By Kumar David –
The Foodless Emergency (FE) has public support because most/many/some people believe that Pettah merchants and such like are hoarding food in their warehouses and since quite a few of the believers if they are Sinhalese are incensed by the thought that these merchants are Muslims and Tamils. I don’t know whether this ethnic allegation is correct, but who cares, facts ceased to matter a long time ago. Irrespective of all this the bottom line is that at best FE will buy the government only a very short time, a fortnight say if the hoarding allegations are substantially true. The real problem is that there is not enough food for public consumption anyway, and this is exactly why hoarding takes place in the first place. Which idiot hoards onions if there is going to be a glut and he will soon have to bury them in the mud along with his other round things? Seriously, the problem is that there are shortages of foodstuffs and both consumers and merchants are resigned to the knowledge that things are going to get worse, much worse.
There are three reasons for the shortage. First, global and domestic trade disruption due to the pandemic compounded by the asinine mess created by President and appointed ex-military stooges. The second reason is the right-royal economic cockup linked to the glaring fact that the Central Bank is broke and Poor Lakshman is going to be buried by a foreign currency debacle. The third reason is that everybody, everybody from the President down to the menial labourer, knows that things are only going to get worse. This is happening in the context of the President’s inexplicable blunders such as proclaiming an inorganic fertiliser ban forthwith. Real shortages are hugely magnified when the public loses confidence, then the fear of crisis becomes self-fulfilling.
As for hoarding it is no secret that the store-rooms in every middle- and upper-class home that can afford it are bursting with food and necessities. People know what’s coming and prepare for it. These store-rooms across Colombo and the outstations, in total, contain more than the greediest Pettah merchants can dream of. So, what is the newly appointed Sargant Major or Colonel or whatever his rank going to do about this? Is he going to march in, jackboots and all, into every nonamahataya’s backroom?
In the meantime, President Gotabaya is dragging the military into the mud alongside himself. It will be no more than a week or two before the army pulls out, or frightened traders put on the shelf every hidden morsel. What after that, what when the shelves go empty again? The stories will start, fingers will be pointed and the kitchens of army people will be alleged to be well stocked. Who will carry the can then, the military or the President? I don’t see a way out for Sri Lanka even if we change government, desirable though this is. You see those salivating in the wings don’t inspire much confidence either.