News

Farmers to switch from hunger strike to fast unto death

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Promising stricter protest action, including a fast-unto-death action, the hunger strike launched by farmers belonging to 41 farmers organisations in the Elahera area in Polonnaruwa, demanding the immediate supply of chemical fertiliser and agrochemicals such as pesticides and herbicides required for the Maha cultivation season, was ended yesterday (2).

The farmers commenced the hunger strike near the Bakamuna town on the Mahiyanganaya-Dambulla Main Road on 24 October, and it marked the 10th day yesterday.

A group of Buddhist monks from Polonnaruwa visited the scene and requested the farmers to end the hunger strike in order to take stricter action in the coming days.

Accordingly, the farmers who decided to end the hunger strike told the media that they ended the hunger strike with the intention of taking strict action such as a fast-unto-death action in the future. They further stated that despite the 10-day-long hunger strike, neither the Government nor any other relevant authority had responded favourably to their demands.

“If this Government is a people’s government, as it claims to be, they should listen to the demands of so many farmers who have now come to the streets. We decided to stop this struggle in order to get into stricter action, and that is not because we are deceived by the lies of this Government or Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage,” they said.

A proposal to ban the use and importation of chemical fertiliser, pesticides, and weedicides was submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the same was granted approval, following which the relevant gazette notification was issued in May 2021.

However, throughout the past few months, farmers in several areas were seen charging that there is a serious shortage of fertiliser for their cultivations. A number of protests have also been organised by farmers’ organisations and various parties demanding that the Government provide a solution to the fertiliser shortage.

However, Aluthgamage was seen claiming that steps would be taken to provide organic fertiliser for cultivation without any shortage and that compensation would be paid to farmers in case of any damage to their crops due to the use of organic fertiliser.