Jaffna, Peace and Conflict

No one to listen to our pleas

“The cost of living is sky rocketing like the Kfir jets,” said an old man standing along the road side with great sigh. He was holding his loaf of bread tightly as though it was something precious. “Yes, soon will have to give up eating,” another old man standing next to him admitted. Now a days bread is the main food item in many families. We can simply estimate the rate of cost of living with the price increase of wheat flour and bread.  

Posing a question regarding the cost of living to a crowd in front of a grocery shop a man answers saying, “so many reporters and media people have visited us and asked the same question again and again, our silly people have been repeating the same story but we hardly witness any outcome. They just pour out their grievances. On one hand our people gain some mental solace, on the other hand the reporter gets a story,” he said disappointed.

“Who cares about our plight? Though we had rice and sambol for lunch, we just pretend as though we had lunch with chicken curry. We used to hide our personal difficulties but now we are unable to afford even bread and sambol for our meal,” said Vimala (50).

Jelina Stanislas travels every day from Sillalai to Jaffna for work. She says ‘fuel prices are increasing day by day, so are the bus fares. Early morning I come to Jaffna then I have to take a bus in the evening to go home. I don’t know when all this mess will come to an end.

Though the bus fares increase I catch one bus after the other”.

A trishaw driver by the name of Ravi said took me to a place in Navanthurai were stagnant rain water had collected.  

“Do you know that place, get into my auto I will take you there”, said Ravi eager to earn a few rupees under the guise of helping me with some information.

As he had described, the area was submerged by flood water. The December monsoon rain had not yet drained.  Big stones were laid in front of all the houses to cross the path without stepping in to the water. It was sad to see the children standing inside their houses and staring through the window.

The residents were living amidst unhygienic conditions which had led to breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other water borne diseases. The Jaffna District Cooperative Rural Bank Association building was also under water.

It’s quite natural for a community living in such poor conditions to become frustrated with life.

When we returned to the place where Ravi had stationed his trishaw, he slowly looked at his wrist watch and checked the time. “One hour has passed, sir please pay me 450/-” he asked.  Knowing his plight I agreed without any negotiations only asking him to take me home safely.

Udaiyar from Jaffna

This submission is from Groundview, an independent publication by CHA on humanitarian issues and peacebuilding in Sri Lanka with narratives and content produced by citizens.

  • Karl

    Skyrocketing commodity prices is not an isolated incident in Sri Lanka but a global phenomenon drawn about by three mail factors:-
    1) reducing the poverty gap (more people are able to afford basic commodities e.g. rice, milk, etc).
    2) the global population is steadily increasing (along with resource consumption)
    3) search for alternative fuel sources (wheat converted to ethonal as a petrol substitute)

    being an island with a (regularly) predictable rainfall calender, it would prove prudent to assist farmers with adequate farming/ drainage (rain water run-off) assistance along with the (in)adequate subsidies and/or rain water harvest to prevent constant flooding.

    Most of these problems can be better addressed:-
    1) fuel prices (installing another petroleum refinery) and possibly investing hedge funds to crude oil instead of dollar bonds.
    2) growing rice paddy (in stable conditions) reduce/remove government subsides which influence the amount of rice grown/ harvested. Less grown = more profits. without subsidies farmers will have to produce maximum yield for profit (due to market forces price determinant).
    3) there should be more active participation by private entities to help assist (or be it privatization) of certain governmental functions to allow more sources of commodity imports.

    Food for thought.