By Asiri Fernando
The Government needs to get its priorities straight and deliver adequate relief to those affected by a range of crises, Opposition Parliamentarian S.M. Marikkar said yesterday.
The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP charged that the Government has only allocated an allowance of Rs. 300 per day for those displaced by floods to be provided meals, adding that relief, both in the form of compensation and dry rations, have not reached some affected communities as of yesterday.
“All we see is the Government laying foundation stones for highways and other large scale infrastructure projects. The public is affected by several crises, yet we can see where the Government’s priorities are,” he said, urging the Government to ensure that the affected receive assistance.
The Opposition MP also highlighted that the skyrocketing cost of living was compounding the pressure on the public and argued that the Government’s economic and COVID-19 management policies had pushed the public from the pan into the fire.
“The price of some varieties of rice has nearly doubled since last year. This Government got elected on the promise of better pricing for the farmers, a free supply of fertiliser and a reduction in the cost of living. Have any of those promises been upheld? Now, this ad-hoc policy of terminating chemical fertiliser use overnight will complicate the agrarian sector and food security in the months ahead,” said Marikkar.
He stressed that low-income families, especially those who get by on daily wages, are devastated due to the high market prices of basic food items such as rice. Many are struggling to afford three meals a day, Marikkar said.
Speaking on the Singaporean flagged MV X-Press Pearl container vessel disaster, Marikkar questioned if the Government has learned from past errors in seeking adequate compensation from the MT New Diamond tanker fire in 2020.
“We have been told that the Government claimed Rs. 430 million in damages. Given the impact that incident has had, is Rs. 430 million sufficient?” Marikkar stated, pointing out that in the case of the X-Press Pearl, the magnitude of the impact was far greater.
“We have to look at the long-term impact, have we calculated the impact of this MV X-Press Pearl accurately? We have to take into account the livelihoods of the coastal fishermen from Chilaw to Weligama. They depend on what they earn each day to make a living.
“There is a question of if the impact of this marine pollution on our ocean and marine resources can be calculated? This disaster will have an impact on our tourism industry and may affect our plans for a post-COVID recovery.”
The SJB MP also labelled as shameful comments made by some Government Ministers that the disaster would yield a good opportunity to bring in much needed foreign currency during a financial crisis.