| by Victor Cherubim

( December 9, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Would you believe that Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev. Justin Welby, has brought to the notice of the civilised world the plight of the hungry in Britain? Would anyone in Sri Lanka believe, if I said that it is not only at Christmas time or at the bleak of midwinter that people depend on “food banks,” in and around our cities in UK for survival? We all may now know hunger stalks a large part of Britain and around the world.

We hear the melody chorus chime “Feed the world, “The Christmas No.1 Single lyric in the Pop Charts, which was released in November 1984 and sold 3.7 million copies and re-recorded in 1989, in 2004 and again this November 2014 by Band Aid 30 to raise funds in the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa.

”Do they know it’s Christmas time,” really is as poignant today as it was then, to the poor and the suffering abroad and to the “poverty stricken” in Britain.

Is it one way to comfort ourselves of our “inhumanity?”

“Feed the world
Let them know its Christmastime.......................
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears”.

What is it to be poor in Britain?

While the scale of waste is astonishing in the Western world, the plight of the poor families in the UK being “literally” forced to rely on food banks than those suffering in African villages and refugee camps, is a sad story. But it is a true story.

“Cash to help people suffering extreme poverty across the EU was backed in a vote at the European Parliament, but the British Government said food aid was better decided nationally rather than by Brussels”.

The sharp increase in food banks provided by charities has led to fierce political rows recently. It was only the other day, during the Chancellor of Exchequer; “Autumn Statement” that Prime Minister, David Cameron challenged Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls over his claim that a Labour Government would be “tough on the deficit and tough on the causes of the deficit”. David Cameron told MP’s: “As he (Balls) is one of the causes of the deficit, we have just found the first ever example of political maso-sadism”.

As there were howls of derision from irate Labour MP’s, shouting, “We all know what the Prime Minister meant”. Other MP’s were left speechless, while some shouted :”You mean sado-masochism,” the Speaker of the House of Commons, tried hard to quieten the MP’s ,while David Cameron stood up again and tried to save his joke by stating:”Let me be clear. I meant to say masochism.” 

Poverty has become a political football

Poverty, particular rural poverty, has become a political football not only in Britain, but also at the Presidential election campaign in Sri Lanka. People everywhere, whether in Manchester or in Minneriya, are ashamed to go to food banks, we know they deserve better.

Think of the poverty stricken villagers in North Central Province, some months ago, they had “water, water everywhere but nothing to drink,” Think of the mothers of Habarana, or of Haputale, who skip a day’s meals once a week in order to have more food for their children. Think of the nurses, school teachers, the railway workers, the fishermen, who cannot make ends meet.

Why can’t they make ends meet?

While Chandrika Bandaranaike can complain that it is all due to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Everyone knows, poverty is endemic around the world.

The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer or the aphorism, “the rich get richer, and the poor get – children”. That is the system in which we live in. This is economic inequality which Karl Marx called it, “The Law of Increasing Poverty.” President Andrew Jackson of United States said:”To make the rich richer and the poor more powerful, the humble members of society have a right to complain of the injustices of their government”.

Medamulana Deiyo or Minneriya Deiyo?

Both contenders at the Presidential Election in Sri Lanka on 8 January 2015 are both men of the people. Both President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maitripala Sirisena belong to the farming community, the former from Ruhunurata, and the later from Rajarata. Both ratas were impoverished due to Colonial rule. It was called “rural poverty”.

President Rajapaksa has done much for both ratas during his term of office. Maitripala Sirisena, is by no means rich, but given time can become one.

As the poet P.B.Shelley argued: “To him that hath, more shall be given, and from him that hath not, the little that he hath, shall be taken away”. Is this justice?

It will depend on the Deiyo’s to decide whether the “moral argument, or the sustainability option, will prevail. Whoever dares, wins.