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Significance of Ceylon-China Trade Agreement of 1952

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by Dr. J. B. Kelegama

Excerpts from the keynote address at the 50 th anniversary celebrations of the historic “Rubber-Rice Pact” between Sri Lanka and China at the BMICH on December 20, 2002

I am honoured by the invitation of the Sri Lanka-China Business Cooperation Council and the Sri Lanka-China Society to deliver today the keynote address on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of the historic Rubber-Rice Pact between Sri Lanka and China signed in December 1952.

I accepted this invitation with alacrity and pleasure, firstly because I have conducted negotiations with China and actually implemented the Agreement over a period of about 12 years in my capacity as a senior government official, secondly, because I have visited China seven or eight times both as a government official and a UN consultant and thirdly, because I have been a student of China’s economic development for many years and written and published several articles on China’s economic and trade issues, under my own name as well as under pen-names.

Further, I had the privilege of speaking on this subject at the death anniversary of Mr. R. G. Senanayake some years back, on the invitation of no less a person than Mrs. R. G. Senanayake herself.

The Ceylon-China Trade Agreement of 1952 was undoubtedly the most useful trade agreement negotiated by Sri Lanka and one of the most successful and durable trade agreements in the world, having been in operation for 30 years. It is therefore useful to assess the significance of the agreement and to refresh our memory regarding the circumstances that led to it and the person who played the key role in bringing it about – R. G. Senanayake.

 

Rice shortage

1952 was a very bad year for Sri Lanka. Premier D. S. Senanayake had died and Dudley Senanayake had just formed a new government when the country had to face a world shortage of rice.

The Government was committed at that time to provide every adult person with two measures of rice per week at a subsidised price, but rice was not available from the traditional suppliers – Burma, Thailand and Indo-China – and the world market price of rice had risen by 38 per cent between 1951 and 1952.

Sri Lanka was therefore compelled to buy 60,000 tons of rice from the USA and 10,000 tons from Ecuador at high prices, although this variety of rice was not suitable to the Sri Lankan palate. She was however not in a position to buy all the rice she needed at this high price as her foreign exchange resources were limited; besides, distribution of this rice would have pushed the food subsidy bill to intolerable levels.

The country was also facing a foreign exchange crisis in 1952 caused by a dramatic fall in her export prices brought about by the quick end of the Korean War boom. The end of the Korean War and the drastic reduction of commodity purchases by the West – in particular, of natural rubber by the United States – led to a collapse of Sri Lanka’s export prices by 23 per cent between 1951 and 1952.

The price of natural rubber declined by 36 per cent, of tea by 10 per cent, and of coconut oil by 40 per cent. Import prices increased by 8 per cent and terms-of-trade fell by 28 per cent. The trade surplus of Rs. 345 million in 1951 turned into a trade deficit of Rs. 200 million in 1952 and external assets fell by 30 per cent. In this critical situation Sri Lanka attempted to negotiate with the USA for a loan of US$50 million and for favourable prices for rubber exports and rice imports, but failed. The country was facing an unprecedented crisis: she could not find enough rice to feed her people and she had no prospect of a favourable market for her rubber exports.

It was in this grim setting that R. G. Senanayake, the then Minister of Commerce, played his master stroke. He found out that China was prepared to sell rice to Sri Lanka in exchange for rubber. At that time China was unable to obtain rubber as a result of prohibition of rubber exports from Malaya following a UN resolution preventing the sale of rubber to China. Thus China wanted rubber as badly as Sri Lanka wanted rice. R. G. Senanayake was quick to realise the mutual benefits of trade with China, and negotiated the Ceylon-China Trade Agreement or the Rubber-Rice Pact in Beijing towards the end of 1952. He stated in Parliament.

“We waited for foreign aid, foreign assistance. As you know Sir, over and over again, we made appeals for Point Four aid, we waited four long years. We have got in the form of assistance only a cook for the Kundasale Girls’ School. Therefore in these circumstances, it was necessary that we should go where it was possible to get our requirements.”

 

Opposition

The Agreement was negotiated in the teeth of opposition from some of his own colleagues in the Cabinet. Indeed, the opposition of J. R. Jayewardene, the Minister of Finance, was well known. The Cabinet was advised by the newly created Central Bank under an American Governor. Opposition also came from R. G. Senanayake’s predecessor in the ministerial post, from the American Government, and from some of the local newspapers which carried on a virulent press campaign against any dealings with Communist China. S. P. Amarasingham’s informative book “Rice and Rubber: The Story of China-Ceylon Trade” provides a detailed account of the strong opposition R. G. Senanayake had to face in negotiating the Agreement.

The American Government invoked the Battle Act which prevented it from giving aid to countries selling strategic materials to Communist countries and cut off aid to Sri Lanka. In addition, she stopped selling sulphur needed by Sri Lanka’s rubber plantations. This was the price that had to be paid for trading with China.

Prime Minister, Dudley Senanayake, however, fully backed his Minister of Commerce and was prepared to pay this price; he realised that the benefits to Sri Lanka from the agreement far outweighed losses consequent to the cutting-off of American aid. He argued:

“Ceylon’s old trade pattern has been knocked out by changes in the world market and we have to seek new markets for our needs of essential foodstuffs and for our exports.”

Rebutting the charges that the Trade Agreement was opening the door to communist influences in Sri Lanka, he pointed out:

“Communism thrives in many places not through an understanding of that particular ideology but through poverty and want. I am confident that our Trade Agreement with China will instead of opening doors to communism help us to stand firmer against it.”

It is a tribute to the two Senanayakes that they displayed remarkable pragmatism and courage in negotiating the Trade Agreement. They did not allow their prejudices or ideological considerations to stand in the way of deciding what was in the best interests of the Country; nor were they intimidated by threats of big powers.

 

R. G. Senanayake stated:

“I have always held the view that political ideologies should not stand in the ways of countries trading with each other if that trade is to their mutual advantage.”

He foresaw as far back as 1952, the emergence of China as a world power. He stated in a speech: “Talking of China in particular, it would be unrealistic to ignore a nation of 500 million in our continent with a united and cohesive government for the first time in many centuries. She is bound to be a major factor in world trade.”

As he foresaw, China has now become the seventh largest exporter in the world and the largest trader among developing countries whose purchases and sales influence the world markets. In 2000 for instance, her exports were US$249 billion and imports US$225 billion. If we include Hong Kong’s trade with China (as the greater part of Hong Kong’s trade is entrepot trade with China) then China becomes the fourth largest exporter in the world after the USA, Germany and Japan, its exports amounting to $452 billion.

 

The Agreement

The Trade Agreement signed in 1952 was for five years and renewable; there was, however, an annual Trade Protocol specifying the quantities of commodities to be exchanged in the ensuing year, which had to be negotiated every year. The trade was based on barter – exports and imports to balance every year; only the outstanding balance at the end-of-the-year was to be settled in foreign exchange.

Trade however was rarely balanced in the following years but the outstanding balance was generally carried forward to the next year without settlement in foreign exchange.

In the first part of the agreement there were specific commitments by Sri Lanka to purchase rice, and for China to buy rubber; the values were to balance. Thus in 1953, Sri Lanka agreed to buy 270,000 tons of rice from China which in turn agreed to purchase 50,000 tons of rubber; these quantities were exchanged on the basis of world market prices and were equal in value. In addition, China agreed to pay a premium price for rubber over the world market (Singapore) price and further, handling charges for rubber exports in Colombo.

Thus in 1953, China paid for Sri Lanka rubber Rs. 1.74 per lb. whereas the average world market price was Rs. 1.05 per lb. This premium varied with every five-year agreement. The handling charge which was fixed at five cents per lb. too varied in subsequent years. China also agreed to supply rice to Sri Lanka below market prices – at 54 pounds or Rs. 720 per ton in 1953.

Thus Sri Lanka benefited both ways from the agreement. The second part of the agreement covered trade in other commodities – those Sri Lanka and China wanted to buy and sell – but without specific commitments; the total value of exports and imports however were expected to balance every year. In view of the substantial mutual benefits, the Trade Agreement was renewed every five years by R. G. Senanayake’s successors in his ministerial post – in 1958, 1962, 1967, 1972 and 1977 – and was wound up, in the sense that the barter element was given up, in 1982 when it was found that the barter of rice and rubber was no longer in mutual interest. Sri Lanka had almost reached self-sufficiency in rice and needed only very small quantities from abroad while China was able to purchase rubber from several rubber producing countries without restriction and without paying a premium.

R. G. Senanayake paid an important tribute to China after negotiating the Trade Agreement, when he concluded his Cabinet paper on the subject in the following words:

“We noted on the Chinese side the absence of the spirit of bargaining and haggling on comparatively small points. On the other hand, they gave us the impression of being large-minded and forthright in their dealings.”

I can confirm this as I conducted trade negotiations with China over a dozen times. Benefits

The significance of the Ceylon-China Trade Agreement lies in the positive benefits Ceylon received during the thirty years of its duration. Those benefits exceeded expectation as China expressed her gratitude to Sri Lanka for supplying her rubber when other rubber producers were not prepared to do so and in spite of the opposition and denial of aid by the US Government. These benefits are discussed in detail below.

(1) The premium over world market price for rubber was estimated between Rs. 68 and Rs. 95 million in 1953 alone. It was about 56 per cent more than the world market price in that year. No estimates are available for successive years, but the premium was substantial, for even a ten cents premium meant Rs. 200 per metric ton and Rs. 10 million for 50,000 tons.

(2) The handling charge of 5 cents per lb., in 1953 was equal to Rs. 100 per metric ton or Rs. 5 million for 50,000 metric tons of rubber. As the charge and quantity varied from year-to-year the total sum too changed, but it was significant.

(3) The sale of rice by China to Sri Lanka at prices below the world market resulted in a net benefit of about Rs. 92 million in 1953 alone. Although there was a net benefit in the following years, no estimates have been made. China agreed to sell rice at the same price Burma sold rice to Sri Lanka with certain adjustments for differences in quality and transport costs. China never tried to exploit the rice market to her advantage.

Even when she did not have an exportable surplus, she supplied Sri Lanka with rice direct from Burma under a triangular trade arrangement, but charged us only the price she paid Burma – not a cent more – even when she had reason to charge something more.

(4) As a result of the agreement a grant of about Rs. 125 million was extended by China during the ten-year period 1958-68 to meet part of the costs of rubber replanting. Thousands of acres of uneconomic rubber land were replanted thereby revitalizing our rubber industry.

(5) China continued to purchase Sri Lanka’s rubber at a premium even when other markets were prepared to sell her rubber at lower prices.

(6) Sri Lanka found an assured market for her rubber and an assured source of supply for her rice and insured herself to a great extent against vagaries in the world market. She also diversified her export and import markets.

(7) The Trade Agreement benefitted the Ceylonese traders as against non-national traders by creating a new market for them. In spite of the opposition from non-national trading establishments – particularly British managing agency houses – R.G. Senanayake reserved the export of rubber to China for the Ceylonese traders. He also reserved China for the Ceylonese importer under his policy of Ceylonizing the external trade of the country.

(8) The Trade Agreement laid the foundation for expanding trade between Sri Lanka and China even after the barter agreement ceased to operate. In 2001 for instance China and Hong Kong (which mainly re-exports China’s products) constituted the largest supplier of imports valued at Rs. 64 billion to Sri Lanka.

(9) Economic co-operation between Sri Lanka and China began with the Trade Agreement. It was expanded by leaps and bounds with establishment of diplomatic relations with China by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and closer relations under Sirimavo Bandaranaike as symbolised by the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), textile mills at Veyangoda and Pugoda, other grants and interest-free loans. Economic co-operation thereafter is demonstrated by the superior courts complex, Gin ganga scheme and assistance to restore Abayagiri dagaba.

(10) The Ceylon-China Trade Agreement with its price concessions for both Sri Lanka’s exports and imports and assistance to rubber replanting by China was perhaps the first instance of a developing country giving economic assistance to another developing country. In other words, it was the first time where economic co-operation among developing countries or South-South co-operation took place.

(11) Finally, Ceylon-China Trade Agreement and closer commercial and economic relations laid the foundations for a firm friendship between Sri Lanka and China, which was strengthened, expanded, and cemented by the Bandaranaike governments. China’s friendship for Sri Lanka has been demonstrated not only in trade and economic co-operation but also in times of national crisis. There was only China to warn other countries to ‘keep their hands off Sri Lanka’ at the height of the Indo-Lanka crisis in June-July 1987. This friendship was demonstrated again thereafter by the visit of Prime Minister of China and his offer of Rs. 375 million in economic assistance.



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Features

Rise of Dual Power amidst Covid 

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We had so many kings in our Sinhala Balaya of many centuries. There were many questionable deals on succession by members of this royalty, and others who came to those realms. But we have yet to hear of any brother of a ruling monarch rushing abroad in the midst of what may have been a national crisis, moving to a disaster.This is the stuff of Sinhala Power in the 21st Century. It is a show of the Raja Keliya – the power game, where dual citizenship is the dominant factor. The Sri Lanka, Mawbima home, is of lesser importance than the Videsha mawbima, especially if one’s health has to be handled by foreign medical sources; even if the Videsha Mawbima is the biggest affected by the Covid pandemic.

The appointment of Task Forces to deal with important issues facing the country and the people is the substance of the current Saubhagyaye Dekma – Vision of Prosperity and Splendour. Appointing a brother to head task forces of key importance is the show of dominant family power that prevails in this country today. But brotherly feelings are certainly not important when a dual citizen thinks of the greater importance of the Videsha Mawbima. The tasks of Economic Growth, Eradicating Poverty and Assuring Food Supply, as well as the more recent Green Socio-Economy must all be pushed aside, when the call of the Videsha Mawbima for healthcare is the stuff that matters.

This is the brotherly Vision of Prosperity and Splendour, or the Sahodara Saubhabyaye Dekma.

The Covid pandemic has certainly brought much contradictory thinking, especially in the government, on how the health of the people in this country, non-dual citizens, could be assured. Minister Udaya Gammanpila, a Cabinet spokesman too, is certain that mixed vaccinations of different brands and qualities, is the means to protect the people. 

Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, State Minister on the subject, thinks differently, on the lines of the WHO specialists, who have stressed there is no evidence so far to authorize mixed vaccinations. The other minister of health and vaccination issues is somewhat silent on this confusion in official thinking. Is a new pandemic syrup to be promoted by the power handlers?

Thank heavens that the Cabinet Minister of Health, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, is so far silent on this matter. She could come up with a new Sri Lankan Deshamanya scientific solution, such as throwing some of the Sinopharm and Sputnik (Chinese and Russian) into the nearby river, and using the mixed and river blended vaccine for people of the related province. She is sure to obtain the support of Ministers Udaya Gammanpila and Prasanna Ranatunga for such a crafty thinking of science, just as they shared her belief in the Charmed Pot Game or Mantara Kala Keliya to fight the Covid-19.

  We are now in the midst of what is known as a Lockdown. It is not a “Vasaa thabeema” in Sinhala, but a limit on travel – a ‘Sancharana Seemava’. The Police are very clear that anyone who breaks the lockdown rules will be arrested and brought to justice. We have seen the great joy that policemen showed in carrying non-mask wearers and other violaters of Covid safety guidelines, to be shoved into buses. How much more of such delights would follow when Covid increases its hold on Sri Lanka? What was the related Task Force, and its ceremonial uniformed head doing, when Indians were brought to Sri Lankan hotels for quarantine before travel to some Middle Easter countries? What foreigner from the Covid battered India was carried or courteously conducted to a place where lawbreakers are detained?

As we keep wearing our masks and distancing ourselves from others, there is much cause for concern, even beyond the Covid pandemic, on how persons arrested and detained by the police are killed by or in the presence of the  police. Two suspected and arrested persons have been killed while in police custody this week.  They are Melon Mabula or ‘Uru Juva’ and Tharaka Perera Wijesekera or ‘Kosgoda Tharaka’ These are persons with records of major crimes, possibly with much strong evidence, but not presented in court and any punishment order through the judicial process.

The police spokesperson, a person with a legal background, too, tells the people the details of all the terrible crimes these persons are supposed to be guilty of. It is a contemptible move to get public support for the killings. The Bar Association has raised concerns about these departures from justice. There must be much more protests, even with the Covid dangers.

One gets the impression that the prevailing dangerous situation due to Covid, is being used to carry out increasing violations of the law and the judicial process. This is certainly a major step back to the earlier years of Rajapaksa Power, when many such suspects were killed in Colombo and elsewhere, showing off police escape power. It also brings back memories of the killing and attacks on journalists by similar police and official forces of crooked power.

Are we moving to a new sense of Dual Power — where the judiciary is ignored and official power is the Rule of the Day? Is the power of Dual Citizenry to be the dominant force once Covid puts down the people’s power?

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Should ASEAN Free Trade Area be considered model for SAFTA?

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By Dr. Srimal Fernando

Economic integration is more important today than it has ever been for South Asia’s development. When comparing the impact of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)s South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN ) Free Trade Area (AFTA) in promoting trade amongst its member states, AFTA has been more effective in integrating the economies of its member states. SAFTA , on the other hand, has yet to make significant contributions to the integration of the economies of SAARC member states. The Success of ASEAN’s economic integration can be attributed to the willingness of Southeast Asian countries to embrace the tenets of regional integration. In contrast, SAARC’s model has failed to create a secure regional environment that is conducive for economic growth since its formation.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN ) member states signed the AFTA agreement on 28 January 1992. After the establishment of AFTA, the member states of ASEAN succeeded in signing trading protocols within the organization. The ASEAN model succeeded in creating one of the most successful free trade areas in Asia as well as globally. The establishment of AFTA has been an important milestone in Southeast Asia as a factor that facilitated the economic integration of ASEAN member states.

In the case of the SAARC, the signing of free trade protocols under the SAFTA agreement has been faced with several tariff and non-tariff barriers. Although both SASRC and ASEAN member states face unique challenges that affect trading within these organizations, it can be said that, unlike the SAARC, the ASEAN economic integration model has been far successful in promoting trade amongst its member states. For the SAARC, the liberalization of the economies of SAFTA signatories has been a crucial challenge. On the other hand, ASEAN has made notable progress with regards to trade liberalization, policy alignments, and intra-regional trade among Southeast Asian nations.

The specific trade liberalization challenges faced by the SAARC member states include concerns over SAFTA revenue allocation from member states, restrictive rules of origin, and negative sensitive lists. The sensitive lists adopted by SAARC member states have proven to be a significant hurdle to exportation amongst SAARC member states. This has particularly made it difficult for exports from small member states of the SAARC to enter into large markets such as India and Pakistan. Having failed to grant the application of  most favored nation (MFN) status that would have seen a significant reduction in the sensitive lists maintained by both countries, trade between these two regional powers has been problematic over the years. Notably, the trading commodities that are in the sensitive lists of a majority of the SAFTA member states have high export potential. Despite the various commitments made by SAFTA member states, countries continue to maintain long sensitive lists hence the dismal performance of SAFTA. 

In the case of ASEAN, the establishment of the AFTA agreement has provided ASEAN member states with a platform to exploit their export potential. The AFTA agreement has boosted the economies of ASEAN countries through its trade liberalization policies. AFTA has also entered into several free trade agreements with regional powers such as Australia, China, South Korea, India, and Japan. The ASEAN countries are now focused on creating an Economic Community for their member states. Notably, several countries have shown interest in being a part of the proposed ASEAN Economic Community.

It should however be noted that the massive success achieved by ASEAN’S AFTA as opposed to SAARC’s SAFTA is not flawless. For example, although ASEAN has made significant steps in eliminating tariff barriers amongst AFTA member states, Non-tariff barriers are still a key challenge to the AFTA agreement. However, when analyzing the progress made by ASEAN’s AFTA since its formation, the achievements and evolution are undeniable. ASEAN was formed in an era when interstate relations amongst Southeast Asian countries were characterized by political mistrust and strained interstate relations. Years later, the organization has succeeded in unifying its member states for a common course, an aspect that the SAARC still struggles with. 

Way Forward

If SAFTA is to become more effective and emulate AFTA’s success, the myriad of issues mentioned above needs to be addressed. First, downsizing the sensitive lists of countries in a time-bound manner will be necessary. Secondly, the issue of para tariffs needs to be squarely addressed. A starting point could be to reduce and accelerate the elimination of para tariffs on items not on sensitive lists and include para tariffs in SAFTA negotiations. Also, the non-tariff barriers to trade facing SAFTA member states need to be equally addressed like the tariff barriers. Finally, strengthening economic relations can be used to reinforce improving political relations in the region, particularly between India and Pakistan. To an extent, the success of ASEAN in achieving effective economic integration and its experience can be used as an external driver of SAARC and its SAFTA agreement.

About the author:

Dr. Srimal Fernando received his PhD in the area of International Affairs. He was the recipient of the prestigious O.P. Jindal Doctoral Fellowship and SAU Scholarship under the SAARC umbrella. He is also an Advisor/Global Editor of Diplomatic Society for South Africa in partnership with Diplomatic World Institute (Brussels). He has received accolades such as 2018/2019 ‘Best Journalist of the Year’ in South Africa, (GCA) Media Award for 2016 and the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) accolade. He is the author of ‘Politics, Economics and Connectivity: In Search of South Asian Union’

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Ramazan spirit endures amid pandemic

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This will be a sombre Ramazan, indeed, with the country under a lockdown. But the spirit of Ramazan lives on in all Muslims. Ramadan, also referred to as Ramazan, Ramzan, or Ramadhan, in some countries, is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and Muslims the world over dedicate this holy month for fasting, prayer, reflection and community.

Although most non-Muslims associate Ramazan, solely with fasting, it is believed to bring Muslims closer to God and inculcate in them qualities such as patience, spirituality, and humility. Those of the Islamic faith believe that fasting redirects one away from worldly activities, cleanses the inner soul and free it from harm. It also teaches self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate and encourage actions of generosity and charity. It is a time of self-examination and increased religious devotion.

Ramazan is a commemoration of Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation, and the annual observance of Ramazan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The Five Pillars are basic acts, considered mandatory by Muslims, namely Muslim life, prayer, concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage. Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation is believed to have taken place in 610 AD, in a cave called Hira, located near Mecca, where Muhammad was visited by the angel Jibrīl, who revealed to him the beginnings of what would later become the Qur’an. The visitation occurred on Ramazan.

Ramazan lasts from one sighting of the crescent moon to the next and the local religious authority is tasked with announcing the date. The Colombo Grand Mosque announced on Wednesday (12) that Sri Lankan Muslims will celebrate Ramazan on Friday (14). Because the Muslims follow a lunar calendar, the start of Ramazan moves backwards by about 11 days, each year, in the Gregorian calendar. Fasting from dawn to sunset is considered fard (obligatory) for all adult Muslims who are not acutely, or chronically, ill, travelling, elderly, breastfeeding, diabetic, or menstruating.

During this month, Muslims refrain not only from partaking of meals, but also tobacco products, sexual relations, and sinful behaviour, devoting themselves to prayer or salat and recitation of the Quran. The pre-dawn meal is referred to as suhur, and the nightly feast that breaks fast is referred to as iftar. During Ramazan, Muslims wake up well before dawn to eat the pre-dawn meal. This is considered the most important meal, during Ramazan, since it has to sustain one until sunset. This means eating lots of high-protein food and drinking as much water as possible, right up until dawn, after which one cannot eat or drink anything. The day of fasting ends at sunset, the exact minute of which is signalled by the fourth call to prayer, at dusk.

It is believed that spiritual rewards, or thawab, of fasting multiply during Ramazan. Muslims do not Fast on Eid, but Sri Lankan Muslims believe that observing the six days of optional fasting, that follows Eid, multiplies spiritual rewards.

Eid-Ul-Fitr is the Festival of Breaking the Fast, also simply referred to as Eid, and marks the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan, as well as the return to a more natural disposition of eating, drinking, and marital intimacy. In Sri Lanka, this Festival of Breaking the Fast is also referred to, colloquially, as Ramazan. Eid begins at sunset, on the night of the first sighting of the crescent moon. Muslims hand out money, to the poor and needy, as an obligatory act of charity, before performing the Eid prayer.

Globally, the Eid prayer is generally performed in open areas, like fields, community centres, or mosques in congregation. In Sri Lanka, the prayer is performed annually in Galle Face Green and mosques. The Eid prayer is followed by the sermon and then a supplication asking for Allah’s forgiveness, mercy, peace and blessings for all living beings across the world. The sermon encourages Muslims to engage in the rituals of Eid, such as zakat, almsgiving to other fellow Muslims. After the prayers, Muslims visit relatives, friends, and acquaintances, or hold large communal celebrations.

After prayer, Muslims celebrate Eid, with food being the central theme. Sri Lankans celebrate Ramazan with watalappam, falooda, samosa, gulab jamun and other national and regional dishes. The festivals were said to have initiated in Medina, after the migration of Muhammad from Mecca.

This year, as well as last year, Sri Lankan Muslims will have to forgo the custom of communal prayers, and celebrations, due to the ongoing pandemic, and will have to settle for private prayers and celebrations of Ramazan during this period of curfew. While these preventive measures are in place, during this year’s Ramazan, the principles of this holy month remain the same. Devout Muslims all over the world, will still be honouring this pillar of Islam, albeit from the security of their homes.

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