Below is an excerpt of President’s Media Spokesman Kingsly Rathnayaka’s speech:
Given the current situation in the country and in line with the decision taken by the President, I would like to take this opportunity to inform the country of the views of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Government dispelling the misconceptions about rice mill owners, rice traders and the rice shortage.
You are aware that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued a Gazette Notification on August 30 containing the emergency regulations under the Public Security Ordinance in accordance with the powers vested in him, regarding essential commodities including rice, flour and sugar.
This decision was taken by the President with the primary objective of protecting the consumers, discharging responsibility of a people-friendly government. At the same time, a Commissioner General of Essential Services was appointed to coordinate and oversee the distribution of consumer goods, including paddy, rice and sugar, in order to maintain the livelihood of the people.
The proposal made by the President to enforce the emergency regulations was also tabled in Parliament recently.
The entire country witnessed that it was passed by a majority of 81 votes of people’s representatives.The government has taken up a gigantic challenge to control the current Covid-19 situation. An amount of over Rs. 500 billion has already been spent for this purpose. All this shows that the government led by the President is committed to the people in the face of the current situation, in order to ensure that the livelihood of the people is not disrupted.
The President will never take any action to aggrieve any party when making the necessary decisions in this regard. From the very beginning, the government took measures to resolve the issue of rice by reaching an agreement with all stakeholders.
The government expected a fair system that would protect the farmer, the businessman as well as the consumer. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa held lengthy discussions with leading rice mill owners. Agreements were reached.
The Ministers in charge of the subject as well as Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held discussions with the business community.
The government set a guaranteed price for paddy, which was between Rs. 30 to 32 per kilo, with the aim of strengthening the farmer community. Accordingly, approval has been granted to purchase a kilo of Nadu and Kekulu paddy for Rs. 50, Samba at Rs.52 and Keeri Samba at Rs.55.
However, despite the guaranteed price for paddy, the market price of rice rose and a kilo of Nadu rice sold at Rs. 125.00, a kilo of Samba rice at Rs. 150.00 and a kilo of Keeri Samba at Rs.225.00, leaving consumers stranded.
It was then that the Commissioner-General of Essential Services, who was appointed vesting full powers under the ‘Public Security Ordinance’, took measures to ensure maximum justice to the affected people.
Accordingly, guaranteed prices were gazetted and the maximum price of a kilo of Samba rice is 103 rupees, while for Nadu it is 98 rupees, a kilo of Kiri Samba rice is 125 rupees and a kilo of Kekulu rice is 95 rupees. You may recall that the business community then acknowledged the crisis facing the country at this time and issued public statements that they will not take actions to put pressure on the government and would act in accordance to overcome this calamity period. But, unfortunately, the agreements they entered with the government were neglected. At the same time, in the last few days, large-scale rice mill owners have reduced their daily rice production and distribution by more than 50%. It is a well acknowledged fact by everyone that this is an unbearable injustice to the consumer, who is suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the raids carried out by the Commissioner- General of Essential Services on September 08, 2021 alone, 807,375 kilograms of rice were obtained from the rice warehouses owned by the large-scale mill owners at the government controlled price and handed over to the Sathosa.
You can easily understand the political agendas behind all these actions, as the people who have once accused the large scale rice mill owners of creating a rice mafia, are now coming forward to protect them.
However, the President is of the view that a people-centric economy and a prosperous country will be built by making decisions in accordance with the powers vested in the President for the welfare of the people, affirming the mandate and trust given by the people to build a secure country.