The poor pushed from the frying pan into the fire-Escalation of the prices

Protest campaign against the escalation of the cost of Living.

The Savisthri members of the Matale District.

Conducted by
The Savisthri (Women for Development Alternatives) National campaign.

(01). Theme : The poor pushed from the frying pan into the fire-Escalation of the prices of essential consumer items.

(02). The Subject Addressed :
We condemn the escalation of the Cost of Living.
The country's agriculture being paralysed.
The availability of foreign seeds in lieu of indigenous seeds for cultivation purposes.

Date and Time : 17.07.2007 From 1100 hrs. to 1400 hrs

Venue : Economic Trade Centre, Dambulla in the Matale District.

(03). Aim : Instill an awareness amongst the authorities concerned of the high cost of essential consumer items which has become a burden to the masses. Keep the masses aware of the reasons adducing to the escalation of prices. Collection of signatures of the participants for the petition to be submitted to the authorities.

(04). The day's programme

The protest campaign and the peaceful march.
Poster campaign
Display boards
Creativities (puppets, masks)
Price list of essential consumer items (Boards indicating the prices of keroson oil, other kinds of fuel, bus fare).
Banners prepared pertaining to the theme.
Street Dramas
Miscellaneous items
Distribution of hand-bills

The rally which commenced from the Dambulla Bus Stand shouting slogans reached the Dambulla Economic Trade Centre after walking a quarter of a mile.

Approximately thousand personnel participated. According to the name lists of the Districts, 840 participated from the Districts. In addition, personnel from other sister organizations and people in the area (Dambulla) participated.

Districts and areas represented
Galle, Matara, Moneragala, Matale, Anuradhapura, NuwaraEliya, Kurunagala, Negambo, Kegalle, Mawanella, Trincomalee.

Groups that participated
Savisthri members representing the farming, fishing, plantation labour sectors, members of the Human Rights Protection Impact groups, members of the youth groups and members of the other sister organizations.

The undermentioned from the farming and fishing organizations participated.
Those who earn a daily wage by doing odd jobs on a daily basis.
Those who earn money from the sale of the produce in their home gardens.
Customary farmers both males and females now working under farmer businessmen.
Fishermen and fisher women who had earlier depended on their customary fishing industry but now working like coolies under fishing magnets.
Women engaged in self employment (Coir work, making rugs, Maldive Fish, Jaadi (preserved fish) sweet meats, sewing, reed work).
Women engaged in plantations as labourers.

Public Meeting - 11.30 hrs.
Opposite the Economic Trade Centre, Dambulla. The people who congregated here shouted slogans for about 10 minutes :-

Expression of public views.
Expression of the District member's views regarding the impacts and changes in agriculture and in the market.

Moneragala District
Expression of views by Mr. Somapala, a farmer from Handapanagala.

He stressed about the fall of the production activities of the farmers due to the impacts of open economy, usage of chemicals for agricultural purposes, loans taken and not being able to repay them, the frustration of the farmers and farming given up by most of the farmers. He mentioned about the government policies that had crippled the country's agriculture, escalation of the cost of living and that farmers belonging to all the ethnic (Sinhala, Tamil and Muslims) groups should get together and organize themselves to raise agriculture.

Anuradhapura District
Miss. Niroshini Tharangamala, Karambewa, a member of a youth group.
She spoke about the environmental damage caused through modernized agriculture, closure of the avenues of subsistence for the youth and stressed the necessity of organizational work to overcome these obstacles.

Expression of views pertaining to the theme - Mr. Herman Kumara - Convenor – National Fisheries Solidarity.

He pointed out that activities carried out under the leadership of women could exert great impacts. Everybody should value the leadership given by the Savisthri group which would vouch for the saying that the world depend on the rays of the sun and the milk of the mothers. The country's agriculture belongs to women.

Preparation of seeds, conservation of such seeds and sowing of seeds are all entwined with the members of the fair sex, he said. Hence, this could be considered as the commencement where women who have such a right have interfered in exerting impacts to slash down the prices of essential consumer items. It became crystal clear that the suppressed, the farmers, fisher-folk and estate labour should unite and organize themselves against poverty due to escalating cost of living as a consequence of adverse economic policies implemented in the country.

Why women take the leadership - Miss. Padma Pushpakanthi, National Co-ordinater – Savisthri.

She said that women who give birth to children automatically get the right to protect that life and the world. The responsibility of making the world a better place to live in devolves on both men and women. In the absence of a protective sustainable programme in the country, our women are being used as slaves in the economic sphere. Since these unfortunate women work under trying conditions for a mere pittance, the sky rocketing of the prices of essential consumer items have placed a heavy burden on them. As citizens of the country the women should make use of all available opportunities and organize themselves to suppress the obstacles and impacts levelled against them and their livelihoods.

She further stressed that it was because of the rising cost of living which had become unbearable for them that the women had risen against the high cost of living. It is because of that these women have organized themselves to exert impacts on the policies implemented in the country to paralyze the agriculture. This is just a beginning. The petition which is being signed by the masses is scheduled to be handed over to the Hon.Minister of Trade in August 2007 after a discussion with him. Till such time the collection of signatures to the petition will continue.

Street Drama Troupe - Family Relief Service Centre – Kurunegale.

The street drama depicted the following :-
Rising cost of living.
Weakening of the country's agriculture.
Destruction of indigenous seeds.
Utilization of chemicals for agriculture.

Three Street dramas on the above theme were staged for 30 minutes.

Sister Organizations that extended Co-orperation :-
Family Relief Service Centre - Kurunagala
Vanitha Shrama Nikethanaya - Warakapola
National Fisheries Solidarity - (NAFSO)
Co-operative Women's organization - Mawanella (Kegalle)
Eastern United Women's Organization- (Trincomalee) Kantale
Uva – Wellasa Govi Kantha Sanvidanaya Handapanagala
Rajarata Janaprobhodhani Padanama - Anuradhapura
Movement for National Land & Agricultural Reforms - MONLAR
Dambulla Kantha Sanvidanaya
Haritha Vyaparaya

Full Co-ordination of the Programme - Human Rights Programme Unit - Mr. Susil Wijesinghe.
Assistance - Mr. Gamini Ruberu - Programme Co-ordinator
Assistant Co-ordinator - Alternate Economic Unit - Sunethra
Rally and the Protest conducted by – All District co-ordinators including Miss. Neranjala Deepani, Purchasing Officer.
Assistance - Members of the National Active Women's Collective.

Media Institutions that covered the programme :-
The provincial reporter of "Sirasa" - got a voice cut.
Neth F.M.- Did a live programme.
Live programme by MAX.

Problems, challenges, failures encountered
We were convinced that more prior preparations should be done in view of certain problems encountered when conducting the rally eg: failure to do a prior check of the Mega –phone. Irregularities in the distribution of slogans. Had to pay more attention to the organizational work as there was less support from the area. Lack of awareness regarding the area where the protest campaign was held. The programme had to be curtailed, in view of the criticism levelled against the rally by a higher officer attached to the Economic Trade Centre, Dambulla and attempts made to suppress the rally.

On the following day (18th July) efforts made by an individual on the pretext of media publicity, giving telephone calls to get at the institutions that give financial assistance to the organization instead of making inquiries regarding the programme.

Less participation from the media both print and electronic.
On the following day (the 18th) a Provincial Reporter of the Newspapers "Lankadipa" , Lakbima and Dailymirror had published a derogatory reports in their papers regarding the protest campaign to the effect that the rally was held with an assurance given to the participants that each would be paid a sum of Rs. 500/- and a rice packet and those who did not get the money and the packet of meals had an argument and it led to an altercation and exchange of obscene words.


Members in the Six Districts where Savisthri programmes are being implemented participated with great zeal.

Expression of views by the farmers both males and females pertaining to the theme.

Ability to collect signatures for the petition not only from the participants but from the outsiders as well. This protest campaign was amongst various other protest campaigns held throughout the country against the rise of the cost of Living. However, publicity is being given to certain actions that are being taken by the government to implement economic programmes based on agriculture for reducing the cost of living. But we have no faith in such publicity work.

Police personnel deployed in the area gave their unstinted support by words of encouragement given to the activists.

Public Repercussions

Those in the vicinity of the venue of the rally gave their fullest support in various ways as this was a subject which was timely and which was felt by the people. Some people have stated that such programmes like this should be implemented on a given date throughout the country.
It was with the view of expressing his solidarity for such a programme that a particular person who participated at this rally had expended more than one thousand rupees to distribute tea to some of those assembled.

Lessons Learnt

It was felt that prior preparations would minimize the problems to a great extent and that action should be taken to get more assistance from the District Organizations of the District or area where such programmes are held. That there is the ability to convince the masses more than the authorities through such programmes.

There is much mud-slinging to distract and discourage such programmes of a strong stature.

Subsequent Programme

To collect signatures for the petition from July 17th to 3rd August 2007. To discuss this matter with the Hon.Minister of Trade by prior appointment and the "Active Women's Collective" members to hand over the petition to him.

Plans formulated to hold such programmes at District level in the future.