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Coconut Leaf Wilt Disease could be controlled through collaboration

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by PRIYAN DE SILVA

Coconut plantations in the Southern Province are still plagued by the Weligama Coconut Leaf Wilt Disease (WCLWD) although 14 years have elapsed since it was first detected. Over 340,000 coconut palms have been infected and more than 313,000 of them cut down and destroyed.

Dr Nayani Arachchige Deputy Director (Research) at the Coconut Research Institute (CRI) Lunuwila said that the CRI together with Coconut Cultivation Board (CCB) and other related stake holders including law enforcement authorities had managed to confine the disease to the Southern Province and if the coconut growers and the community on the whole were more cooperative the disease could be controlled sooner.

The Weligama coconut leaf wilt disease is caused by phytoplasma and transmitted by infective insect vectors, vegetative propagation or grafting of infected planting material to healthy plants, by vascular connections made between infected and uninfected host plants by parasitic plants and by seed/embryo transmission.Once infected, a coconut palm will die within two years. There is no known cure and cutting down infected trees and incinerating the crowns is the only practical solution to arrest the spread of the disease.

Dr Arachchige said that at the initial stage of infection a coconut tree would bear profusely and growers have second thoughts about cutting down the affected tree even after they have been noticed to do so by the authorities. The delay causes greater harm as more trees in the vicinity are prone to infection and was one reason that containing the disease has taken so long.

The WCLWD was first detected in the Weligama area in 2008 but had spread from Galle to Tangalle. To prevent the disease spreading further the CRI demarcated a buffer zonethree kilometres wide on either side of the A17 trunk road from Galle running through Angulugaha, Henegama, Akuressa, Kamburupitiya, Kirinda – Puhulwella, Hakmana, Walasmulla , Beliatta and ending in Tangalle.

The Government, by gazette notification No. 1542/7 of 24 March 2008, prohibited the transport of any palm species and their live parts out of the demarcated boundary. Even though theprohibition was not strictly adhered to due to various restraints luckily the disease did not spread to other coconut growing areas.

The Matara District where WCLWD was first detected has borne the brunt of the disease. Figures obtained from the Coconut Cultivation Board shows that up to 30th September 2022, 313,857 diseased trees have been identified in the district of which 295,343 have been cut down by the growers or injected with by CCB officials. Growers who complied with the order given by the CCB authorities and cut down the diseased trees were paid Rupees Three Thousand per tree more as an initiative to cut and destroy the tree rather than compensationas the cost incurred by a grower to tend to a plant until it starts bearing and the loss of produce is very much more.

Due to WCLWD and other factors such as Grizzled Giant Squirrels and Toque macaque, the annual yield in the Matara District had dropped from 121 million nuts in 2011 to 96,1 million nuts in 2019 and to 73 million nuts in 2020.

Some growers have been compelled to destroy their whole plantation and plant alternate crops as regulation No 1 of 2009 gazetted in accordance with subsection 2 of chapter 12 of the Plant protection Act No 35 of 1999, prohibits planting any type of Palm trees in the areas where WCLWD has been detected.

According to the CCB WCLWD could be fully eradicated in the near future if the growers and general public were more cooperative and if the government would continue to provide adequate funds.



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Prez to unveil plan on 13 A

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SJB, SLPP rebels to boycott opening of new parliamentary session

By Saman Indrajith

The main Opposition party, the SJB, and the dissident SLPP MPs have decided to boycott the ceremonial opening of the Fourth session of the Ninth Parliament by President Ranil Wickremessinghe today.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe declared, on January 26, that he would brief Parliament on his decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

MP Prof G.L. Peiris told the media that the FPC would boycott President Wickremesinghe’s speech, scheduled to take place today (08) when the Fourth session of the Parliament is ceremonially declared open.

Prof Peiris called the ceremonial opening of the new parliamentary session a mere show. “This is not acceptable. The people are fed up with policy statements. They need solutions instead,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip and SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, addressing a press conference, at the Opposition Leader’s office in Colombo yesterday said that his party members too would boycott today’s ceremony.

Kiriella said that President Wickremesinghe was now speaking of economic development in 2048. “This he is promising to do while doing everything possible under the sun and the moon to deprive people of their democratic right to an election. Therefore, we have decided not to attend President’s ceremonial treading of the government policy statement which is another example of this makeshift government’s predilection for waste of money and time.”

All Ceylon Tamil Congress, led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, too, has decided to boycott today’s sessions.

TNA spokesman, Jaffna District MP MA Sumanthiran, said that his party would attend Parliament sessions today.

Political party sources said that TNA, JVP, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and All Ceylon Makkal Congress, in the Opposition ranks, however, would attend Parliament today.

Following the ceremonial opening of the day’s session, the President is scheduled to present the Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at 10 am, according to the powers vested in him, under Article 33 of the Constitution.

A rehearsal for the ceremonial opening was held Monday at the Parliament premises where many, including students of Presidents’ Girls College, Kotte, were present.

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MSC America belonging to largest shipping line calls at ECT

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Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Master of the vessel, Capt. Matlin Alexander, exchanging plaques to mark the occasion (pic courtesy Ports, Shipping and Aviation Ministry

MSC America, the first container vessel under the business promotions programme to attract new lines to the Port of Colombo (POC), called at the East Container Terminal (ECT), owned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority yesterday (07).

The latest programme to attract new shipping lines to the POC has been planned and implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT), South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT), Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents (CASA) and Sri Lanka Association of Vessel Owners (SLAVO) to effectively address strategic business promotions as a fruitful mean to overcome the prevailing economic crisis. Attracting more new lines to the POC, increasing operational efficiency, expediting naval services, efficiency in logistics and warehouse management and container and cargo transportation are among the objectives.

MSC America that called at the ECT, owned by the POC, will hereafter operate a weekly call to Colombo.

On the first call, yesterday, the vessel carried 2300TEUs to Colombo and is expected to carry 2500TEUs on a weekly basis. The vessel, with a length of 334m and a 7.5m draft, sails under the flag of Panama. The port rotation includes Singapore and South Africa.


MSC is the largest global shipping line, with a fleet of more than 775 TEU vessels for container transportation around the world. The shipping line that maintains long term operations with the POC has a collaborative business relationship of more than 10 years with SLPA. Since 2015, it is the prime shipping line of the POC with an annual operational capacity of 2.0m TEUs. It performs about 900 calls per annum at the POC.

The deep draft vessels, owned by MSC, call at the CICT of the POC, whilst calling the SLPA controlled JCT and ECT with more than 1.0m TEUS per annum, becoming the main customer of the SLPA.

According to MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., the local agents for MSC shipping lines, another new three shipping lines, under INGWE West Bound service, East Africa Express service and East Med Service, will be calling this month at the POC.

To mark MSC America’s first call at the POC, a special plaque exchange was held at the ECT of the SLPA between Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva, and the Master of the vessel, Capt. Matlin Alexander. Chairman of SLPA, Keith D Bernard, and several representatives of MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., also attended the occasion.

Expressing views at the occasion Minister de Silva said:

“With the deep draft of the East Container Terminal, there is ample potential for mega vessels to call at the port. The remaining development process of the terminal is expedited with an investment of Rs.5.9 billion. Today, a mega vessel of the MSC has contributed for container operations via the Port of Colombo. Similarly four new services will be added to increase the capacity of the POC. That will increase our revenue. This has further strengthened the credibility placed by the international shipping community on the Port of Colombo.”

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Remembering Upali Wijewardene, the founder of Upali Group

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The Upali Group of Companies, its employees, and sales agents countrywide, have made arrangements to invoke blessings on its founder, Upali Wijewardene, who disappeared in his Learjet, 40 years ago. Bodhi Pooja, Pahan Pooja and an alms-giving will be held, in his memory, on Feb. 13 (Monday).

A special Bodhi Pooja will be held at the Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya, at 6 p.m. on February 13 with the blessings of Prof. Ven. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangarakkhitha Thera, the Chief Incumbent of Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya.

Arrangements have been made to offer alms to the Maha Sangha at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, and scholarships to 10 needy children, from the Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.

Alms-giving to the inmates of the Home for the Elders at Mulgampola, Kandy, Bodhi Pooja Pinkama and Kavi Bana Pinkama, from 4.30 p.m. onwards, at the Ceylon Chocolates factory premises.

Bodhipooja, Pahan Pooja and Kavibana deshana will be held at Vidya Niketha Piriven Viharaya, Sapugoda Kamburupitiya.

The employees of Upali Consumer Products have arranged an alms-giving lunch at the ‘Children’s Home’ at Ja-Ela.

Founder’s Day Programme on February 13, 2023.

9.00 a.m. – Holy Mass at Mattakkuliya Church.

10.00 a.m. – Offering of Buddhapooja at the ‘Dhathumandiriya’.

10.30 a.m. – Scholarships to 10 needy children from Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.

11.30 a.m. – Alms-giving for the Maha Sangha at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

12 noon – Providing lunch for the Children’s Home, Ja-Ela, organized by the employees of Upali Trading Co. Ltd.

5.15 p.m. – Offering Gilanpasapooja (permissible drinks) for Dhathumandiraya.

6.00 p.m. – Bodhi Pooja and Pahan Pooja at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

All these pinkamas (meritorious acts) are organized by Upali Group employees and newspaper, Kandos/Delta and soap agents.

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