Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald
rfmcdpei

[BRIEF NOTE] On the food (and other) totalitarianism of post-war Sri Lanka

Learning of the news that Sri Lanka's government is trying to ban wheat and wheat-based foodstuffs, via brunorepublic's link didn't surprise me. This isn't just a factor of my being informed.

Some 2,000 bakers across Sri Lanka have been forced to close their businesses, the industry says.

The closures come as the government campaigns against the consumption of products based on wheat flour.

Eighteen months after defeating Tamil Tiger militants, the government seems to be intensifying its struggle against an unlikely enemy.

In recent days it has been banning wheat products from various public institutions.

Nationalistic elements of the governing coalition even speak of "wheat terrorism".

Wheat products enjoy great popularity in Sri Lanka - whether it is the rotis, widely eaten with curry, or breads, cakes and savoury pastries which are common here.

Now, though, wheat products have been removed from government hospitals, and fast foods - many made of wheat - have been banned from schools.

The government has also slashed a subsidy it used to apply to the wheat price.

It says this is because wheat is a foreign import, alien to an essentially rice-eating society and costly for its economy.

[. . .]

The National Freedom Front, one of the government parties, is leading the anti-wheat campaign.

The strongly nationalist faction says wheat is part of a "conspiracy" by multinational companies to undermine Sri Lanka's food security.

It is urging bakers to use wheat flour and rice flour in making bread - something bakers say is difficult to do.

The government also says phasing out wheat-based products will lead to healthier diets.


"What the fuck," I believe, is an entirely appropriate sentiment faced with this news.

The Economist has also noted the government's campaign against women wearing indecent clothing, unmarried couples sharing hotel rooms, and couples of whatever marital status engaged in public displays of affection on the streets. Alcohol ads are also banned, unsurprisingly enough.

On a more serious note yet, Sarath Fonseka--the military general responsible for the Sri Lankan government's victory over the Tamil Tigers--is also trying Fonseka, the only credible contender for the incumbent president in the recent elections, for competing with the current government and for alleging the government's authorization of war crimes at the end of the war. (The assasinations of journalists, civil society activists, and members of ethnic minorities including the Tamils, should surprise no one.)

Sri Lanka is becoming a totalitarian polity. Regulating personal relationships, sharp delimiting the bounds of personal expression, limiting the consumption of certain foodstuffs--how can Sri Lanka not be edging towards a particularly Buddhist-tinged, Sinhalese-nationalist, globalization-savvy polity?
Tags: democracy, national identity, politics, south asia, sri lanka
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