First published by Ceylon Today (2016-09-23)
A group of environmental organizations held a People’s Tribunal, on multinational agrochemical companies, at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute, yesterday. A large number of representatives from Farmers’ Associations participated in it. A number of representatives from Sri Lanka’s agricultural hubs, including Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala and Moneragala, gave evidence before the tribunal; highlighting the issues faced by the people due to the activities of the multinational agrochemical companies.
“We want to know the impacts of the activities of the multinational agrochemical companies on the environment, on people’s health, and on society. Also, these multinational agrochemical companies have not been held responsible, for the damage they have done to Sri Lankans in the last 40 years,” said Chintaka Rajapakse, moderator of the Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR).
A number of activists also pointed out that it is the women who are the most affected by the adverse effects of the activities carried out by these multinationals. Women are employed in most of the large scale export oriented farms, also managed by multinational agrochemical companies; and most of them suffer from chronic diseases due to the constant exposure to agrochemicals.
“The women that work in large scale banana and mango farms in Moneragala suffer from chronic knee and back pain and some of them have suffered miscarriages,” said KP Somalatha, from Moneragala.
Executive Director of Centre for Environmental Justice Hemantha Vithanage, Human Rights Lawyer Lakshan Dias and the President of the Nutrition Society of Sri Lanka, Visakha Thilakaratne acted on the panel of judges. Sajeewa Chamikara, Director of the Environmental Conservation Trust (ECT) also spoke at the event.
By Rathindra Kuruwita