A Rural Renaiussance in the Offing
Posted on January 12th, 2014

By Garvin Karunaratne

My travel to Kataragama in December 2013 took me to the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa Airport and via the new road that is being built through Lunugamvehera Tank to Kataragama.  .

I have worked stationed within Hambantota for over a year working in the Agrarian Services and Marketing Department and have covered Hambantota from Matara for another two years working on the Paddy Purchasing Scheme of the Agrarian Services Department and the Vegetable and Fruit Marketing Scheme of the Marketing Department. .  I lived in a chummery with  Vet Surgeon Balachandran and Assistant Commissioner Nanayakkara. We had to have a bath under the street tap at night or have a swim in the sea. Hambantota was easily the worst district I worked in.  There was hardly any decent restaurant other than the Rest House . That District has to be developed. The travails of the colonists at Meegahajandura detailed in my novel “Mukulita Piyumo Ayi Vana Meda Me”(Godages) and the poverty of the fishing settlements the subject of my novel “Landa Liyange Sihina Atare”(Godages) have to cease someday

My work has taken me to remote areas covered by the paddy purchasing unit- the cooperative societies that were seething with life. In my eighteen years’ of life in the Administrative Service I have seen the pulse of the people in the Dry Zone marching from a peasant economy to a commercial economy but the neglected areas were many. While the Mattala Airport has the capability of breathing life to the Hambantota District in particular  and the entire South,  the Lunugamwehera- Kataragama Road will breathe life to a section of villages that were hitherto away from communication links with the rest of the country.

To me the manner in which President Rajapaksa has dealt with foreign aid- in using it to fund development projects- like the Mattala Airport, the Hambantota Port  the Lunugamwhera Road- the massive highways tells me of a shift in the manner of using foreign aid. Hitherto, since the IMF took over the development of our country in 1977 and dictated us to follow the freemarket and the liberalization of foreign exchange, taking away the handling of foreign exchange that comes into the country from the hands of the sovereign government into the hands of the banks, the multinationals and their salesmen.  Instead of using  the foreign aid and the  foreign currency that we earn  for the development of the country and its masses we used it since 1977 to import everything  for the rich in terms of luxury imports, to fund the education of the rich children overseas, for luxury cruises and endless foreign travel for the rich. The foreign aid and foreign income was used to satisfy the luxury craze of a miniscule section of our population instead of being use for the masses. The new Strategy of President Rajapaksa  heralds to me a shift in the use of foreign exchange.

Since 1977  foreign aid was not used for the masses except in  the Mahaweli Project, the brain child of the LTTE assassinated Minister Gamini Dissanayake.

Driving along the Lumugamvehera- Kataragama mud track- which was being built, I saw mangoes in  plenty on the trees and the people, dressed in rags  in their attempt to get some income  chased behind my car with a few mangoes for sale.  It was a sheer attempt to find an income.

Every year I spend a few months in the motherland I love. At Katunayake Airport  I slump into a roadworthy rental car sent to the Katunayake  Airport by King Rent a Car at Battaramulla and clock a few thousand miles driving down the roads I drove once as an administrative officer.  Then I had the ability to listen to the people and do something for them. In  charge of the Tripoli Market, the headquarters of the Vegetable and Fruit Marketing Scheme I often ordered a fleet of lorries to Producer fairs where the entire produce was bought. In Colombo Oswald Tilekeratne another Assistant Commissioner in charge of the Cannery turned Red Pumpkin  into Golden Melon Jam, Ash Pumpkin into Silver Melon Jam. Now I listen to them and write about them in my endless Papers and novels, hoping that my writing will reach the eyes of someone in power who will be spurred to action.

My recent travel tells me that easily half the crop of mangoes goes waste today.  The Marketing Department Cannery established by us, when I served as an Assistant Commissioner, enabled that Department to offer  floor prices for Red Pumpkin and Ash Pumpkin. Mangoes and Oranges were used to make fruit juice. Now the Cannery  came under the axe of the IMF in 1978 by  the executioner of the Third World, the IMF that decided that the Public Sector should not do commerce and  the Cannery was privatized. The people of the Dry Zone that drew high incomes for their produce now cannot sell their produce.  I have repeatedly suggested that Canneries be opened in Tissamaharama and Dambulla and Anuradhapura to make fruit juice. We have melon in plenty and tomatoes that go waste. Now we import fruit juice, tomatoe sauce and jam from Developed countries like the USA, Australia. Wall this while our produce is wasted our people have no incomes. The IMF strategy is for structuring the Third World to contribute to the Developed Country  and we have to follow the IMF because we are an indebted country. That was the legacy of the UNP that accepted the Structural Adjustment Programme of the IMF.  Why do we not realize the folly of following the IMF following it so far for over three decades.

Let me hope that this Writing gets to the eyes of someone in power, The building of the Port, the Airport and the Highways is the first part of progress. Let me hope that Canneries will be set up to bring incomes to the masses that produce. Let me see Sinharaja Water for sale in Colombo.The development infrastructure of Canneries, Small industries that was all abolished by the IMF from 1977 by the United National Party has to be set up once again.

This can be done fast- in a few months if the Government Agents are activated. We established The Matara Mechanised Boatyard that made 40 foot seaworthy fishing boats and  Coop Crayon, a crayon  factory that supplied high quality crayons for a tenth of our requirements in 1971 within  three months. Our administrators can do that job. They are used to it. There was one of us that made Paper at Kotmale. Now we export Waste Cardboard some 30,000 tons every month to India and buy Paper in return.

That senario must cease to bring employment and incomes to our people. It is heartening to note that the 2014 Budget  is emphasizing import substitution, to make everything imported in Sri Lanka bringing employment and incomes to Sri Lankan youth and not creating employment and incomes to people in countries like the USA and Britain who are ranged against us to take our leaders to the War Crimes,  Coop Crayon, the Crayon factory that I as the Government Agent and Sumanapala Dahanayake the member of parliament struggled and established in Deniyaya in 1971 tells us that we can succeed in import substitution. The quality of the crayons made by Coop Crayon equalled the quality of Crayola and when I and Sumanapala showed the crayons we made to the then Minister of Industries Mr. Subasinghe he was surprised and readily volunteered to preside at the ceremony to open sales. That art of making crayons was unearthed in the science lab at Rahula College. Matara  in 1971 by  my Planning Officer Vetus Fernando working with science teachers. That success itself tells me that Sri Lanka can succeed in import substitution. But the full blast of the IMF and their lackeys the Pathfinder Foundation in Sri Lanka and their mouthpieces the economists shout from the tree tops that import substitution will derail our economic effort.(See Sunday Times 29/12). Let us asl any of them whether they have ever established any industry, import substitution or otherwise in their entire life. Let them tell us of what industries they have established before advising.

They all the economists as well as the IMF forget the man at the helm , the personage of extreme courage who delivered Sri Lanka from terrorism, a task that every Superpower  said we could not ever achieve.

Let me live in hope that President Rajapaksa will now take full charge of the economic development of Sri Lanka. As the Head of the Commonwealth he can herald development in the entire Commonwealth. He can easily show the world that Sri Lanka is the Wonder of Asia.

Garvin Karunaratne
Former Government Agent, Matara District

19 Responses to “A Rural Renaiussance in the Offing”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    Dear Garvin !!

    My late father, who retired from the General Treasury, as Deputy Controller of Establishments, was a very good friend of Mr. Tillekaratne and Mr. Alwis at Tripoli. My heart bleeds when I see you telling that people were running behind your car to sell their Mangoes, when all the while, SRI LANKA IS IMPORTING MANGOES. It is the same with all Agricultural Products. Waste, Waste, Waste. At Cheddikulam Vavuniya, I have seen Tomatoes and Cucumber thrown away, as their was no collection mechanism.

    The crux of your article is “IMPORT SUBSTITUTION “. As you live in hope, I too, do hope that your un-tiring and valiant efforts to get “ear” from the Lords of Governance in Sri Lanka, would bear fruit. Your articles are an inspiration to all Sri Lankans, except the Politicians. You have repeatedly made many inroads to highlight IMPORT SUBSTITUTION, through many, or all of your inputs to Lanka Web. May the Noble Triple Gem Bless you in all your endeavours to make Sri Lanka Import Free.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Welcome back Susantha!

    The govt. has let down its OWN people.

    Instead of wasting money on Hampantotai airport and Hampantotai international cricket stadium (matches are held only 4 days a year) govt. should have invested in a mango processing factory – jobs, income, etc.

    These people sent Mahinda, Namal, Chamal, Nirupama and George Rajapakshas to parliament and now have to run behind cars wearing rags to earn an income. CURSE!

    The people who sent Mahinda, Namal, Chamal, Nirupama and George Rajapakshas to parliamenthey also run after cars driven by LTTE Diaspora terrorists visiting Kataragama.

  3. mjaya Says:

    **Let me live in hope that President Rajapaksa will now take full charge of the economic development of Sri Lanka. As the Head of the Commonwealth he can herald development in the entire Commonwealth. He can easily show the world that Sri Lanka is the Wonder of Asia. **

    This is highly unlikely.

    As Susantha has said Sri Lanka imports mangoes, not only that, Sri Lanka also imports pineapples, papaws, guava and salt! I mentioned in a previous post that a lot of the large reservoirs are almost bone dry due to NEGLECT.

    If MR wanted to do something for SL (after the war) he would have started off by abolishing the 13A and uplifting the people who voted for him! Instead he is building Casinos and bowing down to Viggi!

    The “Wonder of Asia” has become the joke of the century.

  4. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    THANKS LORENZO !! Iam almost at my end. Nevertheless, I will appear to be with you all. Regards.

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    I will pray for your health. We need people like you NOW.

    All good things must come to an end. If end comes unexpectedly, I know you will face it boldly and happily seeing the GOOD has prevailed over BAD. Be with the patriots in spirit. Until then hang on. We have another battle in 2 months.

    We live from battle to battle.

  6. Nanda Says:

    Susantha,
    Good to hear from you after a break. I wish you the best, just to do the best for my country, with all the meritorious work I have performed in my life. This wish has worked before and will work again for you.
    Surely there will be an end for all but not now, don’t say so, there are always beings who help their mates.

  7. Chanaka B Says:

    Garvin, I think they are not foreign aid, but, foreign loans

  8. Nanda Says:

    “We had to have a bath under the street tap at night or have a swim in the sea. ”
    Good Old Days reminds me of how we worked at MDB ( Maha Salli Mankollaya as people said).

    Thank Gavin.
    A good eye opened to a blind president !
    There is hope even now , as you said, if a Jeewaka can cure him.

    Hambantota Harbour and its infra structure should be developed according to the market condition, to be competitive, not according to our competitor’s ( Singapore) advice and bribed offered. They bribed ALL ministers to not to build it.
    MR did it , full credit to him but without proper implementation of the strategy, it becomes a money waster only.

    NO ONE with a brain can understand the cricket stadium and airport, which are justified after another 5-10 years of development of Hambantota as an alternative commercial capital, not now.

  9. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    Thanks Nanda !! I will hang on to be with you all. Blessings of the Noble Triple Gem. Regards.

  10. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    The goal here is self sufficiency among the rural poor. My grandparents had a large parcel of land in downtown Colombo, in the district of Dehiwale and my Grandmother had an orchard of various fruit trees in addition to a chicken coop. She would regularly get the servants to harvest fruits that are almost ripe and then dry them with a bit of salt. They made excellent additives to curries. She would also pickle these fruits.
    If there is a way maybe these rural folk can be taught how to dry and pickle tomatoes to other vegetables including fruits such as Mango, Umberrella, etc. They could be taught to take any dry and unproductive land to transform it into small lagoons where they can farm their own fish.
    I am sure that the movement in Bangladesh called the Grameen bank system may already exist in Sri Lanka. If so it should get high priority. The Grameen bank system allows the rural poor to form their own system of loans and credits where one member gets a loan from the pool of money out of the rest of the group to start up a business or expand one. Then that person pays off the loan and another person or persons receive the seed money to invest. They are self sufficient and independent of the regular banking system.
    It has been such a success in Bangladesh among the rural poor, this system has spread to many other nations. There are proven methods for the many uses of vegetables and fruits that it is a waste to let them rot and equally there are many other methods that would elevate the rural poverty without completely relying on foreign loans which are channeled to a select few by the government. As the saying goes “Give a man a fish and he is fed for the day, teach that man how to fish and he is fed for life”

  11. Fran Diaz Says:

    Dear Susantha,

    Wish you a speedy recovery from the epidural. Hang on there – we think of you in support and wish you a speedy get well soon ! Here is a tip for help to recover body energy level, but please ask your doctor first about it. Use only tiny amounts (¼ or 1/5th of a capsule/day may suffice, according to body wt. and energy level). More is not better in this case – stick with optimum level only. Ignore dose on bottle and work out your own best dose. Take care not to overdose – under dosing is better than over dosing.

    Acetyl-L-carnitine helps the body produce energy. It is important for heart and brain function, muscle movement, and many other body processes. It is available from the net between $5 and 10. Good luck. Hope to see you around for a long time.
    Watch some comedy and laugh with some cartoons – laughter is the best medicine.

    ———–

    People running behind cars trying to sell their fruit – this is a pathetic scene from the 1950s ! Why can’t Co-operatives be formed to build canneries, co-ops for lorries to collect fruit & veg ? All this can be done at village level. If the govt can’t do it, the next best thing is Co-ops.

    Doing away with the Marketing Dept was a sort of death blow to villagers. What heartlessness.

    As always, we thank Dr Karunaratne for his sincere goodwill toward his Motherland. We wish him well in his endeavors and wish there are thousands like him for Mother Lanka.

  12. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    THANKS FRAN !! ALC is available at Pharmacies. I have seen it. I will try. Thanks for your concerns, and I will hang on to be with you all. Blessings of the Noble Triple Gem. Kind Regards.

  13. Nanda Says:

    saying goes “Give a man a fish and he is fed for the day, teach that man how to fish and he is fed for life”
    – must be a Sinhala Buddhist saying ?

  14. Fran Diaz Says:

    Susantha,

    A friend of mine tells me that Acetyl L-Carnitine with Alpha Lipoic Acid added on in the capsule (as in some products), gives the best results. My friend says that Puritan.com has this product for sale on the net if you can’t find it in the pharma stores.
    Even with this product, only small doses should be taken. Take only if and when needed.

  15. Fran Diaz Says:

    BW says “If there is a way maybe these rural folk can be taught how to dry and pickle tomatoes to other vegetables including fruits such as Mango, Umberrella, etc. They could be taught to take any dry and unproductive land to transform it into small lagoons where they can farm their own fish”. This is the best thing to do to avoid wastage and use land to the full.

    Add the common ‘biling’ fruit and raw mangoes to salt and dry in the sun on local mats. Pickles of raw or half ripe mangoes to prevent waste. Cucumbers can be pickled too as done in the west (dill pickle) after removing the soft centers.

    Vitamin C helps retain food color and acts as a partial food preservative as well.

    I have written earlier to these columns about the use of Buddhist Temple land to grow organic Soy with help from Dayakayas in those areas. Co-operatives could be formed for this purpose. The products from Soy are many, including soy milk and t.v.p.
    used to make delicious veggie burghers. Less need for cattle is obvious, in keeping with Buddhist ethics.

    ————-

    The GoSL should stop accepting illegal migrants into the country. Remove the ‘visa on arrival’ SAARC rule before Lanka is over run with illegal migrants.
    GoSL should help local rural folk recover first before attending to illegal migrant needs coming from Tamil Nadu, Pakistan and the Maldives. Or else this problem will crush Lanka, again.

  16. Lorenzo Says:

    Fran,

    The problem of ILLEGALS has worsened.

    Now not only Tamil Madu illegals we also get Maldivians, Africans, Pakistanis, other Endians and even Europeans!!

    MOST of them engage in ILLEGAL and IMMORAL activities. Wonder of Asia.

  17. Fran Diaz Says:

    Lorenzo,

    It’s that loose SAARC rule of ‘visa on entry’. Also, over enthusiasm to produce large entry numbers for Tourism.

    Generally running toward a precipice of short term prosperity. Wrong turn by GoSL in this matter.

  18. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    FRAN !! Thanks. I buy all my Vitamins from Puritan’s Pride.

  19. Fran Diaz Says:

    Dear Susantha,

    Good luck in your endeavors to better and best health, Susantha ! May you be guided well by all forces that are good and true.
    Live long and prosper !

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