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Due to environmental concerns govt. to ditch oil palm cultivation in favour of coconut, rubber

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By Saman Indrajith

The government would halt the cultivation of oil palm in the country an extent of 10,579 hectares of land already planted with oil palm would be used to grow coconut and rubber, Parliament was told yesterday.

Answering a question from Kandy District SJB MP Velu Kumar, Plantations Minister Dr Ramesh Pathirana said there were few cases pending before courts with regard to palm oil industry, preventing the government from stopping oil palm cultivation identified as a threat to the environment.

“The government has made a policy decision to stop oil palm cultivation. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa informed this House in his policy statement that the plantation of palm oil trees would be stopped completely,” the minister said.

Nine regional plantation companies were currently engaged in cultivating oil palm––Watawala Plantations Company 3,392 hectares of oil palm, Boganwanthalawa 202 hectares, Kotagala 525 hectares, Elpitiya 1,747 hectares, Agalawatte 1,333 hectares, Malwatta Valley 18 hectares, Horana 294, Kegalle 199 and Namunukula Plantations Company 2,493 hectares. Bogawanthalawa Plantations Company had given sub contracts to Lalan Rubber (Pvt) Ltd Company to cultivate oil palm in 13 plantations amounting to 39 hectares. Altogether there were 10,579 hectares being used to cultivate oil palm, the minister said.

He said that the government intended to promote coconut and rubber in the lands currently used for oil palm cultivation. “Owing to the loss of jobs and environmental issues oil palm cultivation should not be promoted.”



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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