26 May, 2022


What Is The New Halal?

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“…..at the root of the Ur-fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged”. –Umberto Eco (Eternal Fascism)[i]

Remember halal?

The mighty roar against halal sprang up, literally out of nowhere, and occupied the public square with lightening speed. For three months, the anti-Halal campaign raged, subsuming all other concerns and devastating everything in its path, including the decades-old amity between Buddhists and Muslims (without which the Eelam War could have taken a different trajectory). Then, as abruptly as it came into life, halal died.

Today Halal lays forgotten, in an unmarked grave, in the graveyard of bogus issues.

Before its sudden and momentary elevation to the political centre-stage, halal languished in a stagnant pool of Sinhala-Buddhist extremist slogans, the sort which are either too impractical or too divisive for any sensible government to touch. And there are plenty of slogans left in that quagmire, quite a few even more inane and insalubrious than halal.

Someone with a surfeit of power and a dearth of principles may decide to select another of those slogans, and turn it into the issue of the hour.

The alacrity and the totality with which the BBS dumped the halal ‘issue’ indicate that the organisation is merely a cat’s paw without a will of its own. Rather like Wimal Weerawansa’s fast unto death, which, too, bubbled ferociously, for a day or two, and then died, as if it has never been.

There are certain basic similarities in these non-issues. They appear and disappear suddenly, without warning. Their lives are of very short duration, but while they live they do so with unimaginable intensity. They are championed by extremist elements with official or unofficial links to the Rajapaksa government.

None of these are rice-and-curry issues; or issues to do with the well being of the populace. None of these have anything to do with the innumerable real-life problems faced by Lankans. All the issues target some real or perceived enemy/non-friend of the Rajapaksas.

Sometimes there is a slight variation in the pattern. Take, for instance, the issue of contaminated milk powder imported from New Zealand. The issue burst forth in March in a blaze of publicity. It was claimed that milk powder from NZ contained DCD, a hazardous agro-chemical. This naturally caused concern, general assumption being that responsible officials would not have echoed such a serious charge, without proof. In the following weeks, the story ebbed and flowed. Then in May, it was reported that the government will be banning the importation of certain milk powders, pronto: “The Health Ministry Food Advisory Committee headed by Director General of Health Services, Dr. Palitha Mahipala, has decided to ban the imports of tainted milk powder…… A Health Ministry official has told local media that a gazette notification regarding the ban will be published by the Director General of Health Services shortly”[ii].

Then, suddenly, the entire issue became a non-issue. The Health Ministry announced that the milk powder was as safe as houses and if there was DCD, it was in negligible – and thus non-harmful – quantities. The Ministry also declared war on anyone who continued to talk about contaminated milk: “legal action will be taken against any person or organisation which publicises false information about milk powder”[iii].

No reason was given for the about-turn.

Is the milk powder contaminated? Was a campaign about contaminated milk powder commenced without ascertaining the truth, via proper tests? Why did the government decide to ban the importation of contaminated milk powder, one week, and decide that there was no contaminated milk powder, the next week? Did money pass hands to render contaminated milk powder kosher? Was the volte face caused by the need to protect the Hambantota Commonwealth? Or was the whole ho-ha a lie, aimed at reining in the Anchor agents in Sri Lanka, the Maharaja Group of Companies, which also happens to own the MTV?

Can this government be trusted with anything? Can any dependence be placed either on its accusations or its absolutions?

Means of Control

So what will be the new halal?

Cattle-slaughtering? The 13th Amendment? Northern provincial election?

It is hard to be sure of the particulars, but the general rule is clear: there will always be a new halal, an issue which incites and stupefies, terrifies and diverts….

The aim of such bogus issues is multifaceted. They intend to make Sinhala-Buddhists feel safe, under Rajapaksa rule. They also intend to make the minorities believe that the Rajapaksas are the only bulwark (however faulty) against innumerable hordes of Sinhala-Buddhist fanatics, frothing at the mouth and rearing to tear every Tamil/Muslim/Christian from limb to limb.

The other intention is to make India and the West think that only a Rajapaksa government can keep the Sinhala Buddhist fanatics at bay and ensure for the minorities a modicum of rights and protection.

For instance, the likes of Wimal Weerawansa, the JHU and the BBS would be allowed to rage and storm against the 13th Amendment, so that the Rajapaksas look moderate by comparison, a restraining influence, an indispensable part of the solution rather than the crux of the problem. (Eventually, a false quid-pro-quo may be created: postponement of the NPC election in return for the continued existence of the 13th Amendment).

It is all a show. These fanatics are nothing more than clockwork toys, wounded and unwounded, depending on the Rajapaksa need.

Rather like the phantom organisation the Tigers set up in late 2005/early 2006, Makkal Padai (Peoples’ Forces) to launch attacks on the Lankan military.

The creation of no-issues is a method of control at the macro level. At the micro level, the Rajapaksas use bribery as the main method of control. On May 9th the cabinet approved a proposal to give former provincial councillors, who had served for more than two and a half years, duty-free vehicle permits to the tune of US$40,000[iv].

This in a country with a debt burden of Rs.6 trillion!

Where bribery fails, pressure comes in. For instance, rugby referees are being pressurised to cover up the marauding deeds of a Presidential-brat. According to referee Orville Fernando, many referees are retiring: “it is because the governing body is not taking any steps that everyone is retiring. That means when the next club tournament comes there will not be enough people (referees). No one wants to become a referee”[v]. Similar tactics will be used to break the FUTA’s resistance to Colombo University’s new – and unethically-appointed – VC.

When all else fails, there are selective acts of terror, targeted repression. Such as the attempted abduction of the Janarala News Editor[vi]; or the 10-hour interrogation of Sagarica Delgoda, the Resident Representative of the Friedrich Neumann Stiftung (FNS), at the Fourth Floor. According to the ITN, Ms. Delgoda was grilled about suspected links between the FNS and the UNP. The FNS has had links with both the major parties, openly, for decades. Spinning conspiracies out of ordinary, public, democratic practices is another Rajapaksa forte[vii].

The Rajapaksa shenanigans are creating a frightened country with insecure, suspicious people. By seeking to fragment the opposition, the Rajapaksas are disuniting Sri Lanka.

[i]New York Review of Books – 22 .6.1995

[ii]Colombo Page – 13.5.2013

[iii] Daily News – 1.6.20013

[iv] The sitting members, who have been sitting for more than two and a half years, have also being given permits. “The government issues duty free vehicle permits to parliamentarians once in five years. They are also given loans of up to US $ 50,000 to import such vehicles. In most cases, the MPs sell their vehicle permits at prices ranging from Rs.120 million to Rs.150 million. Recently, the government also gave approval for the MPs to sell their vehicle permits” – Daily Mirror – 10.5.2013

[v] BBC – 31.5.2013

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Your Ever Loving,
    Maha Rawana

    Hey! Mr Hypo, how can you be ever loving if you hate another human??
    a complexed Idiot. the planet earth belongs to mankind. donkey’s in form of human’s can be expelled into a different planet. & certainly Maha Rawana you are one of them…

  • 0

    quoting from TG’s article “Today Halal lays forgotten” unquote.

    If the Halal certification was made a state controlled entity like the SLS from its inception, it would have been good for the state and the public, but why was it allowed to be controlled by a group of men claiming to be representing an organization be it religious or otherwise, that’s where it went wrong.

  • 0

    Daily Mirror

    Sri Lankan test results for agricultural chemical Dicyandiamide in Fonterra milk products were “off the charts” in comparison to other “extensive” testing according to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

    Officials in Colombo have ordered a recall after they say DCD, a nitrate inhibitor used in fertiliser, was found in two batches of imported milk powder.

    Fonterra disputes DCD traces were present in the product in Sri Lanka and says testing regimes are flawed. The nitrate inhibitor is added to fertiliser and New Zealand officials say it is not dangerous.

    The latest contamination scare comes after bacteria that could cause botulism was found in Fonterra infant formula, stemming from a dirty pipe in a Waikato factory.

    Fonterra’s Leon Clement, in confirming 40 tonnes of product had been recalled, rubbished the testing done by the Sri Lanka’s Industrial Technology Institute as “inaccurate”

    “As widely reported, Sri Lanka does not have the required technology to test for DCD in milk products,” he said.

    ”If incorrect laboratory procedures are used, naturally occurring substances can easily interfere with the analysis, making it appear as though the milk powders contained DCD when this is not the case.”

    The ITI test results had been analysed by analytical chemistry expert Professor Brynn Hibbert of the University of New South Wales and found to be inaccurate, Mr Clement said.

    The Cawthron Institute had also tested samples from the same batches of product tested by ITI and found no traces of DCD.

    Professor Hibbert said the testing method used by ITI was not appropriate to either unequivocally show the presence of the chemical, or quantify that it existed at the alleged levels.

    Key, meanwhile, added he was “extremely” confident in the reliability of New Zealand’s own tests. But he admits “minor traces” of the chemical were found.

    “The testing was very extensive,” he told reporters at the National Party Conference in Nelson today. “It was tested in other jurisdictions, as I understand it.

    “The sort of numbers that they [Sri Lanka] were talking about were off the charts and just don’t bear any resemblance to anything else we have ever seen.”

    New Zealand’s levels were “miles below” the Europe Union standard, he stressed.

    DCD first became an issue last October when low levels were detected. However, the milk tainting did not become public until February, causing a furore in China and Taiwan, markets already sensitive to a previous milk contamination scare.

    Sri Lankan officials and media have been agitating about the presence of DCD in New Zealand products since at least May. It is no longer used in fertiliser here.

    Key stressed this was not a food safety issue. A consumer would “have to drink a swimming pool full of it,” he said.

    “We are very confident that the testing we have done is actually showing the DCD levels at the appropriate levels that they were first tested at when the scare first took place,” he said

    “We have been aware for some time that there has been discrepancies between the testing that has been done in New Zealand and what the Sri Lankan officials believe that they have tested for. I’ve got to say that we have tremendous confidence in our testing.”

    Key wouldn’t speculate on whether Sir Lanka was being opportunist in the wake of last week’s Fonterra whey contamination scare.”It probably won’t be helpful,” he added.

    Mr Clement added that Fonterra would be working with the Sri Lankan Government to correct the ”misinformation” about the co-operative’s milk powder products, he said.

    “These inaccurate testing results have caused a lot of confusion for the public and we want to ensure that people know that they can continue to consume Anchor, a product that many Sri Lankans grew up on.”

    Sri Lanka, which has a population of 20.3 million, is New Zealand’s fifth largest market for milk powder.

    Almost 98 per cent of New Zealand’s exports to Sri Lanka off the southeast tip of India comprises dairy products, with some mineral exports.

    Fonterra has exported dairy products to Sri Lanka for over 30 years. It also has a processing plant using local milk and produces a range of dairy products.
    NZ’s primary industries minister Nathan Guy, speaking to reports before Mr Key, also claimed DCD is not a “food safety risk”.

    “It’s something to do with the technical differences between the New Zealand testing system and also what’s happening with the Sri Lankan testing system,” he explained. “That’s been disputed by Fonterra and others.”

    Kiwi representatives in Colombo are working with officials to “try and seek some clarity as to what exactly is happening.”

    He said it was a trade matter and Trade Minister Tim Groser and Foreign Minister Murray McCully are trying to seek answers.

    “We have got to establish the facts. There are no food safety concerns with DCD. DCD was withdrawn from the New Zealand market in September,” he said.

    “So I think it comes down to the testing systems in the Sri Lankan country.”

    Cambridge farmer John Searle said unlike last Saturday’s botulism scare, he doubted the Sri Lankan situation had much foundation.

    ”There’s no danger or risk at all from DCD, as far as we know. They stopped [New Zealand] farmers from using it last year. I have never used it.
    ”I can’t understand it. Unless they are using old milk powder, it’s hard to see how it happened.

    ”That’s just how it is. It seems to be dangerous to do anything these days. I don’t think it will hurt us much in the long run. Dairy is the only thing that really makes a decent amount of money for New Zealand. They have tried other things, but nothing else seems to work.”

    Likewise, South Waikato farmer Paul Vossen was not worried about the latest development. ”I suspect the Sri Lanka thing might just be an over-reaction. I don’t think there is anything in it.”

    However, such scares were likely at present, because Fonterra had been moving too slowly in getting information about the botulism contamination to those who needed it. ”That’s what happens. People leap to conclusions. ”I think this will all get sorted out, but this is another setback the guys at Fonterra don’t need.”

    New Zealand was at the centre of a DCD scare earlier this year after tiny amounts were detected in dairy produce.

    Guy said the issue has been “bubbling round” in Sri Lanka for “several months.”

    “The first time I became aware of it was in about May this year when I got sent an article from my counterpart up in Colombia [sic] the minister of agriculture basically saying don’t touch New Zealand products because they are toxic. “Which is completely untrue … DCD is not a food safety issue.”

    He said there has been some “backwards and forwards” on different testing regimes. “There has been some differences of testing that’s been ongoing and I just haven’t got that period of time. We are trying to get to the bottom of those facts.”

    Fonterra spokesman Roshan Kulasuriya told AFP: “Our milk is 100 per cent pure. But we complied with the directive and have completed the recall of the two batches said to contain traces of DCD.”

    The 100% brand has taken a battering in the wake of the botulism scare. Prime Minister John Key yesterday stood by the slogan, but stressed it was a tourism marketing campaign.

    Cabinet will tomorrow discuss establishing a ministerial inquiry into the botulism scare, which saw fierce criticism from Chinese authorities and international media. (Fairfax NZ News)

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