By Upatissa Pethiyagoda –
I have just seen the TV transmission of today’s proceedings of the Parliamentary debate on The President’s recent Address. I inferred from the remarks of the Minister of Agriculture, that the previously refused shipment of “Organic Fertilizer”, after circling around in Singapore, is now on its way back or has already arrived. It is said that since we have already paid some 7 million US dollars for the rejected shipment. From the far from clear, or coherent words of the Minister, it seems apparent that we may allow the unloading and spread of this condemned stuff – saving our US dollar 7 million (unjustified) payment. This is perilous. I can only speak about the coconut industry.
The coconut world is faced with a deadly and incurable viral (or mycoplasma) disease, under various names – Lethal yellowing (Caribbean), and Cadang- Cadang (Philippines) and other local names elsewhere. We have a milder condition called Weligama Wilt, possibly similar to Kerala Root Wilt, also suspected to be due to a milder mycoplasma. Having seen the situation some 40 years ago, in Jamaica, it is still nightmarish in my mind. Visions of hundreds and hundreds of decapitated coconut trunks or stumps (similar to those seen in the Palmyrah trees in the North and East, devastated by mortar fire), are still vivid.
Sri Lanka, thanks to its rigorous control by Quarantine authorities, has escaped such disaster. The current ill-thought out caper may well destroy it all. Stupidity or corruption holds the Coconut Industry in peril.
This is my reason for hastily seeking action to prevent the possible danger that will certainly destroy our coconut plantations. I may be blamed for being emotional or impulsive. I cannot possibly stand by and watch a pending disaster go unchecked. My conscience does not allow it. I may be staking my reputation – but never mind – this would be a very small price to pay for doing right, in my opinion.
*Dr Upatissa Pethiyagoda – Former Director, CRI