Friday, June 24, 2022
The incumbent government became a metaphor for failure and gained notoriety for its callous disregard for people’s misfortunes. It does not care to safeguard the interests of consumers, who are defrauded by both producers and traders. Help for the hapless audience came from an unexpected quarterback – a member of the Rice Mafia; Araliya rice mill owner Dudley Sirisena, who is one of the millers accused of manipulating the market and exploiting farmers and consumers, has embarked on a crusade to protect the public from exploitative practices great millers and rice traders! Who would have thought such a thing would ever be possible?
Dudley has publicly pledged to sell the rice at the maximum retail price (MRP) and to have other millers do the same. He seems to be serious about fulfilling his promise. How is it that one member of the rice mafia, of all people, has become so caring that he takes the cudgel for the good of the poor consumers? This is the question we must have asked ourselves when we saw the boss of Araliya Rice confront a fellow miller during a press briefing on Wednesday. He walked out angry, when another miller called on the government to introduce a “reasonable” MRP; he demanded that the rice be available at affordable prices. He told the other millers that they had all amassed enough wealth by selling rice and now was the time for them to help the public.
One would have thought that the transmogrification of people from misers to givers was only possible in fiction as in the case of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ short story, A Christmas Carolor the main character of George Eliot Silas Marner. Scrooge, the business owner in search of a penny, and Marner, the miserly weaver, overcome greed and eventually become caring and generous. But now we can see such a character in the flesh – Dudley, the miller!
People can and do change, for different reasons. What caused Dudley’s welcome transformation? He would have us believe that he is driven by sheer altruism to give something back to the rice consumers who made his wealth accumulation possible. He may finally follow the dictates of his conscience. However, there are other possibilities. People are out of breath. They are in the depths of desperation, unable to buy essentials, and alleviate pangs of hunger due to chronic scarcity of goods and soaring prices. Their anger is obviously rising, and the food protests could lead to food riots sooner than expected, and no one will be safe in such an event; rich millers will have people raiding their warehouses. Last month’s wave of violence, which destroyed dozens of homes belonging to government politicians, can be seen as a taste of what is to come unless the current crisis is brought under control and some relief be granted urgently to the public. Dudley, the miller, knows how people react to rice shortages and sharp increases in rice prices; he may be aware of the fate that befell Prime Minister Dudley in 1953, when an increase in the price of a measure of rice, among others, triggered a hartal. So the boss of Araliya Rice may have sought to win over the public by pledging to sell rice at the prices stipulated by the Consumer Affairs Authority. It is also possible that as the younger brother of former President Maithripala Sirisena, who always aims high, Dudley is trying to rally public support by cutting rice prices in a bid to engage in active politics and/ or consolidate the crumbling image. of the Sirisenas.
Whatever his motive, Dudley shamed the government. He showed up to tame the rice mafia, of which he himself is a member. This is something that the current leaders have failed to do for all these years. They should hang their heads in shame at being so helpless despite their bluster.
We had no civil word to say about the Rice Mafia, especially Dudley, but his offer to join the Rice MRP as well as his urging of other millers to follow suit should be appreciated. We can only hope that Dudley is sincerely keen to grant some relief to the unfortunate audience and that he won’t try to pull the plug on them and remind us of certain evil characters such as Louis Stevenson’s shapeshifters. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hydeand Saki’s Gabriel-Ernest.
Now that Dudley has spoken, he must follow suit. The other suckers, too, had better be considerate of the public in these difficult times. People expect rice at affordable prices. The hungry masses are angry, and no one will be safe if their anger spills over into the streets.