Sinhala farmers have taken to the streets in Medamulana to express their outrage at the President's blanket ban on the import of chemical fertilisers which have resulted in a plummeting of crop yields and further worsened the country's food shortages.
During protests, they held black flags and beat and burned effigies of government figures. These follow weeks of unrest with Sri Lanka's opposition party staging a protest in parliament last Friday against the government's ad-hoc decision to ban chemical fertilisers.
SJB MPs staged a protest within the Parliament chambers today (22), against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his “ad-hoc decision” to ban chemical fertilizer and the subsequent emerging calamity in Sri Lanka’s agriculture industry. pic.twitter.com/QO8ISi0p3p
— The Morning (@TheMorningLK) October 22, 2021
These protests also follow growing unrest amongst the Sinhala diaspora who in Italy and France held demonstrators against the Sri Lankan government demanding an end to the state's crackdown on government critics and its failure to deliver justice for the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks.
Responding to these protests, President Rajapaksa spoke at an organic farm at Bunnahepola in Udubaddawa today and claimed that "the issue has been politicised erroneously" by parties that were interested in "provoking the farmers". In his speech, he urged farmers "not to fall prey to provocative politics" and to "rally for the benefit of the future generations". Sinhalese farmers are the traditional voting base of Rajapaksa's political party the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.
He further maintained that:
"If we can convince the world that Sri Lanka is one of the countries in the world that practices farming without using chemicals, that alone is a factor adequate enough to attract tourists to our country".
He further compared his policy decision to the armed conflict and noted that are similarly those opposed to the banning of chemical fertilizers.
"When I was appointed as the Secretary of Defence, there was a 30 years old war. Everyone said don’t get involved in this issue. But two and a half to three years after we started the operation, terrorism was completely eradicated. This is also a fight similar to that. Some people are against the banning of chemical fertilizers. They are spending money to stop this effort. But we need to move forward despite those obstacles. It is something that can be done" he maintained.
Whilst the government has been forced to reverse its decision on a ban on chemical fertilisers, they have also fired Udith Jayasinghe from his post in the agriculture ministry for being critical of the government's position.
The Secretary to the President, P. B. Jayasundera has also come under criticism after the Sinhala 'Sathi Aga Aruna’ newspaper reported that he had opened a personal account to import fertilisers from India.
Jayasundera vehemently denies the allegations claiming that the stories are "completely false and malicious" and has warned of "stern legal action".