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Environment Minister flays unscrupulous elements for taking cover behind farmers to rape forests

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By Ifham Nizam

Unscrupulous elements had started destroying forests by misusing the government’s instructions to allow innocent farmers to cultivate their lands and there were some politicians and venal state officials operating hand in glove with racketeers, Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said yesterday.

Amaraweera said that the government had not allowed anyone to cut down forests and destroy the environment.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had already ordered security forces to arrest those who were destroying forests and the environment, Amaraweera said.

Amaraweera said that a comprehensive programme to protect the environment had been initiated as per the instructions of the President.

“Environmental degradation has become one of the most talked about topics in the mainstream media and on social media today. The Ministry of Environment is accused of not taking appropriate action regarding such destruction. But this subject is divided into several ministries – Environment, Wildlife, and Wildlife Conservation.”

Minister Amaraweera said that part of the forest areas under threat also belonged to the Ministry of Mahaweli Development. However, the Environment Ministry would do everything it could to protect the environment, he said, requesting the public to bring to his notice incidents of deforestation or illegal exploitation of natural resources.

“Reforestation is not an easy task. A forest is an ecosystem. Creating such an ecosystem artificially is next to impossible. During tree planting however, the number of trees increases,” he said, adding that the government had adopted that method for want of a better alternative.

The Environment Ministry has implemented two special programmes to increase the number of trees here. One is the “Husma Dena Thuru” programme. Under this it is planned to plant two million trees in the next four years.

The Minister said on account of the Sinhala and Hindu New Year, his Ministry would launch a tree planting programme on April 16 at the auspicious time of 6.40 am. “Our target is to plant nearly three million plants”, he said.



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Embassy officer arrested at BIA remanded

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The Embassy official who was attached to the Sri Lanka Embassy in Oman who is accused of being involved in a human trafficking racket was arrested by officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and remanded till the 13th of December when he was produced before the Colombo Chief Magistrate

The official was arrested on his arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) this morning (29 November).

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Easter Sunday terror attack suspect hacked to death

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By Norman Palihawadane

A 38-year-old Easter Sunday terror attack suspect was hacked to death yesterday morning (28) in Mattakkuliya.

The victim, Mohamed Badurdeen Mohamed Harnas, was a resident of Safiya Avenue, Mattakkuliya, police said.

A suspect in the Easter Sunday terror attacks, he had been released on bail.

The suspect was rushed to the National Hospital, Colombo, after three individuals, who arrived in a car around 10. 00 am, attacked him.

Two persons attacked the man while the other was keeping the car engine running, according to eyewitnesses. The attackers thereafter fled in the same car.

Harnas was pronounced dead on admission to hospital.

Further investigations in this regard are currently underway.

The victims family members said that Harnas had been taken into custody, following the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, but later released as there was no evidence of his involvement in terrorist activities.

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Rail service between Mahawa and Jaffna to be suspended for five months

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Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardena told Parliament yesterday that the railway services between Mahawa and Jaffna will be suspended for a period of five months in 2023.

The Minister said that operations will be suspended from January 15, 2023.

The Minister said it was to repair work on the railway line.

He said so in response to a question raised by Vanni District MP Selvam Adaikalanathan.

“We are focusing our attention on the request made by you. We have to halt railway operations between Mahawa and Jaffna for five months from January 2023. Train services have been continuously operating to Jaffna, but now we have faced a situation as we have not been able to carry out any repair work thus far,” the Minister said.

Assuring that this issue can be rectified in five months, Minister Gunawardane said that, thereafter, a good railway service can be provided for this route.

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