Our Island, was historically and traditionally an agricultural country from the times of our great Sinhala Kings, Parakramabahu, to name one illustrious king who gave agriculture the pride of place. This resplendent isle was called the Granary of the East, Rice Bowl in Asia, and certain areas were named Wellassa, Wellawaya,Buttala [Bath halal which shows cultivation of paddy and other food crops were the main produce.
They built massive tanks and irrigation channels, which to this day stand as marvels in engineering. This trend was even maintained by the Britishers, though paddy cultivation was not their priority. Instead they cultivated export oriented crops, Tea, Rubber and Cocoa. In the process they developed the infrastructure to facilitate the transport of these products from distant places. On gaining Independence, the first Prime Minister, popular called Father of the Nation, gave agriculture the prime position. He renovated, repaired ancient Tanks (Wewas)and built the Senanayaka Samudraya mainly to see, Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, self sufficient in rice. This continued till J.R.Jayawardene took over the government. With the open economy concept, he brought industrialisation and continued by the Premadasa government, with the opening up of Garment Factories, all over the country: Though this brought in foreign exchange, the village lads and lasses, left their paddy field and home gardens to find employment in these factories. This is happening to the Tea Industry. We see today, large numbers of estate Indian Tamil boys and girls working in Garment factories and other private organisations. What will happen to the Tea Industry in the future, is the matter which the authorities must give serious thought.
Now comes the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, which we now experience and notice is that he is keen in promoting Tourism. Towards this, he has started constructing internal airports, international sports stadiums, expressways, race tracks, legalising Casinos. What will be the end result, although we may earn foreign exchange, our culture, traditions and customs and even our religion will erode, giving way to all vices and with foreign exchange soearned we would have to import foodstuffs for our existence. Is this what our religious leaders, Mahanayakas, Catholic and Christian prelates Kurukals, and Moulavis want. No wonder there are crimes of all nature, to make easy money, without sweating and tilling the ground. The latest news is that Maldive Island government is to ban Spas and Massage parlours as prostitution is rampant. Also a threat to their religion. This would mean all those foreign tourists, will make Sri Lanka their destination to find what they want which the Maldivian government will not provide.
In the 2005 Mahinda Chinthanaya, issued during the Presidential elections, this is what it says, ‘ the intension is to introduce a national irrigation plan and complete 10,000 tank programmes. 100,000 plots of land will be given for cultivation to farmers who do not possess land. And a dream to provide two wheel tractors to farmer families with paddy storage facilities.’ Has the government taken any action to keep to this promise. We see over the TV, farmers complaining of irrigation facilities, broken tank bunds etc. On dairy farming it says- I will provide crossbred milking cows to rural families on concessionary loans, land, water, equipment and technology.
On tourism, it promises a planned development to maximise the potentials making use of our environmental and cultural attractions. The pertinent question to ask is whether opening up of Massage palours, Spas, Night clubs and casinos are our cultural attractions.
If the trend is to make Sri Lanka a tourist resort, by attracting tourists and neglecting the agricultural sector before long we will have to change our lifestyle and ape the corrupt west, to make our maidens to parade in bikinis, and cater for the tourists who come to developing countries, mainly in search of sex, beachboys etc. By all means, encourage tourism, but have limitations, to safeguard our culture, heritage and customs, and above all our religion- Buddhism.
Have our religious leaders, specially the political wing of Buddhism, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) given any thought. It does not appear so as they voted with the government in passing the Casino Bill. So, in desperation, let us hope for the best and prepare for the worst.Let me end this letter, by posing the question – Did we vote for this policy to turn this agricultural country to a Tourist Paradise to cater for sadist foreigners.