The Way Out of the economic meltdown 
Posted on October 29th, 2022

by Garvin Karunaratne, former GA Matara

– Rahula College Matara,  a chemistry grad of Colombo and  an Member of Parliament shows us the way. 

The IMF showed us the way to live on loans, and we lived a life of extravaganze from 1978 and this paved the path for our foreign debt of $ 55billion, to service which we need $ 8 billion a year, which too  we have to borrow.

We have to get back to make things ourselves and this true story tells us the way ahead. 

Let our leaders open their eyes. 

Let me hope that our Prime Minister Dinesh will get into the boots of his grandfather Philip Gunawardena.  Once I worked under Philip and we did wonders. Let this message inspire Dinesh to get out of his sleep and get into action. Once i remember Philip visited the Tripoli Market and made a fiery speech which made Trpoli shudder. 

We need Minister Philip right now.

In the DDCP of Sri Lanka(1970 to 1977, a significant contribution was made to the DDCP by Rahula College, Matara. Thouhgh Rahula College was a secondary educational institution, far from a Universiyty, the role played by rahula College in establishing a Crayon Factory is a noteworthy contribution.

As the Government Agent of the istrict, I was in charge of implementing the DDCP in the Matara District and in order to commence a new industry I decided to try to make crayons, an item which was imported. I had a Planning Officer Vetus Fernando, a chemistry hons. graduate of the University of Colombo. He was helped by two science teachers from Rahula College and the Science Inspector, the late Major Rajapaksa. With a few evening experiments at my Residency, it was found that more science equipment was essential. I met Mr Ariyawansa, the Principal of Rahula College and requested the use of the science laboratory after school hours for our use. He readily agreed. The science lab was thereafter our domain from six in the evening to midnight every working day, when the Planning Officer helped by the Science Teachers did a myriad experiments. In two months we found the art of making crayons of unsuitable texture. The Planning Officer who had passed out of the University the earlier year, then came forward with idea of his proceeding to obtain help from his professors at the University of Colombo. He specially mentioned that the science lab at the University had better equipment that would enable success. I authorized the trip and he took off. Four days later the Planning Officer turned up, a broken down man. He explained that he had met the professors who had taught him and begged of them for help repeatedly on three days, but was turned away on the ground that they were too busy with their teaching work and correcting answer scripts. This rejection of help made us more determined and we recommenced our nocturnal activity of experiments. I myself was present on a large number of days when a myriad experiments were repeatedly done. Finally in a months’ time we found the art of making crayons. I sat by the Planning Officer finalizing the art for the crayons to be equal in quality to Reeves Crayons, the best of the day. This was achieved in a sparsely equipped science lab at Rahula College, Matara.

Then the question cropped up as to how we could establish an industry. It was a simple task for me to summon one of the industrialists in Matara- Harischandra was one of them personally known to me. However we decided that it should belong to the people and a cooperative was aimed at. I summoned Member of Parliament for Deniyaya, Sumanapala Dahanayake, who happened to be the President of the Morawak Korale Multipurpose Cooperative Union and authorized him to manufacture cooperatives using cooperative funds.. I decided on him because he could be trusted and had admirable leadership qualities in working with people. I had no authority to use cooperative funds but for the cause of national development decided to bend rules and regulations The equipment was purchased and a portion of the Morawaka Cooperatives was cleared and the katcheri staff- six of them moved in, including the Planning Officer to commence training youths to make crayons. I was present on the first few days to ensure success. The officers trained the youths day and night. It was a handmade crayon where every crayon had to be carefully done. It took two weeks, working on a 24 hour basis and Coop Crayon emerged successfully established. Crayons were made to fill two large rooms in the two weeks and the sales were declared open by the Minister for Industries, Mr T.B.Subasinghe. When Mr T.B. Illangaratne, the Minister of Trade came to know of the crayons he was surprised and even allocated funds for importing dyes, from the foreign funds earmarked for the import of crayons. Coop Crayon was a highly successful industry and was developed to have islandwide sales. It employed over fifty in production and sales. This Coop Crayon was successful under the direction of Sumanapala Dahanayake and became the flagship industry of the DDCP. It became the envy of President Jayawardena who was elected as the President of Sri Lanka in 1977. The Sirimavo Government lost the 1977 election. President Jayawardena even sent a special investigation squad to find fault with Coop Crayon and punish Sumanapala. The Deputy Director of Cooperative Development AT Ariyaratne the leader of the investigation squad concluded after a lengthy investigation that Coop Crayon was a successful, viable, profitable industry. However under IMF instructions the Coop Crayon was closed down.

Today we import endless stocks of Crayola Crayons from the USA. My blood boils in me when I see Crayola Crayons on sale in Sri Lanka today.

Garvin Karunaratne, former GA Matara 


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