For many years Sri Lanka has faced shortages of food and the country's staple food, rice, has had to be imported.
For many years Sri Lanka has faced shortages of food and the country's staple food, rice, has had to be imported. But new Socialist Government of Sri Lanka hopes to make the country self-sufficient in rice. It began a campaign towards this end with a traditional ceremony at a paddy field in the Panduwasnuwara district on Thursday (27 October).
SYNOPSIS: The site for the ceremony was a sacred paddy field. Legend has it that the "Vap Magul" tradition of preparing the paddyfields for planting first began here more than 2000 years ago.
The Prime Minister Mr. Junius Jayawardene has helped organise this ceremony, and he was joined by several senior government ministers. In an address to the crowds he exhorted the people of Sri Lanka to "put their hands to the plough" and unite in this national effort.
These girls carried baskets of food which was to be distributed among the farmers who helped at the later ploughing ceremony. Their dress was part of the "Vap Magul" tradition.
The Prime Minister was ready to practise what he had earlier preached. With his sarong tucked around his waist he and others prepared to plough the paddyfield. Mr. Jayawardene's Socialist United National Party won an overwhelming victory in the country's July elections. One of its major campaign platforms had been its aim of making Sri Lanka self-sufficient in food within five years.
With this objective in mind the Government has announced it will complete a major irrigation scheme, the Mahaweli Development Project, within six years. But in the meantime other methods, such as this ceremony, are being used to encourage the people to work harder towards their goal.