Towards a weapons free milieu
The argument tendered by the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU)
on the fairness to demand the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulihal (TMVP)
to surrender its arms while there is still a large stockpile of
firearms in free circulation in the South deserves closer
According to JHU spokesman Nishantha Warnasinghe while there
is no clear proof to show if the JVP had surrendered all its
arms since its abortive uprising in 1989/90 there is also the
unaccounted arms that were in the possession of State sponsored
counter insurgency units or vigilantes as they were commonly
known, that has to be factored in.
The gist of his argument appears to be that while the TMVP
which had now repudiated its arms struggle and entered the
democratic mainstream had retained their arms only to defend
themselves against the LTTE threat, the danger of the large
volume of unaccounted arms freely circulating in the denizens of
the South too needs a plausible explanation more so given the
rising crime wave sweeping the country.
The danger is exacerbated by the fact that these are
sophisticated weapons against which there is no defence. The
spate of armed robberies and bank hold-ups witnessed in recent
times were executed with modern firearms.
The existence of arms in such uncontrolled profusion has also
contributed to the culture of impunity with which crime is being
committed. Adding to the equation is the large number of service
deserters who have been found to be responsible for the
unprecedented number of robberies countrywide while it is also
reported that they are being hired by underworld elements to
carry out contract killings.
True, the brutalisation of society engendered by the three
decade old ethnic war was a major contributory factor for the
culture of impunity and with more and more weapons getting into
circulation the public resigned themselves to crime and
This no doubt is a dangerous mind-set from which the public
especially the younger generation has to be exorcised. While the
victory on the battle front would some day return society to
normality it is incumbent on the Government to complement this
transition with a complete weapons free milieu in the country
which will help dismantle this culture of impunity which has
taken hold of the public.
It may be a herculean task, but the Government should make
every endeavour to try and seize these weapons before their
wider spread and ending up in the wrong hands. The then UNP
Government provided weapons to various political parties at the
height of the uprising and while some time ago a list was
produced indicating the recipients it is not known if these
weapons were recovered or still in circulation where they have
One recalls that not many moons ago some of these weapons
surfaced at a political party office whose members were at the
receiving end of the terror campaign. The mini armoury it was
claimed was only the tip of the ice berg of the large volumes of
firearms still in circulation.
What became of them is not known. Therefore it is time the
Government acted to ferret out all unaccounted weapons
circulating in the South as a first step in freeing the country
of the culture of violence and impunity while ushering a society
of law-abiding citizens.
Encountering the food crisis
The assertion made by Agricultural Development
Minister Maithripala Sirisena that the indigenous food
production drive under the Api Wavamu Rata Hadamu concept has
picked up and proceeding apace is good news from an economic
point of view to the country.
The project was launched in September last year by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa chiefly with a view to promote indigenous
eating habits and to revert our people back to the traditional
As the Minister said if the project keeps up to the current
momentum the country will soon have a rich harvest of indigenous
crops which while meeting the country's food demands would also
help cut down drastically on the country's import bill expended
in getting down imported food.
Many Governments started food drives under various labels and
the home garden concept was promoted by both Dudley Senanayake
and Sirima Bandaranaike regimes, though after the initial
euphoria the campaign failed to progress much beyond.
The Present Government too should not let lethargy creep in
but ensure the momentum is continued if we are to reap the
optimum benefits of the exercise.
Today even industrialised countries such as Japan are laying
more and more accent on agriculture development with various
subsidy schemes offered to local farmers. A looming food crisis
has also seen the industrialised West now giving pride of place
to their agriculture sector.
Here too the Government should encourage cultivation in every
available space given that the pace of development is swallowing
up all available land and very soon even the unspoilt
countryside may be swallowed by industrial expansion. Some time
ago there was talk to bring in legislation to acquire idle lands
and put them into productive use.
The Government should also think of introducing laws to make
it compulsory for land owners to cultivate at least part of
their vast extents or lend them out on commercial terms for this
to be accomplished. Sri Lanka should be prepared for any
contingency in the wake of the looming food crisis.