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Chemicals needed for organic fertiliser not banned, says Treasury Secretary

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By Ifham Nizam

The government had not said that it would stop import of chemical fertiliser for industrial requirements and such imports would be allowed under licensed items, said Finance Ministry Secretary S.R. Attygalle, yesterday.

Fielding questions at the weekly briefing at the President’s Media Centre in Colombo, Attygalle said approval had been granted for importing liquid Nitrogen under import control licences, as it was needed for the production of organic fertiliser.

In response to a query over The Island story headlined “Abolition of range of taxes in Nov. 2019 triggered crisis” published in our August 2 edition, he said he would respond. However, due to time constraints he couldn’t do so.

Agriculture Ministry Secretary, Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige, speaking on the sidelines of the event, told that The Island President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had taken the right decision on fertilisers.

The former Vice-Chancellor of the Wayamba University, Senior Professor and the Chair of Dept. of Agribusiness Management, Faculty of Agriculture and Plantation Management added: “We are working with all stakeholders would help us achieve the set targets.”

Chief Advisor to President, Lalith Weeratunga quoted`President Rajapaksa as saying that the decision to start using organic fertiliser had been taken for the sake of the people and future generations.

The “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” policy framework promised a changeover to organic fertiliser, he said.

It was the responsibility of the government to act in accordance with the pledges made to the people. Previous governments tried to popularise the use of organic fertilisers but had not been able to sustain the practice. “This is a challenging task, but it should be done on behalf of the country after identifying the correct strategy,” Weeratunga said.

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa issued a gazette notification re-authorising the import of several types of chemical fertilisers including urea for cultivation in the forthcoming Maha season.

Licensees will be permitted to import mineral or nitrogenous mixtures including urea, ammonium nitrate with calcium carbonate or other inorganic substances, super phosphates and mineral or chemical fertilisers containing two or all three elements nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.

The Cabinet approved the proposal made by the Minister of Agriculture on the 31st of May 2021, to import the plant nutrients which include natural chelated minerals and micro matter.

As the above natural chelated minerals and micro matter were already being imported under the HS Code, but currently prohibited by the Gazette Notification No. 2226/48, and in order to grant Cabinet approval to the aforesaid Cabinet paper submitted by the Minister of Agriculture, the Gazette Notification No. 2226/48 was amended.

The above licences also permit the import of packets of compound fertilisers containing the three plant nutrients, namely mineral or chemical nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, or capsules containing a mixture of two of them or packets weighing 10kg or less containing such products.

All these fertilisers are allowed to be imported only by the relevant agencies as per the requirements or under special licenses issued only for limited quantities to suit those requirements.

In addition, nitrogen extracts (organic) and mineral potassium can be imported, which are not classified as chemical fertilisers.

“The government must ensure the right of the people to a non-toxic diet to produce a healthy and productive citizenry”, the Agriculture Ministry Secretary said.



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Self-Employed Traders petition SC over govt. favouring liquor dealers

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By A.J.A Abeynayake

The Supreme Court has decided take up, on 04 Oct. for hearing a petition filed by the Association of Self-Employed Traders against the opening of liquor stores during the current lockdown.

 The traders have requested the apex court to order the government to allow members of their union to engage in business activities since the liquor stores had been allowed to reopen during the lockdown.

The petition was taken up before a three-judge bench comprising justices L. T. B. Dehideniya, Shiran Gooneratne and Janak de Silva, yesterday.

 The State Counsel appearing for the respondents said he had received the relevant documents pertaining to the case only last Friday evening. Therefore, the State Counsel requested the court to give him time to seek advice from the respondents who were many.

Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva, appearing for the petitioner at the time, said about 7,000 members of his client union had lost their livelihoods due to the decision by the respondents.

Therefore, Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva requested the court to give an early date for considering the petition.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court decided to take up the petition for consideration on 04 Oct and directed the lawyers of the petitioners to take steps to send notice to the respondents before that date.

The petition was filed by the President of the United National Self-Employed Trade Association G.I. Charles, its Vice President P.G.B. Nissanka, and Secretary Krishan Marambage.

The petition names 47 respondents, including the Director General of Health Services, the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of Excise.

The petitioners allege that under the quarantine law, the Director General of Health Services, who is the competent authority, issued a notice on Aug 20 prohibiting the opening of liquor stores.

The petitioners point out that steps were taken to open liquor stores countrywide contrary to the regulations of the Health Authority.

The Director General of Health Services, the Commissioner General of Excise and the Inspector General of Police have stated that they have not allowed the reopening of liquor stores.

The petitioners have also requested the Supreme Court to issue an order to the respondents to allow the members of their association to engage in business activities as the liquor stores are allowed to remain open.

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Lankan born newly elected Norwegian MP Gunaratnam calls for investments here

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Newly elected Norwegian Labour Party MP, Lankan born Kamzy Gunaratnam says she will ask the new Norwegian government to continue engagement with the country of her birth.

 Speaking at a virtual media conference on Sunday night, Gunaratnam said that she does not believe that boycotting Sri Lanka is the way forward.

“I don’t believe in boycott. There needs to be investments. Only that will ensure employment,” she said.

Gunaratnam said that she is also prepared to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, if invited, for talks.

She said that Norway must continue to assist Sri Lanka through trade, education and in other ways.

Gunaratnam said that she will also discuss with her party and the new Norwegian Foreign Minister, as well as the Norwegian Ambassador in Sri Lanka and see how best Norway can assist the country.

Gunaratnam said that Sri Lankans must also decide the best solution for Sri Lanka and not any foreign country. She said that Sri Lanka must not wait for foreign pressure to work on a solution.

The newly elected Norwegian MP also said that minority rights in Sri Lanka must be protected.

As a Norwegian MP she said that her main focus in the Norwegian Parliament will be to push for equality in Norway.

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Going to IMF best solution, says Ranil

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UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe insists that a programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is necessary to mitigate impact of the growing debt repayment crisis; homegrown solutions are not effective.

“Unlike in the past, Sri Lanka’s debt problem has increased at a time when there is a global debt problem. This makes the situation more challenging and complex. Sri Lanka is a highly import-dependent economy,” Wickremesinghe said during a panel discussion, organised by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka on Saturday.

The UNP leader said that the government shouldn’t sell state assets to ease off the shortage of foreign exchange to have breakfast but reinvest those proceeds back in the economy. “Going to the IMF is the best solution,” Wickremesinghe said.

With reference to homegrown solutions, he referred to the mess caused by the government in promoting Dhammika peniya as one of the failed measures earlier on to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The former Prime Minister said that Sri Lanka should use the current situation to forge ahead with structural and public sector reforms which were postponed due to political considerations in the past.

The former PM suggested that the re-opening of the country be delayed till mid-October.

In responding to the issue of debt management in Sri Lanka, the UNP leader said that the most pressing concern is addressing the dwindling foreign exchange reserves of the country.

He explained that the regional foreign exchange reserves were projected to increase over the course of the year, however, Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves were on a downward trend.

He also said that economic recovery based on a resurgence of the tourism industry would be uncertain, and until airline ticket prices were reduced it was unlikely that tourist arrivals would increase significantly.

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