Vannathikkulam

Chapter Eleven

 

Adulterated milk

Mannar road and Jaffna road meet at Medawachchiya and become Kandy road.  There was a bus stand in between Mannar and Jaffna Road. There were shops right round the Bus Stand.  Muslims ran two restaurants.  During weekends, Tamil government officers disappeared on weekend. They returned on Mondays as if they had come back alive.

We rented out a small house along Mannar road.  My departure from the lodge hurt my friends financially much more than personally.  Gundasa and myself were the only occupants who paid for the meals regularly.  Anyone, especially the members of J.V.P., could eat in the lodge.  When curry was in short supply, they scraped coconut, mixed it with rice and made a meal out of it.  Their unselfish actions and simple living made my respect for them to grow.

In the 1980s, a fairly large amount of foreign aid was allocated for the development of Anuradhapura district.  Hence, Government officers and Members of Parliament were competitively engaged in many development programs.  Even though Medawachchiya came under Anuradhapura District, United National Party gave it step motherly treatment just because its Member of Parliament was from the opposition party.  At that time, Mr.Maithripala Senanayake represented Medawchchiya electorate in the Parliament.  He was one of the senior most members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.  He held important Ministerial posts in the Government when the opposition was in power.  He could talk well in Tamil language as he had done his studies in Jaffna.  Also he was married to a Tamil lady named Ranji.

Government officers like me had to enter into the development fray of Medawachchiya District, as allocation of development funds was minimal.  When we supplied statistics of cows in the district and requested the authority to establish a milk-collecting center, funds were allocated to the district.  As I was engaged in these activities, I did not have time to visit Jaffna.  When I visited houses of Sinhala villagers, they asked me many questions.  They were very sensitive to the situation in Jaffna because Medawachchiya was adjacent to a region wholly inhabited by Tamils.

“Why are the Jaffna people demanding a separate state?

What are their grievances?

Where are you going to find employment in Tamil Eelam?

What is the position of Tamils residing in Colombo?

What is the future situation of hill- country Tamils?

What is the boundary of Tamil Eelam?

Will Tigers come to Medawachchiya?”

It was ordinary Singhalese villagers who raised these questions.  I did not have any answers to their questions.  If I explained standardization of the Sri Lankan government, which was based on language, they could not understand it.  However, the middleclass Singhalese residing in Colombo and Kandy were able to understand about this language based standardization.  The Singhalese people living in Medawachchiya were not at all worried or interested about University admissions.

Tamils were killed during the racial riots in 1958.  At that time, Tamils never asked for Tamil Eelam.  Tamils residing in Colombo and the hill country areas were the worst affected during the riots.  These people are destined to live among Singhalese even if separation takes place.

How can we tell Singhalese people in Padaviya and Medawchchiya that the Sri Lankan Government had colonized areas where Tamil- speaking people lived, by allocating land in these areas to Singhalese people?  Didn’t the Sri Lankan Government allocate jungle lands at Akkarayankulam and Kanagarayankulam to Tamils?  And how many Tamils were prepared to settle down in colonies at Padaviya?

The fact is that Tamil politicians were not only hasty but also entered the ring without any basic plans.  I thought that their actions put an example as were tantamount to an irresponsible man of a family who jumped from a running vehicle because the conductor of the bus had scolded and assaulted him and asked the whole family to jump out of running vehicle.

Ordinary Singhalese people are almost unaware of the numerous problems Tamils are confronted with.  The problem of Tamils was looked as a problem of the politicians of both sides.  Many Tamils were murdered in Jaffna during the early part of 1983 branding them as traitors.

From Gamini I came to know that the Armed forces were now diverting their activities towards them in Sinhala areas.

 

 

When a Milk collecting center was opened, on the recommendation by the Government Mr. Martin Silva was appointed as Manager.  Even though he was less talented in administering the Milk collecting center, he showed very soon his credentials in fraudulent practices.

Since most of the milk collected was used for the manufacture of butter and cheese, the price of milk was fixed according to the amount of fat available in milk.  Normally the fat content available in milk is 3%.  But the fat content in milk obtained from cows in the dry zone was about 5%.  The practice was to measure the availability of fat in milk and pay the farmers accordingly.  Mr. Martin Silva had been paying farmers at the rate of 3% only for the milk they supplied.  He had pocketed the balance.  Though many people were aware of this fraudulent practice, they could not prove it.  Ordinary farmers do not possess instruments for testing the fat content in milk.  Hence he had been lucky in continuing his venture.

When I spoke to him about this matter not only he refuted the allegation but also became angry.  I thought it was useless talking to him further and therefore decided to act.  I bought a testing instrument from Anuradhapura Milk collecting center and used it to test the milk provided by a few farmers for a period of one month and prepared a schedule.  I obtained the assistance of Rukman in this respect.  The J.V.P. affiliated farmers kept this matter as a secret.  When I showed the schedule to Mr. Martin Silva and threatened him with reporting the matter to the superiors if he continued his fraudulent practice, he promised not to do it in future.

I thought that with this undertaking the problem was over.  But Mr. Martin Silva made use of his last weapon telling many people that I was from the tiger movement.  This may have had some psychological impact on me.  But since I was married to a Sinhalese girl, his propaganda did not have much credibility.

 

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About noelnadesan

Commentator and analyst of current affairs.
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