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Cardinal criticises utterly corrupt parliamentary system

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… underscores AG Rajaratnam’s responsibility to Easter Sunday victims, families

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has questioned the rationale behind the country continuing with the costly and utterly corrupt parliamentary system of government.

Cardinal Ranjith found fault with all political parties represented in post-independence parliament for the crises over the years leading to absolute despair among the populace.

Alleging the country was in a perilous state and further irrevocable damage being inflicted by the government,

Cardinal Ranjith said desperate voters asked why they exercised their franchise at elections. The Church called a media briefing at the Archbishop’s House in the wake of the fishing community losing their livelihood as a result of massive ecological damages caused by X-Press Pearl fire.

Insisting on the accountability on the part of 225 members of Parliament, Cardinal Ranjith declared that the situation was so bad the people questioned the very basis of the electoral process.

 

“Do we need an electoral system?” Cardinal Ranjith asked while dealing with several contentious issues ranging from severe shortage of fertilizer to an unprecedented threat posed by fuel leak in sunken X-Press Pearl.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference – the episcopal conference of Sri Lanka yesterday (3) threw its weight behind the Archbishop of Colombo. Responding to The Island query, the leader of the grouping Rt. Rev. Dr. Winston Fernando, Bishop of Badulla, emphasized that as the statement made at the Archbishop’s House reflected the actual situation there couldn’t be any issue with it. Bishop Fernando pointed out that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, too, from time to time commented on contentious issues.

At the onset of the briefing, Cardinal Ranjith said that the people overwhelmingly elected a new administration with high hopes. Unfortunately the public expectations had been dashed by those at the helm of political power.

Cardinal Ranjith said that the country lacked the required financial strength to carry out an inoculation drive to save the public from rampaging Covid-19 epidemic.

The country was in such a desperate situation, the Catholic church leader said that he couldn’t help saying whether even nature was opposed to those in power. “Is this a curse?” Cardinal Ranjith asked.

In an obvious reference to the recent passage of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, Cardinal Ranjith flayed the government over giving in to foreign dictates, under controversial circumstances.

Cardinal Ranjith questioned the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government’s foreign policy having opposed the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact during the previous administration. The Archbishop of Colombo emphasized the government couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for ensuring the country’s interests. Cardinal Ranjith emphasized that the selling of national assets shouldn’t be considered development.

He explained how political failures and strategies pursued by those in political authority caused uncertainty.

Commenting on the inordinate delay in the implementation of the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, Cardinal Ranjith insisted that newly appointed Attorney General Sanjaya Rajaratnam, PC, was responsible for prosecuting the suspects.

The Cardinal recalled former AG Dappula de Livera, PC’s, declaration that the Easter Sunday massacre was a high profile conspiracy. Now that President’s Counsel de Livera was no longer at the helm of the AG’s Department, his successor Rajaratnam should bring the investigations into a successful conclusion.

Referring to the appointment of a six-member group comprising cabinet ministers to examine the CoI report and make ruling on CoI recommendations, Cardinal Ranjith strongly criticized the government for not executing the original recommendations. The Church leader questioned why tangible action hadn’t been taken so far in respect of former President Maithripala Sirisena, now an SLPP lawmaker and the then head of State Intelligence Service (SIS) Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena.

Accusing the government of staging what he called media circus meant to deceive the public, Cardinal Ranjith alleged that the incumbent government and Muslim political parties entered into a deal ahead of the vote on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in late Oct 2020.

Cardinal Ranjith lambasted the government over its handling of the fire on board X-Press Pearl anchored off the Colombo Harbour.

A grave looking Cardinal said that as he was addressing the media, alongside Rev Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, parish priest of Kurana St. Anne’s church, the container carrier went down. Warning of dire consequences if the vessel started leaking oil, Cardinal Ranjith declared his readiness to give leadership to the fishing community facing unprecedented economic hardships. The Cardinal pointed out that those who had been struggling to make ends meet due to the epidemic were now affected by the pollution of the sea.

Cardinal Ranjith said the government’s explanations in this regard should be contemptuously disregarded.

The Church leader said that the government couldn’t be allowed to pursue authoritarian policies and engage in silly games whereas decisions were taken for the benefit of the high and mighty and foreign powers at the expense of the masses.

Cardinal Ranjith urged the government to change its direction without further delay. Commenting on various projects undertaken by the Urban Development Authority (UDA), Cardinal Ranjith said that the people didn’t hand over the country to the UDA at the last presidential and parliamentary elections. The people elected political leadership that should bear the responsibility, Cardinal Ranjith said.

Alleging that successive governments had betrayed the people and national interests, Cardinal Ranjith urged religious leaders to spearhead a campaign to save the country.



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Govt. has already spent US$ 60-65mn to procure Covid-19 vaccines – Lalith Weeratunga

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By Ifham Nizam

All persons above 30 years old will be vaccinated against Covid-19 by September 15, Head of the Presidential Task Force for National Deployment and Vaccination Plan, Lalith Weeratunga said.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) on Thursday at Janadhipathi Mawatha in Colombo, he said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is keen on monitoring Covid-19 hotpots and intelligence services are doing a remarkable job in this regard.

Vaccines were distributed on the basis of the vulnerability of the areas, he noted.

He said the President has urged all Sri Lankans not be misled by the false propaganda about the vaccination drive. Everybody should come forward to receive the jab and help the government to overcome the socio-economic challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He expressed optimism of completing the inoculation campaign by the end of December this year with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We have so far spent US$ 60 to 65 million to procure Covid-19 vaccines”, Weeratunga further said.

He said that more than 8.2 million people have so far received the first dose of the vaccines, while the second dose has already been administered to over 1.8 million.

The government aims to vaccinate 11.5 million people above 30 years by August 31, 2021 and another four million thereafter, he added.

“Moves are underway to give the vaccine to all Sri Lankans between the ages of 12 to 30”.

At present, a mobile vaccination service for those who are ill and unable to leave their homes is in operation on the instructions of the President, he said.

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Swiss team of experts due today to study SL’s agricultural landscape

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A renowned team of experts from Switzerland will arrive today (1) to study the country’s agriculture ecosystem. During the 10-day visit, they will meet with key industry stakeholders, visit various sites and facilities, and provide comprehensive training in composting and organic farming.

The team will meet with senior members of the Ministry of Agriculture and related State Ministries, Department of Agriculture, Centre of Excellence for Organic Agriculture (CEOA), National Fertilizer Secretariat, Sri Lanka Council for Agricultural Research Policy (SLCARP), Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Peradeniya, State Ministry of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research & Innovation, Coconut Research Institute (CRI), Sri Lanka Tea Board, and Tea Research Institute (TRI).

They will visit and observe conventional and organic farmers in Kalpitiya, Thambuttegama, Weliweriya, Radawana, Belihuloya, and Nuwara Eliya. They will also tour markets, poultry farms, dairy farms, tea factories, tea estates and garbage collection centres, where garbage is collected from hotels to process organic manure.

This entire initiative is by A. Baur & Co. (Pvt.) Ltd (Baurs), a leading diversified business group and a name synonymous with pioneering scientific manuring in Sri Lanka, in partnership with two of the world’s leading institutions in organic agriculture based in Switzerland, a country that has the sixth highest penetration of organic farming in the world, with 16.5% of agriculture land being organic farmland.

The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) is one of world’s leading organic farming research and technology transfer centres dedicated towards sustainable agriculture. The School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) of Bern University of Applied Sciences offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees including continuing education programs.

HAFL uses applied research to address contemporary issues and futuristic challenges and provides tailored consultancy across Switzerland and globally.

Further, these experts will also conduct two training sessions; one to various teams at the Baurs Fertilizer Factory (CMW) in Kelaniya and the other to Baurs’ staff, agents, dealers, key farmers and compost producers at the Baurs’ site in Anuradhapura. These will be with strict adherence to prevailing Covid-19 health guidelines.

The expert team brings with them years of both academic as well as practical experience, and includes Dr. Christoph Studer, professor of natural resources management at HAFL and Dr. Gurbir S Bhullar, senior scientist in tropical agroecosystems at HAFL, Paul van den Berge, senior consultant at FiBL and Dr. Jacques G. Fuchs, senior scientist in plant pathology and soil quality at FiBL.

With Sri Lanka’s transition to organic agriculture, this is a timely initiative and a need of the hour. The expert team will put together a detailed, practical and scientific plan that will help support Sri Lanka to successfully identify issues and constraints and overcome future challenges.

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CEB engineers ask President to allow completion of coal-fired power plant extension project

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‘Before the next power shortage in the country’

By Ifham Nizam

Perturbed by reports that the government will terminate the ongoing 300MW Lakvijaya coal-fired power plant extension project, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) has appealed to the President to allow the completion of this project of national importance.

“We are certain that your Excellency will provide the Ministry of Power and the CEB the necessary directions and assistance to complete the extension project within the shortest possible time”, the Union’s President Eng. Saumya Kumarawadu, says in a letter to the President.

The President earlier decided to implement the 300MW coal power extension project considering the fact that the country is facing an imminent power shortage as a result of not constructing a single large low-cost power plant since 2014, he said.

However, officials at the plant complex said they have not been officially informed so far to halt work on the plant.

The Sri Lankan government has already saved more than USD 2 billion due to the three coal-fired power plants at the Lakvijaya Power Plant Complex in Norochcholai, officials said.

The extension project is now underway with the China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) investing USD 4 million, while the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has injected USD 1 million, they said.

The proposed plant, the fourth to be built at Norochcholai will translate into an annual saving of more than Rs. 27 billion to the government, former CEB, Chairman Eng. Vijitha Herath said.

Last year, Cabinet endorsed the fourth unit should given to CMEC considering the substantial revenue already saved due to the contribution from coal-fired plants under operation.

Kumarawadu said the proposed 300MW extension project will generate nearly two billion units of electricity per year. The fuel cost per unit of the existing coal plant is Rs.10 less than the next lowest thermal option available, furnace oil power plants. Hence, the average annual saving to the country by this plant will be around Rs. 20 billion.

 The savings compared to costly emergency power will be in the range of Rs. 30 to 40 billion per year. The price of LNG is also rapidly increasing compared to coal and even LNG. The cost difference between coal and LNG will be around of Rs. 3 to 6 per unit and savings will be in the range of Rs. 6-12 billion or more annually. So, it is evident that this extension plant will immensely help to overcome the financial crisis both in CEB and CPC and will also provide immense relief to the Treasury as well, he pointed out.

 He further said the investment for the new extension unit was comparatively low. All other power projects in the pipeline, including large-scale renewables, demand enormous investments for infrastructure development with long time span for implementation.

“This should be seriously considered by the government in a situation where the country is facing severe financial hardships due to Covid-19 pandemic,” the CEBEU President stressed.

 All preliminary work related to the project such as comprehensive feasibility studies, finalizing technical requirements, comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies, commercial agreements are completed now, he said.

It is just a matter of beginning construction work at site and completing the project before the next power shortage in the country, he added.

The CEBEU also said that there is a massive propaganda campaign against coal and one of the false ideologies promoted by these forces is that many countries are moving away from coal. While agreeing that coal power development is on a declining phase in wealthy developed countries, developing countries have not stopped constructing new coal plants mainly to ease the financial burden on their national economies.

 Citing examples, he said there are new coal development plans earmarked in countries like India, Bangladesh and Vietnam in the range from 22,000MW to 66,000 MW the next 10-12 years. Germany, one of the leading wealthy countries in renewable energy development, commissioned the 1100MW Datteln 4 coal power plant in May 2020. Dubai, another country with a very strong economy is constructing the 2,400MW Hassyan coal plant. The initial 600MW unit of the plant is to be commissioned in 2023, Kumarawadu explained.

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