Board, Irrigation Department and the provincial council. Thereafter we conducted two seminars and a workshop for all stakeholders.

“The research and the subsequent events helped us identify the reasons for the sorry situation prevailing and the solutions for them as well. I table the report of the findings. It was found that there is a mismatch between the crops the farmers cultivate and the potential of the soil, sunlight and climate in the area. That should be optimized to get a better harvest. The province with an immense potential produces only five percent of the GDP.

“Distribution of lands was haphazardly done so they are occupied by various departments and ministries without contributing towards their development. The distribution of lands, optimization of crops and other agrarian services should be done in a scientific and composite manner. The produce of farmers should be value added. While I was the minister of Science and Technology, I promoted the setting up of Vidatha Centers for this purpose. But when I inquired from these officials, I found that they cannot operate to optimum levels as funds allocated to the centers have been reduced gradually during recent times.

“These issues should be addressed to help the farmers to get out of their present plight. Even after that is done, the farmers would not be able to raise their heads till they are hooked by scrupulous elements of the miller mafia. There are regional banks who could obtain loans at seven percent interest from the central bank and serve the people in the province, but they were not aware of it. The cooperative system should be reintroduced to help save the farmers and consumers from the middlemen and miller mafia”.



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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?



… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.



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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others



The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.



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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area



Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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