JVP takes up plight of hard pressed sugar cane farmers

The JVP yesterday, in Parliament, raised the problems and grievances of thousands of sugar cane farmers of Sevenagala, Pelwatte and Hingurana now engaged in the Satyagraha campaign.

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, making a special statement, said more than 25 days had elapsed since the sugar cane farmers commenced their Satyagraha, demanding solutions for several longstanding problems. The farmers participation in negotiations with the authorities concerned, held demonstrations and resorted to other trade union actions but without success. There were around 30,000 farmer families on Hingurana, Pelwatte and Sevanagala sugar cane cultivations and they were now engaged in the Satyagraha campaign. Those farmers toiled on plantations encompassing 12,500 acres in Hingurana, 33,000 acres in Pelwatte and 10,000 acres in Sevanagala, Parliament was told.

Only nine percent of the country’s sugar need was produced locally. The Kantale sugar factory had been shut down owing to mismanagement, the JVP leader said. Thousands of farmer families were affected by the closure. The Hingurana Sugar factory had been sold to S Arumugam Company in 1993. Those changes had resulted in the collapse of the country’s sugar industry by 1996, MP Dissanayake said. The machinery had been sold for scrap. The businessman who purchased the company had fled to India without settling loans due to the local banks, the JVP leader said. Thousands of farmer families were affected by the crisis in the sugar factories as industry had not been managed properly. The protesting farmers had forwarded 10 grievances to the authorities. They are demanding an increase in the price paid for sugar cane from Rs. 5,000 to 8,500. The farmers demand the ownership of state lands they had cultivated for decades. They also wanted the interest on the loans written off as they were not in a position to pay them, the JVP leader said.

Leader of the House and Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella said the government would answer the questions raised by the JVP leader at a future date.

Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Wijith Wijyamuni Zoysa said the government was aware of the crisis situation prevailing owing to the satyagraha campaign by the sugar cane farmers and action would be taken to solve the workers’ problems.

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