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COPE demands report on imported milch cow controversy



Ridiyagama farm lost Rs. 173 million in 2017 and 2018

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has directed the Secretary to the State Ministry of Livestock and Farm Promotion and Dairy and Eggs Related Industries to review the controversial milch cow project, under the previous government, and submit a full report urgently.

Under a subsidy scheme to introduce high-yielding imported pregnant cows from Australia in 2017, the last government distributed 3,030 substandard cows, imported from there, and distributed them among dairy farm investors.

The COPE uncovered that the National Livestock Development Board (NLDB) owned Ridiyagama farm that holds cattle imported in 2015 had incurred a loss of Rs. 173 million in 2017 and 2018.

The COPE has found out that feed worth Rs. 508,793,160 had been purchased for cattle, from 1 October 2017 to 30 September 2018 in violation of the guidelines given by the Procurement Committee.

The Chairman of COPE Prof. Charitha Herath pointed out that many issues had arisen due to the improper financial decisions of the NLDB.

The COPE has also instructed the NLDB to carry out its functions within the legal framework.

State Minister Susil Premajayantha, MPs Eran Wickramaratne, Premnath C. Dolawatte, and Shanakiyan Rasamanickam were present at the COPE Committee meeting, held to review the Auditor General’s reports for the years 2016 and 2017 and the current performance of the NLDB.

The COPE also said that the Annual Reports of the NLDB from 2017 to 2020 had not been tabled in Parliament. Prof. Herath said that the inability to table the annual reports at the proper time prevented the COPE from determining the progress made in more recent times. He directed the Ministry Secretary to expedite submission of the reports to Parliament.

The COPE also found that 166 vacancies had been left unfilled at the NLDB for some time. Several executive posts have also fallen vacant. It observed that the NLDB had to create a legal officer’s post.

The NLDB, by 31 December 2016, had constructed buildings worth Rs. 194,565,192 and structures worth Rs. 701,358,733 in 24 farms. Although the NLDB had been running these farms from 1974 and 1992, the land where they are located had not been formally acquired by the NLDB, the COPE noted.

The COPE also found that three institutions, the NLDB, the Mahaweli Livestock Enterprises Ltd., and Sri Lanka Poultry Development Company (Pvt) Ltd., owned 12,617.43 hectares of land. But by the end of May 2019, 2,311.35 hectares of those lands had remained unutilised.

The COPE also found that the NLDB possessed machinery capable of producing 3.75 tons of cattle feed at a time, but these machines had not been utilised properly. Farms at Menikpalama, Dayagama and Ridiyagama which keep the imported cattle cannot even cover their minimum direct expenses, the COPE has noted.

The NLDB should look into the matter immediately, Prof. Herath said.

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Earliest Sri Lanka can recover from bankruptcy is in 2027 – Dr Bandula Gunawardena




Minister of Transport and Highways and Minister of Mass Media Dr Bandula Gunawardena at a press briefing held at the Presidential Media Center today (30) said that the earliest Sri Lanka can recover from bankruptcy is in 2027, at which time it is envisaged that the countries foreign reserves which stand at USD 3.5 billion at present would increase to USD 14 billion..


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Pope Francis to evict Cardinal Raymond Burke from Vatican




US Cardinal Raymond Burke has been a leader in the Catholic Church for decades (BBC)

Pope Francis is evicting US Cardinal Raymond Burke, an outspoken critic, from his Vatican apartment and revoking his salary.

Cardinal Burke is part of a group of American conservatives who have long opposed the Pope’s plans for reforming the Catholic Church.

A Vatican source told the BBC that Pope Francis has not yet carried out his intention to evict the 75-year-old and the decision is not meant as a personal punishment, the source added. Instead, it comes from the belief that a person should not enjoy cardinal privileges while criticising the head of the church.

Still, the move is “unprecedented in the Francis era”, Christopher White, a Vatican observer who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, told the BBC. “Typically, retired cardinals continue to reside in Rome after stepping down from their positions, often remaining active in papal liturgies and ceremonial duties,” he said. “Evicting someone from their Vatican apartment sets a new precedent.”

White warned that the decision could “provoke significant backlash” and deepen divides between the Vatican and the US church, where there is already “fragmentation”.

Cardinal Burke has yet to respond to the news and the BBC has reached out to his office for comment.

The Pope revealed his plan to act against the cardinal at a meeting with heads of Vatican offices last week. His frustration with US detractors who take a more traditional or conservative view on several issues appears to be coming to a boil.

Earlier this month, he fired Joseph Strickland, a conservative Texas bishop who had blasted his attempts to move the church to more liberal positions on abortion, transgender rights and same-sex marriage. The removal followed a church investigation into governance of the diocese.

A few months before, the Pope told members of the Jesuit religious order in Portugal that there was “a very strong, organised, reactionary attitude in the US church”, which he called “backward”, according to the Guardian.

Tensions with Cardinal Burke, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, have been simmering for nearly a decade, with the American prelate openly criticising Pope Francis over both social and liturgical issues.

“Cardinal Burke’s situation seems to stem from his gradual alienation from the Pope,” said  White. “It appears the Pope perceives Burke as fostering a cult of personality, centred around traditionalism or regressive ideals. This action seems aimed at limiting Burke’s influence by severing his ties to Rome.”

Pope Francis with hand up in front of Vatican building
Pope Francis waves to crowds while leaving St Peter’s Square (pic BBC)

Most recently, the cardinal held a conference called The Synodal Babel in Rome on the eve of the Pope’s synod, or meeting of bishops, last month.

He also joined fellow conservatives in publishing a “declaration of truths” in 2019 that described the Catholic church as disoriented and confused under Pope Francis, saying that it had moved away from core teachings on divorce, contraception, homosexuality and gender. Notably, he disagreed with the Pope promoting Covid vaccines.

Within church politics, he and Pope Francis were at odds over the firing of the head of the Knights of Malta after the order’s charity branch was found to have distributed condoms in Myanmar.

The Pope, in turn, has demoted Cardinal Burke within the church hierarchy or moved him to posts with less influence over the years.

Michael Matt, a columnist for the right-wing Catholic newspaper The Remnant, wrote that the most recent action taken against Cardinal Burke showed that Pope Francis was “cancelling faithful prelates who offer hierarchical cover to pro-life, pro-family, pro-tradition hardliners”. He accused the Pope of putting critics into “forced isolation”.


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Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dies aged 100




Henry Kissinger at the State Department's 230th anniversary celebrations in 2019

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died at the age 100.

He served as America’s top diplomat and national security adviser during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

In a statement, Kissinger Associates, a political consulting firm he founded, said the German-born former diplomat died at his home in Connecticut but did not give a cause of death.

During his decades long career, Mr Kissinger played a key, and sometimes controversial, role in US foreign and security policy.

Born in Germany in 1973, Kissinger first came to the US in 1938 when his family fled Nazi Germany. He became a US citizen in 1943 and went on to serve three years in the US Army and later in the Counter Intelligence Corps. After earning bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees, he taught international relations at Harvard.

In 1969, then-President Richard Nixon appointed him National Security Adviser, a position which gave him enormous influence over US foreign policy in two administrations.


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