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Cardinal leading the charge against developers intruding into Muthurajawela

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ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church is marshalling its forces to protect the Muthurajawela wetlands from a multi-use development project planned to be built in the area, the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith says.

He told reporters on Thursday that the area is “surrounded by our churches and I have told our Parish Priests not to allow anyone to lay hands on this area.”

In an unusually strong statement, the Cardinal said the county “is being turned into a garbage dump as garbage from around the world is being brought here by rich businesspeople.”

“These people are also protected by the government. How can the people in the government have any self-respect?” he asked. [In Sinhala ¬- ??????? ???? ?? ?????? ???? ????? ??????]

The primary purpose of these matters is to reduce poverty among the people and “I am asking the people of the area not to assist these developers.”

Ranjith who held a joint press conference with a coalition of environmental activists said that the wetlands, which is a protected area under a gazette issued in 1996, has been “violated by successive governments which have given hundreds of acres to big time businessmen from time to time.”

The Cardinal also said that Maithripala Sirisena as Environment Minister in 2006 had issued a gazette declaring that some areas of the wetlands can be used for development.

He said that the notices placed in various parts of the wetlands declaring it a protected area have been removed recently and replaced with signs barring people from entering a large portion of the region.

“How is it possible that a protected area becomes someone’s private land?” he asked.

Ranjith called on the people living in the area to rise up against the developers.

“We cannot allow these people to come here, throw their money around, bribe officials, use their political influence and destroy this area,” he said.

“This area which has a lot of natural beauty, where many birds, fish and other animals live is the natural filter for the rain that falls on to the Gampaha district,” he said.

The leader of the Environmentalist Group Surakimu Sri Lanka Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thero and several other activists also addressed the media.



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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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