„Thousands of acres of forest land in the Somawathie and Lunugamwehera reserves are reportedly being cleared by an American food company through its local partner to grow bananas. There has been a howl of protest from several environmental groups and the media against the project. But, work on it is reported to be in progress at a brisk pace with government backing.
If a poor farmer dependent on slash and burn cultivation to feed his brood clears a small patch of jungle for growing finger millet or kurakkan, he is rounded up in next to no time like a common criminal and hauled up before Courts in the name of forest conservation. Shanties that the urban poor desperately knock up on crown land are regularly knocked down by the UDA worthies backed by the military. But, rich multinationals and their local hirelings enjoy the freedom of the wild ass to grab state land, destroy forests and grow bananas as if this country were their grandmas` property. The ruling coalition which lets moneybags do as they wish calls itself the United People`s Freedom Alliance, while throwing the city poor out of their hovels and prosecuting chena cultivators!
The foreign banana company has apparently become a law unto itself. It has not obtained permission from any state institution for its cultivation projects, environmentalists say. The Central Environmental Authority has been kept in the dark. The same goes for the Forest and Wildlife Departments. One may wonder whether someone is running a parallel government in this country!
JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva has said there should be an alternative government as the existing one shirks its duties and responsibilities. It may be doing so, but we have had enough of governments all these years and what is needed most is not an alternative government but an alternative Opposition capable of functioning as a countervailing force against the incumbent regime intoxicated with power.
The parliamentary Opposition is as dead as a dodo, to say the least. The American food company has been in the news for the past few weeks environmentalists, the media and concerned citizens have raised a rumpus over its operations, but the Opposition has adopted an ostrich-like posture.
Old dogs, they say bark not for nothing. Among the vociferous critics of the banana project are respected environmentalists and civil society activists. Their voice must be heeded and an investigation launched. It will be a terrible mistake for the government to carry on regardless or try to railroad the protesters into submission. At this rate, the day may not be far off when Sigiriya is sold to a kalu gal mudalali (quarry owner), Sinharaja to a lee mudalali (logger) and Sri Pada to a pas mudalali (land filling contractor).
Time was when the patriotic people of this country threw their weight behind the UPFA government, enabling it to wrest control of the northern and eastern parts of the country from a brutal terrorist group. Two and a half years on, it looks as if the time had come for them to fight for liberating state land, especially forests, from the clutches of the cronies of the same government in the pay of multinationals. How sad!
Editorial – Island