The decision taken by President Maithripala Sirisena to implement urgent measures to bring down the prices of essential items, no doubt, will be received with great relief by the general public, who, it has to be conceded, are being weighed down by the escalating cost of living. The prices of several essential food items had soared in recent times, placing a heavy strain on the purse of the fixed income earner. It was only two days ago that the price of LP gas rose by Rs. 110, a cylinder. All hotels and eateries lost no time in announcing the increase in the prices of hoppers, string hoppers and even a cup of plain tea, even before the price increase took effect. Needless to say, these price increases are disproportionate to the actual loss that they may incur as a result of the Gas price hike. Even the price of the buth packet was raised by between 10 and 20 rupees, although it is difficult to comprehend the arithmetic, where a gas cylinder will only cost Rs110 more. The Consumer Protection Authority should move in on the matter and take action against the hotels and eateries trying to make a killing, hiding under the cloak of the Gas price increase.
Television showed how a spokesman for the Lunch Providers Association forcefully declaring their intention to raise the price of a buth packet and in the process making a not so subtle attack on the government, introducing a political element into the whole affair. The Joint Opposition, too, is having a field day, enacting dramas, with their members bringing with them coconuts and samples of essential consumer items to demonstrate what they term as the callousness of an uncaring government. This is all the more reason why the government should take drastic measures to contain the rising prices.
In this connection, the decision taken by the President to instruct the Coconut Development Board to evolve a system to bring down the price of coconuts, which today is hitting the Rs. 100 mark per nut, is to be welcome. He (President) has ordered that the CDB deploy its lorries to deliver coconuts to the doorstep of the consumers, thus eliminating the middleman from the equation, which has been attributed to the steep rise in coconuts. However attention should also be paid towards increasing production. One of the reasons for the failure of the crop, no doubt, is the prolonged drought. It is common to see withered coconut palms along the country's coconut belt in the North Western Province today. There is also the parceling of coconut land by the owners to dispose them off to property developers, for massive gains. Laws should be enacted to halt this practice, or heavy levies imposed on the owners of coconut plantations to dissuade them from selling their lands. On the other hand, every encouragement should be given to increase production, including incentives.
The President's injunction to bureaucrats not to be bound by ARs and FRs when the need arises for urgent import of essential items is also a good move. There are times when a scarcity in the local market demands the urgent import of essential items. The officials, however, are stymied by the restrictions ingrained in the system, particularly in the present times, following the fate that befell two public officials, for carrying out instructions that were contrary to the rule book.
The President has made it known that on no account should the prices of essential items be allowed to escalate and decisions taken in this respect should be implemented, directly and in their entirety. His full focus on tackling the rising cost of living, it is hoped, will bring dividends to the masses.
The COL has been the deciding factor in the make or break of governments in the past and the President no doubt, is cognizant with this reality. It was the COL, and the scarcity of essential items, that brought down the Sirima Bandaranaike government in 1977. Depleted kitchens, or the hiss kussiya, are a sure sign of the diminishing popularity of governments. This holds true for the future as well.
Police, as by-standers
Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has taken issue with the police for not dealing firmly with the mob responsible for attacking the Rohingya refugees, installed in a safe house, in Mt. Lavinia, the other day. The minister has asked the IGP to deal with the policemen, at the scene, for making little, or, no attempt, to halt the mob. He charged that the police had failed to do their duty in allowing the mob free rein to run amok. This is not the first time that the police have been passive by-standers while mobs went on the rampage. We have seen this kid glove treatment at other times too, particularly in the outstations, where demonstrators sometimes even overpower the police and burn tyres, with the law looking on. This state of affairs should end, lest a dangerous situation arise, where the police would not count anymore, for the lawbreakers to have their own way.
Daily News, September 30, 2017