Black marketeers controlling prices – Ruwan
He said this during a meeting of UNP supporters at the Sirikotha party headquarters recently.
He further said, “We are wondering whether there is a Government in the country now. When the Government says that the price of rice cannot be increased, the owners of rice mills do not release the rice stocks to the market, creating a shortage in the market. Then the Government removes the control price for rice. Then the mill owners release the rice stocks and also decide on the price as well.”
Wijewardene added that when companies selling milk powder, gas, cement and bread flour ask for an increase in prices the Government refuses. But, when these companies don’t release their stocks to the market and create a shortage, then the Government surrenders and agrees to their demands to increase prices. The Government then moves away from controlling the prices of milk powder, gas, bread flour and cement. Then these companies increase prices and put these products on the market.
“All these companies increased the prices of their products to suit their requirements. What good is a Government if it simply gives in to the demands of these companies? What is clear from these facts is that the country is now ruled not by the Government but by rice mill owners and companies. These people are not running a Government but a black market.”
He said that in 2003, the United National Front (UNF) Government introduced the Consumer Protection Act and established the Consumer Affairs Authority to eliminate the opportunity for rice mill owners and companies to increase prices at will.
“From then until today the Government did not allow companies to increase prices. However, this government handed over that power to companies. Is this their vision of prosperity?,” he asked.
“Farmers, on the other hand, suffer without fertilizer. Farmers take to the streets today unable to cultivate paddy during the upcoming Maha season. The Government banned chemical fertilizers last May. It’s been six months now. Yet, organic fertilizer has not been made available to the farmers as yet,” he added.
“The Government is importing organic fertilizer containing toxic microorganisms from China. Thanks to the officials of the Plant Quarantine Service, the supply of toxic organic fertilizer to the country was stopped. Now the Government is trying to bring back this Chinese fertilizer,” he charged.
Due to the ban on chemical fertilizers paddy farmers, potato, onion as well as all other farmers have been greatly affected, he said, adding that tea production has dropped significantly due to the lack of chemical fertilizers.
However, he noted that the Government is preparing to provide chemical fertilizer only for the tea plantations. “Potato, Big Onion and vegetable farmers claim that their harvest has dropped by 80% without chemical fertilizers. On one hand their harvest is dropping and on the other hand, they don’t even have organic fertilizer to cultivate. The Maha Season starts from around October 15th to November 15th, but the farmers have still not received fertilizer and they are on the streets now demanding for a solution.”
However, the Minister of Agriculture says that organic fertilizer will be imported from India by the 12th. “Is it possible to bring fertilizer like that? Not only organic fertilizer but any fertilizer should be sent to the Plant Quarantine Service for testing prior to import.
Are they trying to import fertilizer without testing the samples? If so, who is responsible for the soil of this country? The Government should answer these questions immediately. Even if the fertilizer is imported at the end of all the tests, can the fertilizer be distributed throughout the country within one day? What is the government’s plan? Present these matters to the country,” Wijewardene demanded.
However, Wijewardene warned that if the fertilizer is not available on the due date, the farmers will refrain from cultivation. “This will reduce the paddy harvest next year. They are trying to take the country towards a famine. One farmer said publicly that he wanted to smash his hands for voting for the SLPP.”
With farmers saying so, consumers’ complaints are beyond that, he said, adding that people are tired of this rule now. “People are asking for a new group. That group is in the UNP today. Therefore, let us prepare the people through a new team to send this Government home.”