Daily Mirror - Print Edition

New Year, tough times and animal abuse - E

10 Apr 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

We wish our readers a happy and bountiful New Year, as the country celebrates its cultural festival this month. On the 13th of this month, the two major communities in our country Tamils and the Sinhalese celebrate the Eastern or cultural New Year. Around the same time, our Muslim brothers and sisters celebrate Ramadan, while Christians celebrate Easter. 

The ‘Adhi Vasies’- also known as the ‘Veddahs’ also celebrate the New Year or ‘Kona Mangalaya’ during this time. Within the month all communities celebrate.
This year too, since the Covid-19 pandemic hit our country in January 2020, New Year celebrations will be held on an austere basis. Over 500,000 persons lost employment due to the lockdowns imposed during that period.

Making a bad situation worse, the financial meltdown in 2022 led the country to announce it was bankrupt. The country was thus deemed not credit-worthy by the world’s financial institutions. 

Dependent on imports of basic food items, fuel, oil and medicaments, the country was on the verge of economic collapse. The chaotic situation following the then-president fleeing the country was steadied in the wake of President Wickremesinghe’s ability to secure an International Monetary Fund (IMF) debt restructuring facility. 
But the facility came with a price -cuts in subsidies, increased taxes etc, etc. Today while the economy, ‘on paper’ has been seen by some as revitalisation of the economy; a majority of the people are bearing the brunt of cost-cutting measures. 

The present government has implemented the various recommendations of the IMF. Resultantly limited basic requirements are available. But ordinary folk, many of whom lost employment and/or suffered wage cuts are unable to afford to purchase them.

The half-built high-rise buildings lining the city of Colombo since the time of Covid-19, bears ample testimony to employment losses of those made redundant since the Covid-19 pandemic.
The street-side outlets selling crackers and fireworks, once an intrinsic part of New Year celebrations are missing. The usual hustle and bustle at marketplaces and crowded super markets are absent even though the New Year or ‘Avurudhu’ is just days away. According to traders people are buying fewer food items and household goods.

Unsurprisingly, a study published by the prestigious medical journal, ‘Lancet’ highlights child malnutrition and underweight Lankan girls stands at approximately 410,000. In other words 16.4% of school-age girls in the country are underweight. The research also revealed 450,000 boys are similarly malnourished -in total 860,000 malnourished children!
A study by our sister paper the ‘Sunday Times’ reveals that prices of basic food items have risen by between 40% to 60% year-on-year.

While the government has imposed cost-cutting measures recommended by the IMF, it has failed to raise domestic production, especially agricultural production. Had support been provided to agricultural production, basic foods could have been freely available and at lower costs during the Avurudhu season. 
Rather than taking measures to increase production and reduce costs of basics, we are seeing the authorities attempting to cover up shortcomings via different spectacles in the run-up to the Avurudhu season.

Suddenly there has been a spurt of events where a variety of animals are being forced to race each other to entertain the ‘masses’. Majestic elephants normally used in peraheras to carry sacred relics are now being used as racing beasts.
Is it not sacrilegious that these poor helpless animals are being forced to run in the sweltering heat for no reason whatsoever? Sadly some of these races are conducted in the vicinity of the very temples they majestically carry sacred relics around.

In the not-so-distant past we saw ministerial figures rightfully opposing animal sacrifice. Today we are witnessing bulls and ponies being forced to race. Not just race, but race on tarred surfaces which damage their hooves. All this is in the name of culture.
Should we not be ashamed of ourselves for the cruelty we subject these harmless creatures? Does it not put us at the level of our colonial masters who caged and exhibited people from Africa in Europe? Shame on us.