Ven. Rathana claims they were made scapegoats for Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ill-advised decisions

By Saman Indrajith

Our Power of People Party MP Ven. Aturaliye Ratana Thera on Tuesday in Parliament said that stopping the import of fertilizer was an ill-advised decision by the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government, which lacked funds.

“Later that decision was attributed to us because we had been promoting Wasa Visa Nethi Ratak (A country free of poisonous substances) and we were made the scapegoats,” Ratana thera said.

He said that the reckless decision had been made by the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government, its cabinet and 45 chairmen led by Basil Rajapaksa.

Rathana Thera said so during a cross talk with Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, who on behalf of the Prime Minister, responded to a series of questions raised by Ratana thera in a special statement on increase of prices of vegetables and malnutrition related problems.

Ratana Thera said that as per reports by various agencies, there was a 50 percent dropout rate in rural schools because children have no food.

The Minister in his response said that vegetable and food prices went up to unbearable heights because of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, Aragalaya protests and the collapse of agriculture following a decision to stop importing fertilizers.

“That was a wild-ass decision made by the then government of yours. I was not part of that government though it was attributed to us, and our names were associated with it because we had been promoting the ideology of a country free of poisonous substances. You as the minister know that we had been working on the same from 2017 to 2019 but we did not ask to stop the import of fertilizers. That decision was made because that government did not have money to pay for fertilizers,” Ratana Thera said.

The minister said that at the time when he took over the Agriculture Ministry the farmers were not in the field but on the roads mounting protests. “Some predicted that a kilo of rice would increase up to Rs 500-600. We somehow managed to get the country’s agriculture sector back on track. We need more work to do. We are planning to introduce a three season cultivation method for grains.

We will also promote horticulture. Many who started growing vegetables in their homesteads have given up because of threats of destruction from wild animals such as rilawa (toque macaque), monkeys, wild boar, rodents, porcupines, etc. If we could get rid of the harm from these animals, we can assure not only ending import of vegetables and fruits but also an additional income by exporting the excess.

“When we attempted to export 100,000 monkeys to 180 zoos in China, strong opposition arose, with some going to court to prevent it, fearing the monkeys would be eaten and their brains consumed as food. We face significant crop losses due to these animals. We should learn from countries that control animal populations. Norway allocates seasons to cull whales, Australia recently culled millions of kangaroos, and Germany issues licenses to cull deer and mouflons,” the Minister said.

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