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hqoaOh fya;=fjka W;=f¾ m%foaYj,ska wj;ekaj meñK” ;djld,sl l|jqrej, jir 17 la mqrd Èú f.jk uqia,sï cd;slhkag” fuu l|jqrej, uQ,sl jQ myiqlï lsisjla ;ju;a fkdue;sùu ksid uy;a wiSre;djkg uqyqK §ug isÿj we;’
1990 oYlfha rcfha yuqodj yd t,a’à’à’B'h w;r weú<S .sh hqoaOh ;ju;a wjikaj ke;’ tod tu hqoaOfhka neg lE m<uq msßi jQfha o fuu uqia,sïjrekah’ ta t,a’à’à’B'h W;=f¾ m%foaYj, jdih l< uqia,sïjreka n,y;aldrfhka meh 02 lg wdikak ld,hl§ tu m%foaYj,ska n,fhka t,jd oeóu fya;=fjks’ ;u w;g wiqjq foa iu`. wUqorejka o /f.k Ôú; wdrlaIdj m;d meñKs fï uqia,sïjre mq;a;,u Èia;%slalfha ;djld,sl l|jqre fj;g .d,a jQy’
tod tfia meñKs msßi 30″000 muK jQ kuq;a wo jk úg tu msßi 127″000 wdikak msßila olajd by<f.dia ;sfí’ fuu msßi wo jk úg mq;a;,u Èia;%slalfha mq;a;,u” uqkao,u” jkd;ú,a¨j” wdrÉÑlÜgqj hk m%foaYSh f,alï n, m%foaYj, l|jqre 136 l /`§ isà’ fufia /£ isák msßfika l|jqre lsysmhl yer b;sß l|jqrej, jdih lrkakkaf.a Ôú;h b;du;a ÿlaÅ; h’ jeä msßilg ;ju;a iaÒr ksjdi ke;’ mdkSh c,h” jeisls<s myiqlï fiau fi!LH myiqlï” úÿ,sh iy orejkag ksis wOHdmkhla ,nd§fï myiqlï ,eî fkdue;’
tfia ish,a¨ isÿfõoaÈ jõjkshdj yd ukakdrï m%foaYj,ska meñKs uqia,sïjrekag úfYaI ie,ls,s ,efnk njg” hdmkh ls,sfkdÉÑh m%foaYj,ska meñK isák uqia,sïjre fpdaokd k`.;s’
w;S;fha ¨Kq f,ajd ;snQ fmfoila
ls,sfkdÉÑh” hdmkh hk m%foaYj,ska meñKs uqia,sï jreka jir 17 mqrd /£ isákqfha w;S;fha mq;a;,u m%foaYfha ¨Kq f,ajd mj;ajdf.k f.dia bkamiq w;yer oeuq ¨Kq l=Uqre bvïj,h’ wêl wõ rYañfhaÈ bvï iys; m%foaYfha WIaK;ajh wêl f,i by< hdu;a iu`. l|jqre /È isák msßia uy;a msvdjg m;a fõ’ fuu uqia,sï irKd.; msßia /`È isák m%foaYj, w;S;fha ¨Kq f,ajd ;snq kuq;a wo ojfia ¨Kq ksIamdokh fkdlrhs’ kuq;a fuu wj;eka jqjka /`§ isák l|jqrg óg¾ 200 l ÿßka m%foaYfha ;ju;a ¨Kq f,ajd mj;ajdf.k hhs’ ta ksidu tu l|jqre iys; N=ñh bx.%Sis jpkska fid,agka Iiy II kñka y÷kajhs’
fuu l|jqre foflka fid,agka tl kñka yeÈkafjk l|jqf¾ mjq,a 250 la muK jdih lrhs’ tys ck.ykh 1000 g wdikak h’
fuu msßig fuu l|jqf¾ we;af;a tÈfkod c, wjYH;d i|yd <sx folla muKs’ tajdfha c,h îug lsisfia;a iqÿiq ke;’ jeisls<s we;af;a 10 ls’ ta jir oyhlg muK fmr bÈl< tajdh’ tu jeisls<s o wo Ndú;hg .; fkdyels f,i wn,kaj mj;S’ ta ish,a,gu jvd jeis iuhg fuu l|jqr wmdhl isß .kS’ l|jqrg hk tk ud¾. c,fhka msÍ uv j.=re njg m;ajk nj fuys Èú f.jkafkda mji;s’ wjia:d .Kkdjl fï ms<sn| n,Odßkag okajd isáh;a tlajrla muKla fndr¿ lshqí lsysmhla muKla ud¾.j,g oud me,eia;r oud .sh nj ck;dj mjihs’
tu l|jqre jdiSka Tjqkaf.a u jpkj,ska ;u l|jqre Èú fmfj; .ek mjik foa fuf,i igyka lruq’
tia’tï *iQßhd Wm; ,nkafka mq;a;,u fid,agka l|jqf¾ jqjo wehf.a uõmshka ls,sfkdÉÑ mÈxÑlrejkah’ wo weh iy wef.a uõmshka mq;a;,u irKd.; l|jqf¾ jdih lrhs’ weh wo ojfia mq;a;,u *d;sud nd,sld úoHd,fha Wiia fm< yodrK isiqúhls fï wef.a y`vhs’
m%Yakj,ska msßÉp mßirhla
zzux bmÿfKa mq;a;,u l|jqf¾’ hdmkh” ls,sfkdÉÑh ux oel,d keye’ wfma wïu,d” ;d;a;,d lshkjd ta m%foaYj, wmsg” fyd| foam,;a” Ôj;ajk mßirhla ;snqKd lsh,d” kuq;a wo ug mdi,a hkak fj,d ;sfhkafka m%Yakj,ska msßÉp mßirhl b|,d’ ksoyfia wOHdmkh lrf.k hkak wo ug bvla keye’ ta foa ug ú;rla fkdfõ’ fï l|jqf¾ bkak yeu orefjl=gu fmdÿhs’
fla‘ rïidkals,sfkdÉÑfha Wm; ,enqfjls’ jir 10lg fmr fudyq fida,agka irKd.; l|jqrg meñK we;’ orejka fofofkl=f.a msfhl= jk rïidka ;ukaf.a w;aoelSï úia;r lf<a fï wdldrhgh’
zzux ls<sfkdÉÑfha b¢oaÈ l=vd fydag,hla lr,d Ôj;a jqfKa” thska ,enqK wdodhu fyd|gu we;s’ kuq;a mq;a;,fï ;sfhkafka ;r.hla’ ux oeka mq;a;,fï fydag,hl l=,shg jev lrkafka” ta ,efnk uqo,ska mjq, kv;a;= lrkak wudrehs’ kuq;a wms Ôj;a fjkak ´k’ fï l|jqf¾ fndkak” kdkak j;=r keye” jeisl<,s myiqlï fudkj;a keye’ wkka; jdrhla wms fï .ek n,Odßkag oekqï ÿkakd ;ju ta m%Yakj,g W;a;r ,enqfKa keye”
tia’ tï’ ðkakdls,sfkdÉÑfha Wm; ,enQfjls’ mq;a;,ug meñfKk úg Tyqg jhi wjqreÿ 12 lss’ ta mßirh yd fï mßirh .ek Tyqf.a y`vhs fï’
hqoaOh wdmq ksid ish,a,u fjkia jqKd
zzls,sfkdÉÑfha wfma ;d;a;g l=Uqre ;snqKd ug u;lhs” ;d;a;d fyd|g f.dú;eka l<d’ wms ld,d we|,d fyd|g ysáhd kuq;a hqoaOh wdmq ksid ta ish,a,u fjkia jqKd’ wms mq;a;,u l|jqf¾ ÿla ú¢kjd’ ;sfhk m%Yak bjrhla keye’ wmsg lrkafka l=vïudf.a ie,ls,s’ úfYaI ie,ls,s ukakdrfuka wdmq uqia,sïjrekag ú;rhs’ fudlo wmsj ksfhdackh lrk uka;%sjrfhla ;ju ke;s ksid fjkak we;s’ZZ
tiA’ tï fcß rdðka ls,sfkdÉÑfha Wm; ,nd mÈxÑj isg mq;a;,ug meñK irKd.; l|jqrelg fldgq ù isáhs’ fudyq ;u woyia oelajQfõ fï whqßks’
wms yeu ;ekskau wirKhs’
zzux újdylfhla” ug orejka fokafkla isákjd’ mq;a;,ug toaÈ ug jhi wjqreÿ 16hs’ hqoaOh ksid wmg ;snqK fiaru ke;sjqKd’ hqoaOh ke;s ojiaj, ls,sfkdÉÑfha fyd|g ld,h .; l<d’ fyd| wdodhï ud¾. wfma ;d;a;,dg ;snqKd’ mq;a;,ug toaÈ wfma ;d;a;,dg f.akak mq¿jka jqfKa we|f.k ysgmq we÷ï álhs’ wmsjhs ú;rhs’ fudlo t,a’à’à’B’ wmsj n,y;aldrfhka t<jd oud ksjdij, ;snqK foaj,a fld,a, lEjd’ wo mq;a;,fï wms ú¢kafka thg iudk ÿlla’ wms yeu ;ekskau wirKhs’
tia’tï Ndkq’ weh ls,sfkdÉÑfha Wm; ,nd we;s w;r tysÈ b;d fyd| Èú fmj;la f.jñka isáh§” hqoaOhg ueÈj thska negld Wmhd.;a ish¨ foam,u oud ;u ore u,a,ka urKfhka .,jdf.k ðú; wdrCIdj m;d m,d wd ;eke;a;shls’ weh wo l|jqf¾ Èú f.jhs’ fï wef.a y`vhs’
zzux orefjdahs ieñhhs tlal fyd`Èka ld,h .; l<d’ wmg m%Yak ;snqfKa fndafydau wvqfjka’ kuq;a ;=kafõ, ld,d” we`o,d i;=áka wms ysáhd’ orejkag fyd|g W.kajñka ysá wmg ta ish,a,u hqoaOh ksid wysñ jqKd’ wms wo fï l|jqf¾ f.jkafka mjla’
wms .ek fidhkak lsisu flfkla tkafka keye
wms .ek fidhkak wmg myiqlï fokak lsisu flfkla tkafka keye’ ta yskaod wms ;j;a wirKhs’ ta uÈjg wms bkak bvu w;S;fha ¨Kq f,ajd ;snq ia:dk’ ;o wõ rYañh ;sfnk ld,fhaÈ fuu bvu wêl f,i r;afjkjd’ tys fjki wmsg f;frkjd’ fudlo ta ldf,ag wfma orefjda WIaK;ajh wêl ùu fya;=fjka je,f`ok frda.j,g f.dÿreùu jeä fj,d ;sfhkjd’ fï tla l|jqrl /£ isák wj;ekajq iq¿ msßilf.a m%Yak muKs’
fmdÿfõ fuys jik ish¨ fokd u l|jqre Èúh ;=< fjfikafka wkka; jQ .eg¨ iuqodhhla iu`.sks’
ta .eg¨ Tjqka mq;a;,ug meñK jir 17 la f.ùhdu fjkqfjka mq;a;,u m%foaYfha ixúOdkh lr ;snq ck /,shlÈ ienejg u;= úK’ tu /,sh i|yd úis oyil muK msßila /iaj isáhy’ tys§ o fmdÿfõ ;ukaf.a m%Yak lsisjla úi|d ke;s nj;a” h<s ;uka mÈxÑj isá m%foaYhkg mÈxÑhg hdug wjYH myiqlï ilidfok f,i foia úfoia n,Odßka fj; n, lr isá fï ñksiqka tfia fkdue;skï ksoyfia ;u Èú fmj; f.jkakg uq,sl myiqlï fyda ,ndfok f,i b,a,Sï lf<a b;du;a wysxil f,isks’
- ysrdka m%shxlr chisxy
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tho;f;if nryT mjpfhpg;ghy;
Rikjhq;f Kbahj tptrhapfs; Mjq;fk; .
mDuhjGuk;> guf];ntt gFjpiar; Nrh;e;j gp.gP. me;juntt xU fhyj;jpy; nuapy;Nt jpizf;fsj;jpy; gzpahw;wpath;. murhq;f cj;jpNahfj;ij cjwpj;js;sptpl;L gaph;r;nra;ifapy; ,wq;fpa mth;> FWfpa fhyj;Jf;Fs; kfhfe;juht FbNaw;wj; jpl;lj;jpy; rpwe;j ,yhgkPl;Lk; tptrhapfspy; xUtuhdhh;.
fbd ciog;gpdhYk; rf tptrhapfSf;F cjTk; ,dpa gz;gpdhYk; gpuNjr kf;fs; kj;jpapy; gpugy;ak; ngw;w mth;> ehsiltpy; kfhfe;jutht If;fpa tptrhapfs; rq;fj;jpd; jiytuhfTk; njhpthdhh;.
Rakhfr; rpe;jpf;Fk; Mw;wiyAk; cWjpahd fUj;Jf;fisAk; nfhz;l mth;> jw;Nghja epiyikfs; Fwpj;J g+uz mjpUg;jpAk; kpFe;j NtjidAk; njhptpj;jhh;. tho;f;ifr; nryTgw;wp mthplk; tpdtpaNghJ> fle;j fhy gRikahd epidTfisNa mth; Kjypy; vLj;Jf; $wpdhh;.
“mf; fhyj;jpy; xU Njq;fha; 10 rjj;jpw;F tpw;fg;gl;lJ. gzp]; xd;W 6 rjk;. gl;lh; ghz; 40 rjk;. xU ,whj;jy; rPdp 34 rjk;. xU rjj;jpw;F %d;W thiog;goq;fs; thq;fyhk;. xU G\y; ney;ypd; tpiy 6 &gha;. xU G\y; ney;iy efuj;jpw;Ff; nfhz;Lnrd;why;> xU thuj;jpw;F tPl;Lf;Fj; Njitahd Vida ghtidg; nghUs;fis thq;fptuyhk;. tapwhur; rhg;gpl;l gpd;> ifapYk; rpwpjsT gzk; kPjkhf ,Uf;Fk;. Mdhy; ,d;W ehk; rhg;gpLtjpy;iy> Nfhg;igia ef;FfpNwhk;” vd;W mth; NtjidAld; njhptpj;jhh;.
“md;W 50 &gha; rk;ghjpj;j xU $ypahSf;F rhg;ghl;Lr; nryT$l fpilahJ. ,d;W ehnshd;Wf;F 500 &gha; rk;ghjpj;jhYk; vijANk Nrkpf;f KbahJ. tpiyfs; jpde;NjhWk; mjpfhpf;fpd;wd. vkJ tho;f;if vkJ fl;Lg;ghby; ,y;iy. vijANk jpl;lkpl KbahJ. tptrhapfs; vd;w tifapy; ehk; gy nghUs;fis thq;f Ntz;bAs;sJ. mit midj;JNk rpf;fyhd tplaq;fs;. vkf;F vJ toq;fg;gLk; vJ toq;fg;gl khl;lhJ vd;gijapl;L vtUNk njspthfj; njhptpg;gjpy;iy.”
Kd;ida fhyq;fspy; vkJ ney;iy tpw;gjw;F Xh; xOq;FKiw ,Ue;jJ. tptrhapfs; gw;wpAk; mth;fspd; ney; mWtil> tpw;fg;gLk; njhif> fsQ;rpag;gLj;jg;gLk; njhif vd;gd gw;wpAk; rhpahd fzf;nfLg;G ,Ue;jJ. ehk; vkJ mWtiliaf; $l;LwTr; rq;fq;fSf;F tpw;Nwhk;. ,ilj; jufh;fs; ,Uf;ftpy;iy. ,d;Nwh epiyik khwptpl;lJ. ney;iy tpw;gJ njUeha;r; rz;il Nghyhfptpl;lJ. mw;g gzj;jpw;F ney;iy tpw;Wtpl;L Mj;jpuj;Jld; tPL nry;y Ntz;bAs;sJ. vk;kplj;jpy; NghjpasT gzKkpy;iy> czTkpy;iy. MfNt> VjhtJ $yp Ntiy nra;J rk;ghjpf;f Ntz;ba eph;g;ge;jj;jpw;F js;sg;gl;Ls;Nshk;;.”
“xU Vf;fhpy; new;nra;if Nkw;nfhs;s vt;tsT gzk; Njit vd;W cq;fSf;Fj; njhpAkh? xU Vf;fUf;fhd coT ,ae;jpuf; fl;lzk; 5>000 &gha;. fpUkpehrpdp> cuk;
Nghd;wtw;wpw;F Vfg;gl;l nryT Vw;gLfpwJ. ifapy; kpQ;Rk; gzNkh kpff; FiwT. mjdhy;jhd;> tptrhapfs; ,g;NghJ rhg;gpLtjpy;iy> Nfhg;igia ef;Ffpwhh;fs; vd;W $WfpNwd;. tptrhapfs; kd;dh;fshf tpsq;fpa xU fhyk; ,Ue;jJ. Mdhy;> ,g;nghOJ mth;fs; eha;fistplf; Nftykhf miyfpwhh;fs;.”
“vkJ fbd ciog;gpw;fhd tUkhdk; ehSf;F ehs; Fiwe;Jnfhz;Nl NghfpwJ. Mdhy;> nryTfNsh Jhpj fjpapy; mjpfhpf;fpd;wd. ,J Vd; vd;gij vd;dhy; Ghpe;Jnfhs;s Kbatpy;iy. ,J epahakw;wJ. ,J Ntz;Lnkd;Nw kiwKfkhf Vw;gLj;jg;gl;l epiyik vd;Wjhd; vz;zj; Njhd;Wfpd;wJ. tho;f;ifr; nryT mjpfhpg;G vd;gJ 1970fspy; gbg;gbahf Muk;gkhd xd;whFk;. mJ ,d;W fl;Lg;ghbd;wpj; njhlh;fpwJ”. vd;W jdJ Mjq;fj;ijf; nfhl;bj;jPHj;j me;juntt njhlh;e;J fUj;Jj; njhptpf;ifapy;> “jhuhs nghUshjhuf; nfhs;ifNa vy;yhtw;wpw;Fk; fhuznkd mth;fs;; Fw;wQ;rhl;Lfpd;wdh;. Mdhy;> elg;gJ vd;dntd;W ehkwpNthk;. mtrpak;w tplaq;fspy; mth;fs; gzj;ij tpuakhf;Ffpd;wdh;. ney;iy tpw;W ghy; kh> \k;G> ifalf;fj; njhiyNgrp> thridg; nghUs;fs; vd;gtw;iw mth;fs; thq;Ffpd;wdh;. ,e;j ehl;by; cw;gj;jp nra;tij tpw;W> mj;jpahtrpakw;w etehfhpf gz;lq;fisNa ehk; thq;FfpNwhk;. vJ NjitahdJ> vJ Njitaw;wJ vd;gij jPh;khdpf;Fk; xOf;ff; fl;Lg;ghL vkJ ehl;ltUf;F ,y;iy. ,JNt gpur;rpidf;Ff; fhuzkhFk;” vd;W Fwpg;gpl;lhh;.
“rpy rkaq;fspy;> tpiy mjpfhpg;Gf;fs; Ntz;Lnkd;Nw Vw;gLj;jg;gLfpd;wd. th;j;jfUf;Fk; ghtidahsUf;Fk; ,ilapyhd cwTfis Muha;e;J ghh;j;jhy; ,J njspthfg; GydhFk;. fpuhkg;Gwq;fspYs;s kf;fs; kPJ njhlh;r;rpahf Rikfs; jpzpf;fg;gLfpd;wd. Rw;Wg;Gwf; fpuhkq;fSf;Fg; nghUs;fis toq;Ftjw;fhf rpwpa efuq;fspy; ,aq;fpte;j filfSk; Ngf;fhpfSk; gbg;gbahf kiwe;J tUfpd;wd. Gj;jsk; tPjpapy; nehr;rpahfk njhlf;fk; mDuhjGuk; tiuAs;s gFjpiag; ghh;j;jhy;> xU fhyj;jpy; rpwg;ghf ,aq;fpa Ik;gJf;F Nkw;gl;l filfs; ,g;nghOJ %lg;gl;Ls;sijf; fhzyhk;. fil itj;jpUe;jth;fsplk; ,J gw;wpf; Nfl;lhy; tpahghuk; Fiwe;Jtpl;lJ vd;Wk;> kf;fs; flidj; jpUg;gpf; nfhLg;gjpy;iy vd;Wk;> fhuzk; $Wfpd;wdH” .
njhy;nghUspay; jpizf;fsj;jpy; Ntiynra;J Xa;T ngw;w lgps;a+ gpajhr vd;gth; ,g;NghJ jdJ kfdpd; filiag; nghWg;Ngw;W elj;Jfpwhh;. flid kPl;f Kbahj fhuzj;jpdhNyNa jdJ kfd; fil elj;Jtijf; iftpl;ljhf mth; $Wfpwhh;. vdpDk;> flidj; jpUg;gpf;nfhLf;fhj thbf;ifahsh;fisg; gw;wp mth; mjpfk; Fiw$wtpy;iy. “,e;j kf;fs; Vkhw;Wg; Ngh;topfs; my;yh;. grpapd; fhuzkhfNt mth;fs; flDf;F nghUs; thq;Ffpwhh;fs;. flidj; jpUg;gpf;nfhLf;f mth;fsplk; gzk; ,y;iy. ,g;NghJ$l mth;fs; vd;Dld; NgRtjw;F ntl;fg;gLtjpy;iy. mNefkhNdhh; filf;F te;J rpwpa ghy; kh gf;nfl;fisf; Nfl;fpwhh;fs;. ngUk;ghyhd ghy; kh tiffs; ,g;nghOJ rpwpa gf;nfl;fspy; fpilf;fpd;wd. nghpa 400 fpuhk; gf;nfl;Lf;fs; kpfTk; mhpjhfNt tpw;fg;gLfpd;wd. mtw;iw thq;Ftjw;F kf;fsplk; gzk; ,y;iy” vd;W jpU. gpajhr $wpdhh;.
“ehd; ,g;NghJ toikahd ghy; kh gf;nfl;fis nfhz;LtUjpy;iy. tpw;f Kbahj nghUs;fis nfhz;LtUtjpy; mh;j;jkpy;iy. fUthL thq;Fgth;fs; toikahf 50 fpuhk;jhd; Nfl;fpwhh;fs;. [hk;> Nrh];> jfuj;jpyilj;j kPd; Nghd;w tpiyAah;e;j nghUs;fis ehd; filapy; itg;gjpy;iy. md;whlr; nryTfisr; rkhspg;gjw;Fk; ehd; ngw;w flid milg;gjw;Fk; rpwpjsT gzj;ijr; rk;ghjpg;gjw;FNk filia %btplhky; njhlh;e;J elj;JfpNwd;” vd;W mth; njhptpj;jhh;.
re;ij $Lk; ehl;fspy; fha;fwp tiffisAk; Vida ehl;fspy; I]; fpwPikAk; tpw;Wg; gpiof;Fk; Nghg;gNf yhy; vd;gtUlDk; ciuahbaNghJ. “JTk; xU tho;f;ifah? ,J cz;ikapy; euf tho;f;if” vd;W mth; mq;fyha;j;jhh;. “vdJ kidtpia kj;jpa fpof;fpw;F mDg;gptpl;Nld;. ,g;nghOJ VNjh tpahghuk; nra;J gpiof;f Kaw;rp nra;fpNwd;. fhiyapy; vOe;jJk; J}u ,lq;fSf;Fr; nrd;W Njq;fha;> Nrhsk;> <ug; gyhf;fha; Kjypatw;iw thq;fpte;J re;ijapy; tpw;fpNwd;. vd;dplk; Nkhl;Nlhh; irf;fps; xd;W cs;sJ. Mdhy;> mjw;Fg; ngw;Nwhy; Njit. ngw;NwhYf;Fg; gzj;ijr; nrytpl;lhy; tpahghuj;jpy; ,yhgk; ngwKbahJ. Kjypy;> xU fil itj;jpUe;Njd;. thlif nfhLf;f Kbahjjhy; mjidf; iftpl;Ltpl;Nld;. mt;tg;NghJ tPjpNahuj;jpy; itj;J kuf;fwp tpahghuk; nra;fpNwd;. Nrhsk; ed;F tpw;gidahfpwJ” vd;W mtH jdJ epiyikia tpsf;fpf; $wpdhh;.
Filed under: Uncategorized
Families living in Ingiriya driven by poverty turn to illicit liquor as a means of surviving
The quality of life for the 40,000 people in and around the estates of Perth, Anduru, Raigam and Anduragala in Ingiriya are nothing to brag about.
In some homes as many as five families including the married children live in the same house. These people have 10 or 12 children. They manage their daily expenses, on the money they earn by working on the estates and also by working as labourers.
Most of the parents and even the children in the area are addicted to illicit liquor – kassippu which has plagued the lives of those in these families. While children in these estates suffer from malnutrition, the majority of the men and women have been reduced to walking skeletons.
The children languish at home without any schooling and follow in the footsteps of their parents, and become accustomed to consuming alcohol and resort to stealing plantains or coconut from the nearby gardens and sell them to earn money.
Having not attended school and being unable to write R. Shivarani (33) says, “I am married for the second time. The previous man died after drinking illicit liquor. Most people here are not legally married. I pluck tea at the estate while my husband plucks coconuts, to earn money. My husband has two children from his previous marriage. We cannot send them to school because we have no birth certificates for them. I have a child too who has a birth certificate.”
Ravanan Pushpalatha (29) is Shivarani’s sister she too is uneducated as well and claims they are unable fall asleep at night, unless they consume kassippu.
“It was our mother who taught us to drink,” she says. “Now, we cannot do without it. My elder sister and I both go to work on the estate. If we do not drink a little in the morning, we cannot pluck the tea leaves. I have not married legally although I have a spouse and three children. The children live with his mother and he works as a labourer.
Although A. Madhuraveeran lives amongst these people he is someone who does not consume illicit liquor.
“My uncle, grandfather and grandmother died after consuming “kassippu“. When my uncle died he was 24 years old. My Grandmother was 42 and my Grandfather was 45 when he died, and because of this I do not drink,” says A. Madhuraveeran. “ I am legally married. I have not been to school either and can’t read. However, I do have a national identity card. My son is three and a half years and we are considering sending him to a Sinhalese school.”
Speaking on the plight of the people in Ingiriya, Secretary, M.G.G.F. Dharmasena said, “I accept the fact that there are many without national identity cards living around the estates. Once, the Police and the Grama Sewa Officer put into effect a special process to issue temporary identity cards, I will make arrangements to issue permanent identity cards.” He said, “the Police who have to take action regarding the increasing menace of alcohol in the area. We have totally suspended those who come to office to carry out their duties, after consuming alcohol. The Samurdhi Authorities have teamed up with the Social Welfare Division and are in the process creating awareness among these families.”
Chief Police Inspector, Chameera Thilakaratne, Ingiriya OIC said many raids were conducted in connection with this matter, in conjunction with the national drive to reduce alcohol consumption and taken into custody persons as well as articles and produced in Courts.
“To a great extent poverty and ignorance are the main causes for the consumption of illicit liquor. As the hawkers of “kassippu” get children to participate in their business activities, the children unknowingly get into the habit of consuming liquor. A plan is needed to deal with this situation. Birth certificates or related documents should be prepared for these children of school going age and they should be directed to a vocational training institution. If a methodical plan is not followed it is possible that this will become a massive social problem in the future,” he said.
Adding that the attention directed towards the protection of these children have been overlooked to a great extent by their parents. This has also become one of the reasons that the children are on the wrong path.
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The district of Hambantota is home to many talented and enterprising women who use their skills and talents to engage in self employment, helping them to support their families or supplement earnings of their spouses.
For these women it’s a life of many obstacles to contend with. The Hambantota
‘Women’s Action Committee’ has 35 active members. Each member received Rs.1,500 to start up a productive enterprise of their choice. The main activities that have been embarked on are – home garden plots of vegetables, flower and ornamental plant nurseries, manufacturing sweet meats, sewing and the sale of clothes for children and adults.
Unfortunately they cannot obtain optimum returns for their hard work due to the readily available imported items such as cheap confectionary and others that constitute of competitive alternatives.
The chairperson of the committee Sumithra Dissanayake of Ikkalpallama – Gonagamuwa
said, “ we cultivate gotukola and other green leaves and long beans in our home plots in addition to flower plants. We go to the lakes in Tissamaharama to collect Bulrush and make mats and other types of boxes, coin purses and such items. But our people prefer the same items that are made in Korea and China, to our local products.”
The grievance of Pushpa Sriyani of Ikkalperuma has a pointed message to those who champion micro credit as a means of poverty alleviation. “I go to Colombo to bring material of quality to sew children’s garments which are more durable than those available in the market. My problem is that I don’t have a proper sales outlet. I can develop my business if I have more capital to invest. Private banks do not lend us money,” she said.
This situation she says has discourages these enterprising women from even opening a bank account, “besides they all want guarantors,” she adds.
G.Somi nona who is 47-years old produces a range of products out of bulrush including mats, and other items. She has even produced items using discarded materiel. “There is no real market for my products as people prefer imported plastic substitutes to mine,” she says. Her other problem is that she too has no access to an established sales outlet.
Kulapathi Wijesinghe grows a variety of flower plants and uses her skill to do various arrangements. But sadly people opt for plastic flowers and plants to the natural variety she laments. Chandra Galappathy, the secretary of the ‘Women’s Society’ living in Yodakandiya started a project to grow local grains and sew clothes. She also makes oil cakes, kokis and various sweet meats preferred by Sri Lankans.
What she lacks is the facility to pack them in attractive wrapping. Chandra Gapapathy feels the government should consider helping them in a manner that allows them to mass produce these items and market them.
The District Secretary of Tissamaharama said there were many women with such entrepreneurial skills of this nature in Tissamaharama, but admitted the facilities offered to them were in adequate.
Note by Editor: Chandra Galapathy of Yodakandiya in that remote corner of the Ruhunu Rata has a point. Colombo supermarkets sell Kokis in packs of ten priced at Rs. 150/= Oil cakes are also available in some places in Colombo at Rs.30/= per piece. During the Sinhala and Hindu new year all leading Super Market chains had special counters with dressed up sales girls in Jacket and Cloth offering every kind of traditional sweet meats. I bought five of each item except for Kalu Dodol which was in the shape of a fairly large Sausage and the total cost exceeded Rs.1000.
Filed under: ABOUT GROUNDVIEW
G ROUND V IEW is a bi-monthly publication in Sinhala, Tamil and English that reflects the socio economic issues that have a direct impact on the quality of life and the aspirations of all communities who live outside the Western Province and those marginalized sections of the populace within the Western Province
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Text and Photographs – Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe
“We donated our lands to the Thermal Power Station. But the Government cheated us,”
lamented the crowd who were gathered near the main entrance of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant that was being constructed, in the scorching sun holding their children.
In March last year, the Government, relocated residents from the Naarakkaliya and Paniadiya areas in order to construct the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant. They acquired close to 300 houses and as a result they had to evict 68 families living in this area.
These people who were thus evicted, had to be resettled in a housing scheme constructed in the Maampuriya, Nirmalapura areas, through the intervention of the Minister of Power and Energy, John Seneviratne..
The Electricity Board said the cost of each house was Rs.1.2 million. These houses consist of a living room, two bed rooms, kitchen and a toilet each. In addition, a well was also constructed on the land which was 20 perches in extent.
Likewise, every house was supplied with electricity. And each house was promised a television set and electrical home appliances. These people who were deprived of their lands, were given a two acre land per family in an area in close proximity to Nirmalapura. However, the walls of the houses have begun to crack and the doors and windows are in a dilapidated condition.
At the same time, the officers in charge of this housing scheme had to replace the timber used for the roof of the houses with new timber as they were infected with termites.
Even the furniture provided has been built using a low quality timber and has been attacked by termites as well.
Last weekend when residents arrived to clear their lands, men who arrived in vans assaulted them and warned them not to return claiming ownership of such lands.
Subsequently, they began their protests at the front of the Norochcholai coal power plant. As the approach road in front of the entrance to the Coal Power
Station was blocked for about 3 hours, vehicles entering and leaving the Power Station premises were unable to move.
Finally, the Officer-in-Charge of the Kalpitiya Police Station, Inspector Lakshman Ranwala Arachchi arrived at this location and following a discussion arrived at an agreement.
GroundView also caught up with some of the areas residents who came out to protest.
Secretary of the Community Development Society of Daluwa, Maampuriya, Nirmalapura, Lourdhu Maatha – Lionel Warnakulasuriya
“We moved out, losing all our houses and land allowing the Power Station to be constructed believing that the Government will provide us with all facilities. However the houses that were constructed for us are in a very bad state.
Although we informed the authorities of the shortcomings of the houses, we have not yet received any positive response,” he says.
“The Power Station acquired, more than 02 acres of my land with more than 200 coconut trees I had. But we received a land with only mountains of sand. It will cost more than two hundred thousand rupees to bulldoze the land. I decided to start clearing the land last week when a group of persons who arrived in a van, pulled me away and assaulted me. We face uncertain situation now,” he said.
“We have not received any of the facilities that we were told would be given to us. In addition, the beds, tables and chairs that were given are infested with weevils. Its because the authorities are cheating us that we decided to protest at the Power Plant,” she said.
Ms. P. Lalitha
“Although we lived at Naarakkaliya in cadjan thatched houses, we were happy. Today, when it rains, our houses get wet, as if we have been caught in a flood. The tiles that have been fixed to the roof are poor and the rain seeps in. In addition, the walls of the houses are cracked,” she says.
Ms. R. Nageshwari
“There is no place to even follow our religious beliefs, in this housing scheme. So, we take part in religious activities in a small place constructed out of cadjan,” she, says.
Kalpitiya District Secretary, M.H.M. Riyaldeen expressing his views on the situation said, “The lands that were given to these Nirmalapura residents belong to two District Secretariat divisions. That is, Kalpitiya, Mundalama. We have paid compensation for the land belonging to Kalpitiya and finalised the acquisition. However, we have not yet finalized the payment of compensation for the land at Mundalama. I feel that the previous owners of these lands, would have threatened the Nirmalapura residents. We sort out this matter regarding the land,” he said.
Electricity Board Engineer in charge of the housing schemes construction, Mr. Bamunawala, accepted the fact that there were many shortcomings in the housing project and said higher officials should be contacted for a comment.
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With the much celebrated liberation of the East, the residents of the Eastern province no doubt had the most cause for celebration, as the impact of this liberation would surely be the most beneficial for those who live under the threat of a terrorist organisation for over two decades.
The reality of the situation was however to be a stranger to their hopes, as no sooner had the Tigers been cut off armed gangs belonging to several unofficial groups now roam the East, making life once again difficult for the beleaguered residents of the East.
Murugiah Ashok Kumar, husband of Ashok Kumar Chandra Gowrie of 69/10 Uppuveli in Trincomalee is a vegetable vendor who was abducted on October 1 last year while tending his stall. His wife states that to date there is no information about him.
‘My husband was in conversation with two of his friends at his stall. A white van approached. A little while later, the van came up to our stall, grabbed my husband, pushed him in to the van and drove off. I looked for my husband all over, but everybody denies responsibility,” Gowrie said while holding her one month old daughter close to her chest.
Thirty two year old Kanagasingham Logeswaran of No. 30, Linga Nagar was abducted at the Linga Nagar Bus Stand on February 8. His wife Logeswaran Gunaseeli says there is no news about him up to date. “While my husband and I were waiting at the bus halt, a white van came and stopped near us. We thought that the van belonged to someone known to us. Three people alighted from the van and forced my husband into it. The van proceeded towards Trincomalee town without even stopping at the check point. It is only vehicles belonging to the Army or the Police that do not stop at checkpoints and this allayed my fears. Later, I went and made a complaint at the Police, but I was told that neither the Police nor the Army had taken him. So what more can I do?,” says Logeswaran Gunaseeli, while her one year old watches the tears roll down his mother’s cheeks, perhaps unaware of the impact this event could have on his life.
“My husband died when my son was very young and I brought him up with great difficulty. It is my son who later looked after me. Last February around 7.30 in the night my son was abducted in a Canter Van. There were about fifteen people in the van. I pleaded with them to release my son. But they pushed me aside and took my son away,”sobbed Shivananda Sulochana of Kanniya Bharati Puram as she recounted that awful day. Though she has complained to the Uppuveli Police and the Human Rights Organisation, there has been no trace of her son.
Abductions have been reported not only from the Trincomalee town area, but from distant places like Kantalai as well. On December 10, 20-year-old Alagan Shivakumar of No. 529, Unit 2 was abducted in a three wheeler.
“At around 12 in the afternoon, some persons who came in a three wheeler and a motor bicycle asked him whether he was Shivakumar. My brother said that it was our younger brother, then they left. My brother had then left to the boutique. Some bystanders had seen my brother being taken away in a three wheeler. We looked everywhere, but to date we have not been able to find him, nor is there any news about him,” his sister, Alagan Mallika told Groundview.
Twenty year old Theodore Christopher of School Street, Ambuwellipuram was abducted on the morning of Independence day last year. The next time his wife saw him was in March of that year and that was as a corpse with a bullet wound in his head.
She says, “Two others were also taken along with my husband. We made complaints everywhere and at each place we were told that there is no such person in custody, and finally we found his corpse. He was wearing the same set of clothes that he was in at the time of his abduction. I am expecting – who will my child call father?,” she asked sadly.
In October last year, an armed group broke into No. 60/16 St. Anthony’s Street at Palayuthu in Trincomalee and abducted S. Varaksham who was fast asleep along with his wife and children.
“My husband was a welder. He came home tired after work and we were all sleeping. This gang who abducted him came around 8.30 p.m. or so and they took him away,”his wife said.
Thiyagu Umavani of Alleswatta in Trincomalee says she received information that her husband was taken away in a white van while he was at work. Munandi Thiyagu, her husband was twenty eight years old at this time and was resident with her at Alleswatta. ‘We went to several places including the Human Rights Organisation and the Red Cross. So far, we have no information whatsoever, whether he is dead of alive. If he has committed some crime don’t kill him – send him to prison for life,” says Umavani while kissing his photograph.
Gerard Jatli Martin, a twenty six year old father of one and the son of Gerard Leslie Martin of 114, 3rd Mile Post, 2nd Lane was kidnapped in a white van on January 28, while he was working in a rock quarry at the third Mile Post. “That is what some people who were working there told me,” says Gerard Martin. “I went to the Police, the Army Camp and even Karuna’s office, but there is no information about my son,” he said.
Velupillai Sinnathurai of the EPRLF states that most of these abductees were strong supporters of the Tigers and are in some way or the other responsible for the incidents that take place in and around Trincomalee.
It was revealed to Groundview by a TMVP operative in their Trincomalee office that they have laid down arms and returned to the democratic path. “We have weapons only to protect ourselves from the Tigers. We are quite aware that the Tigers and other political forces are blaming us for these abductions as part of their political strategy. If the general population believed that we were responsible for these abductions, could we have won at the recently concluded Local Government Elections. We categorically state that this is all false propaganda,” he said.
Groundview made inquiries about the abductions and murders from the Senior Superintendent of Police, Trincomalee, Kithsiri Dayananda. He said that most of these incidents take place where there is no police and army presence.
‘Many of these abductions have been reported from remote villages. We try as much as possible to contain these incidents. We have set up posts in many of the remote highways and I have advised the officials working under me to try and stop these incidents,” he said.
The District Representative of the Human Rights Organisation said the abductions and killings in the Trincomalee District have reached alarming proportions. In January alone they received reports of eight abductions, five missing persons, and one death. In February the figures were 12 abduction 12 missing and four killings. At the end of last year 95 complaints of abduction, 90 missing persons and 56 killings were reported.
The representative went on to stay that while inquiries were made regarding these incidents from the Army and the Police, no such inquiries could be made from the several armed groups operating in the area.
‘Whenever there is an abduction. or someone goes missing, we make inquiries from the Government security forces. From our inquiries it appears that the security forces are not involved in these incidents. We are not in a position to make inquiries from the armed groups. If the security forces pick up someone they inform the Police. The Police in turn inform us. We can’t expect that from the armed groups operating in this area. There are also occasions when those who had gone missing turned up at a later date. The latest incident was where a woman complained that her husband had gone missing. We made inquiries from the Police. What we learned was that he was residing in a different area along with his mistress. There are also occasions when those who were reported as missing have in fact gone abroad,” she said.
While it is not unusual that human rights are violated in a country with a long history of civil strife, such actions cannot be condoned during times of peace. There appears to be no escape from the Human rights violations perpetuated by armed gangs.
‘If our children have committed any offences, put them in prison, instead of killing them like stray dogs. Karuna and his group were also guilty of criminal acts, but the Government has now forgiven them – then why can’t our children also be forgiven,” asked Gerard Madivadini, the mother of Gerard Leslie.
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For the first time fishermen of multi day fishing vessels along the Trincomalee Codbay and other fishing harbours abandoned work and went on strike to protest of foreign fishing vessels that unloaded their catch at the harbour.
The local fishermen claimed that these fishing vessels belonging to foreign companies had connections with government ministers which enabled them to unload their catch at the harbour and send them to the local market. As a result local fishermen are unable to get a reasonable price for their catch.
“We go to sea in multi-day vessels which cost us around Rs 7 million. We also spend more than Rs. 5 lakhs on each trip. After spending so much, what is the point if we cannot get a proper price for our catch?. Fish that cost around Rs. 350 to 400 per kilo, when we set out to sea is worth only Rs. 200 when we come back to land. The reason is that ship companies which have ties with Ministers, unload their catches of tuna from several months at sea and then the prices of fish drop at once. There are plenty of vessels bearing fish harvests on the market,” said R.P. Anurasiri, a multi-day fishing vessel owner in Trincomalee .
Local multi-day fisher folk claim they have been deprived of the foreign market due to permission being granted to these foreign fishing firms exporting tuna fish via local harbours.
The fisherman point out that allowing foreign ships to fish in local waters as well as giving them the freedom to use our fishing harbours was a dire injustice to the fishing community of thecountry.
These multi-day fishing vessels which target mostly the foreign markets in Japan and Korea only catch tuna fish for export. The fish that is exported from Sri Lanka is highly valued. However, the fishermen point out, that the tuna fish that is unloaded from foreign fishing vessels are bought at reduced prices by the fish exporters and also mixed together with the fish harvest of local fishermen and exported to these countries. Hence the quality of the local fish which made a name for itself automatically drops.
“The fish we catch is given directly to fish exporting companies. Usually the rate that the companies specify for a kilo of tuna is between Rs. 400 – 450. Approximately six persons work on a tank boat. Each trip costs more than Rs. 500,000,” said Priyantha Fernando of Thoduwawa.
“ However after they started unloading fish from foreign vessels, we do not even get as much as Rs 200 per kilo for our fish. Not only the government but even the Fisheries Minister does not comment about this. It is the duty of the Fisheries Minister to solve the problems we have,” he adds.
Tyronne Felix, a Fishermen in the Negombo area said, “if the Government specifies a fixed price for a kilo of fish we would not be bothered about how much is being unloaded. What happens is, as soon as the fish from the ships arrive, the market for our harvest reduces considerably. Then what we are compelled to selling our fish at a loss, to companies. At the same time, as fish can be bought at lower prices from these foreign ships, fish exporting companies do not buy from us.”
Many fishermen were of the opinion that the quality of the foreign fish being unloaded at the Mutwal Fisheries harbour was very poor. They said since the fish was stored in frozen conditions for months, it tends to spoil quickly once brought to land.
“Our fish is stored only for a maximum of fifteen or twenty days. But this fish is about two to two and half months old. This fish is not bought by other countries and we are not allowed to unload them there either,” points out Mr. Felix.
A Trincomalee fishermen of a multi day vessel, W.P.Damith Rangana commenting on the situation said, “allowing foreign vessels to use our coastal areas and our harbours, is depriving our country of foreign exchange as well as driving local fishermen to destitution.”
When protesting fisherman where approached they said, “we decided not to go to sea until the government gives us a fair solution. However now that there seems to be a better outlook we have temporarily suspended our decision. We have already informed the vessels that have gone out to the deep sea to be ready to return to land and to fight against this decision, as soon as they are informed.”
We have allowed the government time until the March 18 to take a decision. We challenge either the Fisheries Minister or the Deputy Minister to a public debate with us. We can come to any television channel and strip these ministers and expose the reality to the country. We ask the President whether, the Mahinda Chinthanaya means, getting rich with other people’s wealth…” said a multi-day vessel owner in Trincomalee, Sumith Jayalal.
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Many Sri Lankans today have one question on their minds and it has nothing to do with the ongoing civil conflict or the poitical issues, the question is not even the pressing social issues of finding better jobs, good schools for children, or even planning for the future, instead it is about how does one survive.
This situation is more apparent in Trincomalee than anywhere else. A city where people have faced harsh living conditions for years, than those living in other parts of the country, their economic and social hardships for years being further compounded by the real threat of sudden and brutal injury or death caused by the incessant war raging in their very own backyards on the one hand, and natural disasters of catastrophic proportions on the other.
Just when things could not seem to get any worse for them, spiraling inflation and the cost of living have now focused all of their energies into nothing but basic survival – a survival so basic, that even three square meals a day are slowly slipping out of their reach.
Three-wheeler drivers are among the hapless daily wage earners who are buckling under the cost of living. ‘When the price of fuel increases – we have to increase our fares. When this happens more people opt to walk short or even longer distances, saving the Rs. 50 or Rs. 80 they would normally pay us,” lamented Thushara Nixon, a three-wheel driver from China Bay.
He pointed out that following the 2002 ceasefire, with the attending increase in tourist arrivals they were able to earn as much as Rs. 4,000 a day, enabling many of them to buy a second three-wheeler, construct homes and in general raise their standard of living. Even after that, the initial boom following the ceasefire they were able to earn between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 1,500 day, says Nishantha, but today, they are hard put to even earn Rs. 100 a day.
They find it difficult to pay the lease on the vehicle, often pawning jewellery which they then cannot afford to redeem. ‘Customers often haggle with us over the cost of the fare and when we cannot lower our fares any more they decide to walk. The roads are in a dilapidated state and the tyres get wasted in no time, but with the cost of tyres having risen so drastically, we cannot afford to replace them,” he continued.
Many others like Nishantha began building their homes when they imagined that only good times were ahead. These projects, began when a bag of cement cost Rs. 350 and masons charged Rs. 500. However these plans have now been abandoned since a bag of cement costs Rs. 650 and masons charge Rs. 1,200 as daily wages.
A common complaint that was echoed was that while earlier people could stretch out a their salaries to last the whole month, but today that is no longer possible, as in the case of R. Premajayantha, an employee of the IOC Company in Trincomalee. ‘Prices of essential items are increasing almost daily. A packet of milk which was just Rs. 165 last month has gone up to Rs. 200 this month. I need 10 packets of milk a month for my house. Although I work in Trincomalee my home is in Kandy. With the ever increasing bus fares my monthly bus fare alone is Rs. 3000.
‘Earlier our salaries were increased with every point increase in the cost of living index. Now it is revised only once every four months – whereas it should be revised every week considering the present situation. With all these price increases my salary only lasts half the month now. Yet, how can I not give my children milk and how can I not go home?” he laments.
Premajayantha and others like him complain that since there is no corresponding wage increase to keep pace with the racing rate of inflation and skyrocketing cost of essential items, they have to resort to borrowing money.
Due to inflation, interest rates on borrowings are also extremely high, leading to a vicious cycle, thrusting middle income earning families ever deeper into the clutches of debt. But as they point out, they continue to borrow money because they can’t let their families starve.
The common consensus is that traders being the middlemen in a market economy are most likely to profit from such a scenario. The traders however are quick to dispel any such illusions.
Nishantha Hewamanna, a petty trader at the fourth mile post in Trincomalee pointed out that once he pays for transport costs and his workers’ wages, he is left with hardly any profit. “It’s true that price increases don’t stop people from eating – but it definitely reduces the quantity of food they purchase,” he told GroundView.
“People who bought half a kilo of vegetables earlier now buy only a quarter kilo. It’s true that vegetable prices are subject to fluctuations – especially with good harvests or increased imports of vegetables like big onions and so on – but the price increases far out run the decreases,” he says.
Many vegetable traders buy their stocks from mass wholesale locations such as Dambulla. When fuel costs increase, transporters charge by the bag when it comes to transporting the vegetables to other parts of the country.
With the current security situation, bags are unloaded several times on the way to their destination so that lorries could be checked, and labourers have to be paid for this task every time. Traders have no choice but to pass on these accumulated costs to consumers by charging more for the vegetables.
“With the increased costs, consumers too take extra care over their purchases and choose every item of vegetable very carefully. This results in waste as they do not buy vegetables which are even slightly bruised, and a portion of vegetables always perish during transportation, especially due to repeated loading and unloading due to security checks, and traders have to bear that cost as well, they complain. Unlike other goods you can’t return unsold vegetables. Our customers have now reduced purchasing the more expensive items such as carrots, beans, leeks, and beetroot. Whereas earlier people ate at least three vegetables for a meal, they can now afford to eat only one.”
“With all these factors, our incomes have hit rock bottom. Our salaries, transport costs, losses from waste, electricity bills, shop rent have all increased, reducing our profits. But in spite of all these difficulties, what can we do other than to continue buying vegetables, even after raising loans,” says Nishantha.
Trincomalee being a coastal village, fishing is the main source of livelihood for the people, both directly and indirectly. With the rising cost of living and a number of other contributing factors, however, consuming fish has become a luxury many people choose to go without.
Due to the current security considerations, fishing is restricted in Trincomalee, resulting in an increase in prices. Whereas earlier a kilo of fish cost Rs. 180 now just half a kilo was Rs. 150 says Koneshamani Suresh Kumar, a fish vendor from Janasarigama in Trincomalee. ‘People now prefer to buy a kilo of chicken instead of half a kilo of fish. Even if they do buy fish the most they will buy is 500 gms of the cheapest variety. I find it extremely difficult to dispose of my stocks even by noon, let alone make a decent profit,” she told GroundView.
Among the other affected industries are the jewellery and pawn brokering industries, another indicator of the prevailing hard times.
Since fishing is a major source of income in Trincomalee, when fishermen make money during the peak season they tend to invest it in gold jewellery.
Y.M. Asar of Usuf Jewellery at Beach Road however points out that present sales indicate how low incomes have fallen. ‘My income has fallen by four fold. I had to discontinue two of my employees as a result – what can I do with employees without business,” he said.
He pointed out that many jewellers and pawn brokers made good profits through the pawning business. But now even though people were pawning their jewellery instead of buying any, they preferred to pawn it to the banks, cutting off even that source of income to local traders.
‘Public servants purchase jewellery very rarely now – most resort to ‘cheetus’ to purchase their needs in jewellery. Some time back our shops were full of customers – now they are empty. This shows that even though gold prices have not risen much, people don’t have any money to meet their daily needs, let alone luxuries. First food and clothes – only then jewelry they say,” Mr. Asar said.
Nobody seems to be exempt from the hard times that have befallen the country. Everywhere you turns, one sees a story of hardship, sorrow and utter despair. While it is undeniable that economies invariably go through ups and downs, one cannot shy away from the fact that Sri Lanka’s economy and its people along with it are limping towards impending doom, towards total economic collapse, similar to the fates of failed nations.
Indeed, what hope can there be when a father cannot shut out the cries of his hungry child?
Y.S.M.Ranatunga, a popular Ayurvedic physician of the area, came to Trincomalee in 1951. Here he reminisces about life in the good old days and compares it to the hardships of today.
“When I came to live in Trincomalee at a very young age, life here was heavenly. Trincomalee was such a beautiful city – unspoiled beaches, lovely climate, friendly people – life was good. There was not even a hint of any conflict.”
“When I became a physician in 1969, I opted to go in to private practice instead of joining the government service as we could earn much more outside – as much as Rs. 40 to Rs. 50 a day, a very big sum in those days, especially when you consider the cost of living those days. It cost just Rs. 3.75 to travel from Kandy to Trincomalee. A cake of soap was 10 cents, sugar was 20 cents, a measure of rice was 40 cents and a kilo of fish was Rs 3. I remember a big hartal when the price of rice was increased in the early 1950’s, but this was an extremely rare occurrence.”
“ Even though there was a scarcity of goods during Mrs. Bandaranaike’s time, the prices of goods were high, but with so many people owning large extents of land they countered this rise in costs by growing certain fruits and vegetables in their gardens. People also did not have to cope with so many extra expenses like they do today. If at all, they would take have an occasional drink and socialize or visit the cinema.”
“In 1977, President Jayawardene’s open economy brought with it a flood of goods into the country. Industries abounded across the country, employment opportunities were plentiful and people had money in their pockets.”
“By the time the 1990’s rolled around, however, the situation began to decline dramatically. Bus fares, electricity and water bills have gone up, and the war was beginning to take its toll on the economy. By 2000 the prices of goods shot up at an unbelievable rate. Now ordinary people find their salaries inadequate, especially as wages are static but the prices of essential items are increased almost daily. With no control over imports, even something as simple as a bucket is imported, and several local industries have collapsed, as a result.”
The sugar factory at Kantalai has closed down, the rice mills have folded up, potatoes are imported from India, milk powder is imported from New Zealand, fish is imported even though we are an island nation.
It is no longer shortfall items which are imported into the country but even products which we can easily be produce in our own country are being imported.