Former Agri Minister, JVP allege ‘Sena’ attack deliberate, call for probe


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, yesterday, urged the government to investigate and find out whether Fall Army-Worm (FAW) or ‘Sena’ had been deliberately brought in.

Matara District MP Abeywardena said the issue would be raised in Parliament this week.

Responding to a query, MP Abeywardena alleged that ‘Sena’ had been ‘deployed’ by those who had been affected by Sri Lanka achieving self-sufficiency in maize. Asked whether he accepted responsibility for a very serious allegation, MP Abeywardena said that he wouldn’t have said so if he had not been sure of the circumstances leading to the crisis.

The SLFPer alleged that the government was yet to take tangible measures to control the situation.

Although ‘Sena’ had been initially deployed to target maize, it was now destroying other food crops in all parts of the country, the lawmaker said, asserting that the country had not experienced a similar situation in the recent past.

Pointing out that maize had been affected in Ampara in Dec. 2018, MP Abeywardena alleged the government had done nothing to prevent maize being moved out to other districts.

MP Abeywardena named the company that had provided ­ seeds to farmers in the Ampara District. The government should begin the investigation in Ampara, the MP said, authorities couldn’t refrain from questioning the supplier of seeds.

The lawmaker alleged that the government had lifted restrictions and controls imposed on the import of seeds soon after the change of government. The UNP-led administration neglected the agriculture sector in an obvious bid to facilitate the operations of the private sector, he alleged.

Responding to another query, MP Abeygunawardena said that Sri Lanka had achieved self-sufficiency in maize in 2014, under the Rajapaksa government. The SLFPer estimated Sri Lanka’s annual maize requirement at 250,000 tonnes. "We exported 30,000 tonnes to South Africa, in 2014. Since then, the government did everything possible to undermine maize cultivation, the MP alleged that unless the situation wasn’t brought under control within the next few weeks, the national economy would be badly hit.

"This is a sort of tsunami," MP Abeywardena said, the government was clueless as to how ‘Sena’ could be controlled.

The MP alleged that the government hadn’t been able to concentrate fully on rampaging ‘Sena’ due to political uncertainty. In lighter vein, MP Abeywardena said that perhaps the UNP was causing much more destruction than ‘Sena.’

Asked what his recommendations to destroy ‘Sena,’ MP Abeywardena said that there was no option but to direct farmers to destroy affected cultivations. This should be done under strict supervision, the MP said, adding that those who had suffered losses needed to be compensated.

He said that the farming community was in a dilemma for want of a swift state intervention.

Farmers in Anuradhapura protested on Saturday (January 19) to highlight their plight. They demanded immediate compensation and relief to those now struggling to repay bank loans.

Former JVP MP and leading trade union activist Wasantha Samarasinghe said that there was absolutely no doubt that multi nationals were behidn the Sena attack. Had it been a natural threat, ‘Sena’ wouldn’t have spread so rapidly to all administrative districts within weeks, Samarasinghe said.

Referring to a case reported from Italy some time back, Samarasinghe said that an inquiry had exposed an Italian company deliberately caused an epidemic for its financial gain.

Both Abeywardena and Samarasinghe called for a comprehensive study.

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