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Basil says no decision to tax EPF benefits

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Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has dismissed social media reports that he has proposed the imposition of a 14% tax on Employment Provident Fund (EPF) benefits.

During a meeting with Parliamentarians, Governors, District Secretaries and other representatives at Temple Trees last week, he said there’s no move to tax retirement benefits of private sector employees.

He said the Covid-19 vaccination drive has been given top priority by the government and necessary funds to purchase the jabs will be allocated as the health and safety of the people are of utmost importance.



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Amidst farmers’ protests, ministers at BIA to welcome first stock of liquid fertiliser

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Minister Bandula Gunawardena and State Minister Shashindra Rajapaksa standing near the airlifted fertiliser consignment.

Activist alleges violation of procurement procedures

Amidst continuing protests in several parts of the country against a severe shortage of fertiliser, SriLankan Airlines yesterday (21) airfreighted a stock of nano-nitrogen liquid fertiliser from India.

UL 1156 touched down at the BIA 12.25 am. Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena and State Ministers, Shashendra Rajapaksa and D. V. Chanaka and Agriculture Secretary Prof. Udith Jayasinghe were there to receive the first consignment of fertiliser.

The Presidential Secretariat said that during this week 500,000 litres of nitrogen fertiliser would be brought in. It said that altogether the government had ordered 3.1 mn litres from India’s IFFCO.

The Indian fertiliser would be made available to farmers through Agrarian Centres in the Ampara, Batticaloa, and Trincomalee Districts and other districts, where paddy cultivation has already commenced, the Presidential Secretariat quoted the Agriculture Secretary as having said.

Methsiri Gunawardena, Chairman of the Colombo Commercial Fertiliser was also at the BIA.

Former Governor of Uva, Central and Southern Provinces and civil society activist Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon in a statement issued yesterday alleged that the fertliser had been ordered at a cost of Rs 9 bn without following proper procurement procedures.

Tennakoon asked whether the government deliberately created an environment for the emergency import of fertliser from India. Tennakoon said the government should explain how such large scale imports were made contrary to basic procedures. Tennakoon alleged that the government had created a monopoly for fertliser imports for the benefit of a few (SF)

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Govt. seeks an eco-tourism plan

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By Ifham Nizam

The Environment Ministry and the Tourism Ministry had joined hands to appoint a joint expert committee to formulate an eco-tourism strategic plan, a senior government official said.

Secretary to the Ministry of Environment Dr. Anil Jasinghe said that the objective of the programme was to promote the tourism industry as well as environmental protection.

“Sri Lanka has a vast flora and fauna biodiversity, pristine beaches and priceless ancient sites. The mangrove system can also attract a large number of tourists. But biodiversity is under serious threat due to the unintentional destruction by certain people in our country,” he said expressing concern.

Although there are many places in Sri Lanka where eco-tourism can be found, the ecotourism industry has not yet developed in a formal way. Therefore, the Environment and Tourism Ministries have decided to initiate a joint program to formulate an eco-tourism strategic plan aimed at attracting tourists to the ecotourism industry as part of promotion and development of our tourism industry.

A special discussion on this matter was held at the Ministry of Environment earlier this week. Environment Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe, and Tourism Ministry Secretary S. Hettiarachchi chaired the discussion.

Attention was drawn to the identification of eco-tourist attractions, the implementation of this program as a tactic to protect the environment, and to encourage more tourists to come to the country not only for entertainment but also for knowledge.

It was agreed to appoint a committee of experts with a standard knowledge of tourism and the environment to carry out the task.

It was also emphasized that the eco-tourism industry is very important as a source of income for our country as the 2018-22 Biodiversity Action Plan and the National Environmental Plan also include the development of eco-tourism industries.

Officials from the Special Projects Division of the Ministry of Environment also participated in the discussion.

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Finally, Lohan’s statement recorded but not by police

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Retired High Court judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena on Tuesday (19) recorded former Prisons Minister Lohan Ratwatte’s statement as regards incidents involving him at the Welikada and Anuradhapura prisons, sources said.

They said that the retired judge had asked for two months to prepare her report on the incidents at Welikada and Anuradhapura on 6 and 12 Sept. respectively.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC asked the retired HC judge to inquire into the incidents. Once completed, the report would be submitted to the cabinet by the Justice Minister, sources said.

The police are yet to record the State Minister’s statement regarding the incidents.

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