Betraying our Visionary leader DS Senanayake.
Posted on July 16th, 2019

Garvin Karunaratne Former Government Agent

The vast colonization schemes of the Dry Zone, the peasantry, in thousands  that enjoyed the land,  earning bountiful crops were all due to the great achievement of our Leader, DS Senanayake, all achieved during his days as the Minister for Agriculture and Lands. It was his dream to uplift the life of the rural masses and for that purpose  he initiated a policy of granting land to the landless poor, making them partners in production and national development. His avowed aim was “not only to see that they are free from hunger an starvation but to see that they are established on land and  become self reliant and selfdependant”(Hansard: 26/2/1932:State Council of Ceylon)

His plan was not the haphazard alienation of Crown land.  He went to the extent of appointing a Select Committee of the State Council, to make any recommendations which they consider expedient and practical  for the establishment of a Scheme whereby land may be settled  on villagers and small holders and Crown land alienation or leased to villagers or small holders can be prevented  from passing into the hands of persons  other than villagers or small holders”(Hansard: 14/03/1933:Land Development Ordinance).  A Committee was duly appointed . The Committee had sittings for two years  and made submissions to the Council which were accepted. Referring to the Land Development ordinance provisions  he said that in this Ordinance we have made provision for  the protection of holdings  that is we have considered it necessary.. that when   land is alienated to a class of people to see that the land is possessed and it is very necessary that  protection should be continued for all time. It was necessary to see  that not only in the first instance  the person who got  the land  belonged to the class  to which we want the lands to go , but that the successors too belonged to that class. We felt that if we gave out right transfers  it will not be possible to protect such lands.”(Hansard: 14/3/1933” State Council of Ceylon)

He said that it was necessary to avoid what happened when freehold land was given out under British rule:”

But what happened to the jungle land up country  under the British Government  with its unfortunate laws and practices. Today  owing to the freehold given by the Government … all that land has  passed out of the possession of the people of this country.”(Statement in the State Council of Ceylon:(19/10/1933: Hansard)

He not only provided them with land, but also created the development infrastructure to enable the peasants to sell their produce by creating the Department for Development of Agricultural Marketing, which implemented  the Vegetable and Fruit Marketing Scheme and the Guaranteed Price Scheme which offered  a premium price for paddy and other cereals in short supply. The aim was to make Sri Lanka self sufficient.

It is sad that our present leaders have due to the influence of the IMF and other foreign advisors have abolished the Department for Development of Agricultural Marketing, thus depriving the peasant farmers the chance to obtain a premium price for the vegetables produced. The Guaranteed Price Scheme run first by the Marketing Department was later enlarged to the Paddy Marketing Board. The Government today purchases paddy from anyone- mainly traders, while in its heyday till 1977 purchases were made only from genuine producers. Today, the premium price offered go to the traders and not to the genuine producers.  The entire purpose of offering a premium price is lost.

Today we are seeing in progress the death knell of the colonization schemes and the bold peasantry that was built up by our leader DS Senanayake.

Our Prime Minister has come up with a programme to give freehold  on State lands that will enable the holders of the land to sell as they wish.

This is an area that was carefully looked into by Leader DS Senanayake. as quoted above.

I hope that the ideas of our founding father DS Senanayake will be kindly considered by our current leaders.  His intention was to build up a bold prosperous peasantry and having worked in the agriculture sector from 1955 to 1973 I can assure anyone that a bold peasantry was born, mainly on State colonization schemes.

Let us not destroy what we have achieved. Let not  the dreams of our founding father DS Senanayake, which brought about prosperity to the peasantry and to our country be sacrificed. This involves  the vast extents in the colonization schemes as well as allotments alienated to the landless in every district..

The problem of today is that with the abolition of the Marketing Department producers cannot get a good price for their produce. In the paddy producing areas it is the traders who collect paddy that hand over to the State under the Paddy Purchasing Scheme. Farmers have to face heavy costs for tractor ploughing and for harvesting machinery. Due to these constraints paddy producers hardly make a profit. Further there are very few avenues open for employment to the young and if freeholds are granted the holders will opt to sell their allotments. Then they will move to the shanties in the cities and become daily wage employees. There will inevitably be large scale displacement of people and ultimately a tremendous increase in poverty.

Instead  our leaders should consider the copious reasons why our founding father DS did not give freeholds on crown land. Our leaders will gain great credit if they can re establish the Marketing Department(MD) with its vegetable and fruit purchasing scheme and its Cannery. This will be a boon to the producers as well as the city dwellers because the MD had small retail shops in the cities where the vegetables were sold at rock bottom prices and thus inflation was stopped effectively. The MD Cannery even built up a trade exporting pineapple.The author was in charge of the Vegetable & Fruit Marketing Scheme for a full year based at the Tripoli Market.  In addition using the existing staff in the Land & Agricultural Deparments and the katcheris a production aimed programme can easily be implemented to produce and make what is being imported. This is something that can easily be done and this will bring great credit to the Government.

It is in the interests of the Developed Countries specially the USA to destroy our agriculture so that we will be caught in the bread trap and have to buy wheat from them. The land issue- giving freehold so that ultimately international multinationals may get hold of our productive land is another similar  trap. .Let our leaders not fall into this trap. This trap will create immense poverty in Sri Lanka. Our country is caught in a debt trap created by the IMF  which advised us to import freely, spend foreign exchange freely and fill the gap with loaned money. My publication: How the IMF Sabotahged Third World Development  details what happened. We were unknowingly led to become indebted.  If we give out freeholds on State alienated land we will be inevitably caught in a poverty trap. . 

It is reported that the freehold system has had the vision of foreign specialists. I have quoted ideas from our founding father DS Senanayake, the personage who created the United National Party. Reading through the speeches in the Hansard I find that he had done painstaking work to care for the poor. If further details are required the Government can call on the services of Government Agents who earlier worked as District Land Officers and they hold a wealth of expertise.

Let our leaders kindly think again  before it is too late.

Garvin Karunaratne
Former Government Agent
Ph.D. Michigan State University


Author of:How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka(Godagfes:2006)  & How the IMF Sabotaged Third World Development (2017: Godages/Kindle)

One Response to “Betraying our Visionary leader DS Senanayake.”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    This is a plan to enable USA to buy these lands from private individuals. It must be defeated.

    However, it will never be too late. A courageous leader can very easily reverse these (not the State to locals land transfer but the sale of land to foreigners). The problem is Sri Lanka doesn’t have any courageous leader. Such a country is destined to lose everything near and dear.

    There is too much talking/screaming/blaming going on but no one takes action; no one can take action. Sri Lanka is destined to doom and gloom. People love to hear fairytales and politicians will tell them these bedtime stories. But the reality will decide the future of the nation.

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