A Message to the SLFP Parley at Bentota Today
Posted on June 30th, 2014

by Garvin Karunaratne

I beg to request the members of parliament of the ruling party to kindly consider bringing some importance to the burning question that ailes the masses today. Our President has already established the infrastructure for development. It is necessary to take this to the next stage of developmentm by establishing small scale industries bring about employment to the rural folk and increasing their incomes and also reducing the foreign exchange commitment we face by making locally what we import.
I annex below one of my earlier paper for kind perusal.

I hope the honourable members will have the time to consider my request.
There is no prolem with funds. We can use funds already approved for development and re orient our staff for development.

A Rural Renaiussance in the Offing
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 cat supplied 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. 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 which were turned into Golden Melon Jam and Silver Melon Jam. Mangoes and Oranges were used to make fruit juice. Now the Cannery  came under the axe of the IMF- 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 and jam from Developed countries like the USA, Australia. 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. 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 a boatyard that made 40 foot seaworthy fishing boats and a crayon factory that supplies 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 to India and buy Paper in return.
That senario must cease to bring employment and incomes to our people. Will we ever learn?

Garvin Karunaratne
Former Government Agent, Matara District
9 th January 2014

Thank you all.
I know only two of you. Mr Nimal Siripala de Silva whom I met briefly on 18 th October1992 when we for hours spoke out at the University of London against the then Jayawardena Government and the open economy and Mr Vijaya Dahanayake when he was a teenage boy when I worked with his father the late Sumanapala Dahanayake when we tried hard to develop Deniyaya. We only got half way and established a handmade Crayon Factory which he developed to provide high quality coop crayon which was sold  in the entire island.
We have to be economically strong to withstand the international forces ranged against us and this message tells how we should proceed.
My thoughts are for developing our country and this message may please reach the eyes of our great leaders.
Garvin Karunaratne, former Government Agent, Matara.

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