Written by Lahiru Fernando
29 Mar, 2017 | 10:08 pm
A startling revelation came to light on Saturday that large amounts of stocks of paddy in storage facilities, have been provided to alcohol manufacturer W.M. Mendis and Co. (Read full report here)
At a time when the economy is not in the most ideal place, and the country is facing a shortage of paddy, such actions would take away the opportunities in reducing the price of rice. It would instead result in a price hike, as rice would have to be imported from other countries.
When we made inquiries over the accusations, the Paddy Marketing Board said that 4,000 metric tonnes of paddy had been provided to W.M. Mendis and Co on three occasions, on cabinet approval.
As the country’s farmers point out, at a time of severe drought, when rice crops have been decimated, giving much-needed stocks of paddy to produce alcohol does not help the country’s problems. It will only aggravate them.
What do the farmers think? This is what they shared with us.
“The farmers work tirelessly to grow paddy – which becomes the rice that feeds the entire country – rich and poor alike. And when the farmers’ paddy is used to produce alcohol instead, what is the consumer supposed to eat? Consumers in this country will have to eat rice imported from India or Pakistan.”
The controversial distillery is currently under construction in Kalkudah, Batticaloa on a 19-acre plot of land. And farmers organisations have begun voicing grave suspicions over the construction in the Eastern Province, which produces most of the country’s paddy stocks.
The All Ceylon Peasants Federation point out that the distillery is being constructed in the Eastern Province to “secure an environment where they (the company) can use the paddy for their raw materials.”
“The farmer produces paddy to feed the country, not to produce Arrack. If the government is allowing this factory to continue, we strongly object. When they use the rice meant to feed people to produce Arrack, the price of rice will skyrocket”, the Federation’s National Organiser added.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Province Chief Minister has instructed the Divisional Secretary of Valachchenai and the Secretary of the Pradeshiya Sabha to file litigation seeking an injunction against the construction of the distillery.
A complaint has also been lodged with the Eravur Police by the Secretary of the Koralaipattu Pradeshiya Sabha.
Recently a Shakthi FM reporter and several other newspaper reporters covering the construction were attacked. Demonstrations were held on Saturday March 25, in protest of the attacks.
More demonstrations were held today in the Siththandy area, condemning the ongoing construction and the attack on journalists. The demonstrators demanded that authorities take steps to reopen the Valachchenai paper factory.
Protesters charge that there are “too many distilleries in Batticaloa already.”
“Who is the owner of this distillery? It is Aloysius, the son-in-law of Arjuna Mahendran, a powerful figure who defrauded the nation’s wealth”, said TNA Parliamentarian, S. Viyalendiran.
Meanwhile, the Koralaipattu Pradeshiya Sabha has taken steps to secure an injunction halting construction of the controversial distillery.
The Batticaloa development committee representatives have taken a decision to inform President Maithripala Sirisena once again on the approval-less construction of the distillery amid protests of the people.
“It has come to stage where certain people in the UNP are getting licence to manufacture alcohol”, said Isura Devapriya (Cheif Minister – Western Province)
“The farmers of our country are harvesting paddy not to manufacture alcohol – but to put rice on the people’s plates. We state very clearly that they are using the strength of the prime minister to do all of this ..” said the National Organiser of All Ceylon Peasants’ Federation, Namal Karunaratne,
11 Oct, 2019 | 11:20 PM
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