The removal of customs duty (Rs.20 pr kilo) on
imported rice will ease the burden on the consumers affected by
high rice prices to some extent. It is now abundantly clear that
the recent price hike in rice was artficially created by
traders. After all, Sri Lanka has attained near-self sufficiency
levels in rice, our staple food.
The Government’s avowed policy is to eliminate the import of
essential food items in a few years.
This is essential if we are to give pride of place to
agriculture and farmers. In fact, the Government’s Api Wawamu
Rata Nagamu (Let us cultivate to build the Nation) is a step in
this direction. Under this programme, every inch of arable land
will be used to grow food crops.
But there seem to obstacles in the way. The rice cartels have
created an artificial shortage which has led to high prices.
In this backdrop, the Government has taken several steps to
afford relief to the consumer. One important step was to declare
rice an essential commodity. Given the pivotal role played by
rice in our day-to-day lives, this step should have been taken
Another commendable step was the re-establishment of the
Paddy Marketing Board which provides a higher guaranteed price
for farmers. The establishment of budget shops and Co-op Cities
islandwide will also enable the Government to provide rice at
lower prices to the public. An improvement in storage conditions
is another step forward.
In an ideal scenario, Sri Lanka should be in a position to
meet its rice requirements domestically, i.e., without imports.
But the present circumstances have compelled the Government to
allow more imports and also abolish the related duties so that
customers can buy imported rice varieties at more affordable
Incredibly, some varieties of local rice are being sold at
Rs.110 or more per kilo, whereas imported rice varities are
priced from around Rs.125. The removal of duty will bring down
the prices of the latter. This would hopefully force local rice
millers and sellers to rethink their policy of hoarding stocks
and artificially creating a price hike.
They must bear in mind that Sri Lankans do have a propensity
to buy anything foreign.
Now is a good time for the Sri Lankan rice industry to
reassess its future as the Government has clearly proved that it
will not give into unfair practices.
A senseless act
The mob attack in Chennai on Sri Lankan film director
Thushara Peiris, who has taken the bold step of making a film
(titled Prabhakaran) on the ethnic conflict, is indeed a sad
reflection on those who perpetrated the attack.
The film, which is yet to be released in Sri Lanka, is said
to portray the pathetic plight of Tamil youth recruited forcibly
to the LTTE.
The aim of his trip to India was to finish the dubbing of the
film into Tamil and to secure colour prints. A Tamil version of
the film would be far more effective in conveying the
helplessness of such LTTE cadres and the sheer brutality of the
conflict to native Tamil speakers in both India and Sri Lanka,
than a Tamil or English subtitled version.
Granted, the movie deals with a controversial subject. War is
not a pleasant subject in the best of times and even now, films
relating to First and Second World Wars leave a lasting
impression in our minds. In Sri Lanka, some films dealing with
the conflict have had a hostile reception.
One example is Purahanda Kaluwara (Death on a Full Moon Poya
Day), which portrayed the harrowing tale of a father waiting for
his son to return from the battle, without believing the
official version - that he is dead. The then Government tried to
stop its screening, but the Supreme Court overruled that
The lesson here is that arts and artists should be left alone
to express their emotions, even if the subject is deemed
controversial. Both Sri Lanka and India have guaranteed freedom
of expression for all.
As the famous saying goes, we may not like what another
person says, but we should defend his or her right to say it.
Besides, how can one oppose a work of art without even seeing
it? This seems to have been the case in Chennai.
Writers, poets, playwrights and film directors worldwide will
always touch on contemporary issues facing society. Admittedly,
only a few among them will venture into topics such as
When they do so, we should learn to respect and admire their
courage. This, the attackers in Chennai failed to do. But such
attacks are unlikely to diminish the boldness and creativity of