Farmers’ protest brings civil admin to standstill in Mannar
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 26 March 2003, 13:38 GMT]
More than 1500 farmers in Mannar demanding fair prices
for their rice harvest and the removal of Sri Lankan
armed forces units which continue to occupy fields and
buildings in the region blockaded the District
Secretariat Wednesday and brought all government
administration in the Northwestern island town to a
“More than 14 years of extensive Sri Lanka
army restrictions and ban on cultivation drove
thousands of farmers in Mannar to destitution. They
were hence pinning their future on this season’s
harvest. But Colombo hit us below the belt by refusing
the guarantee price facility which is available to
farmers in other districts”, a spokesman for the
Federation of Mannar Farmers’ Associations told
The protest began around 7 p.m. Wednesday. Hundreds of
farmers from many parts of the Mannar district,
including areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers on
the mainland, gathered in front of the district
secretariat in Mannar town, blocking government
officials from entering the compound.
Rice farmers in Mannar were compelled to sell their
produce at prices lower than 650 rupees a bag during
the war due to stringent SLA restrictions on transport
to and from the district.
The SLA banned farmers from cultivating vast tracts of
fertile rice fields in Mannar since 1987. Severe
restrictions were imposed on the use of tractors and
the supply of fertilisers and fuel.
“The few farmers who managed to cultivate a few acres
amid the restrictions was fleeced by unscrupulous
traders. They fixed the prices which were much lower
than the going rate for rice in other parts of the
island”, a spokesman for the Federation said.
Following the ceasefire which saw the removal of
several restrictions late last year, Mannar farmers
urged Colombo to buy their produce through the state
owned Corporative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) at the
guarantee price of 13.50 rupees as in other parts of
the island to stabilise the local market for rice.
Farmers in Mannar now sell rice to private traders for
8-10 rupees a kilo. The Federation says that these
prices will ruin many of them. The majority of rice
farmers in the district are compelled to sell their
produce at low prices because few have facilities to
store the paddy in their farms or homesteads. Many
local rice storage facilities were destroyed in SLA
Early last month the Federation and the TNA MP for
Vanni, Mr. Selvam Adaikalanathan, took up the matter
with Sri Lanka’s Minister for Trade and Commerce, Mr.
Ravi Karunanayaka. The Minister promised them that the
CWE would begin buying rice from Mannar farmers at the
But CWE officials who visited the district to study
the matter had reported that it was not possible to
buy rice at the guarantee price as the treasury was
not willing to release the money for the purpose.
The GA for Mannar met the protesting farmers and the
TNA MPs around noon and promised that the CWE would be
opened for buying rice at the guarantee price in the
district from April 1. He also promised them that
local Multi Purpose Co-operative Societies will buy
1400 kilos of rice from each farmer at the guarantee
price from tomorrow.
Farmers, however, said they would continue their
agitation from April 2 if no action is taken by the GA
to redress their woe.
The protestors handed over a memorandum to the GA in
the afternoon spelling out their four demands that
Colombo should introduce in Mannar the guarantee
purchase price for rice; that the Sri Lankan armed
forces should vacate paddy fields they continue
occupy; they should vacate paddy storage facilities
and that Colombo should subsidise fertilisers.
The protest was organised by the Federation of Mannar
Farmers’ Associations, the Tamil National Alliance MPs
for Vanni, Mr. Selvam Adaikalanathan, Mr. Raja
Kuhaneswaran and Sivasakthi Anandan and Fr. Ruben
Ariyanayagam, the Superintendent of the Methodist
Church’s Jeevothayam Farm in Murunkan.