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Environmentalists sound warning ‘Mahaweli bid to reduce size of EMZ will worsen human-jumbo conflict’

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Pro-govt. racketeers engaged in illegal activities with impunity

By Rathindra Kuruwita 

The Mahaweli Authority has insisted 5,750 acres be removed from the proposed Hambantota Elephant Management Zone (EMZ) and if the Authority is allowed to have its way the human-elephant conflict and the water shortage in the area will worsen, environmentalists warn.

Environmental activist Sajeewa Chamikara said yesterday the undue delay in declaring EMZ was mainly due to obstacles placed by the Mahaweli Authority.

 “The plan to create this reserve was prepared in 2010 and approval granted in 2011. However, powerful ministers of both the Rajapaksa and yahapalana governments prevented the implementation of the plan. The same people are behind a large number of illegal soil and granite extraction sites in the area earmarked for the reserve. These racketeers have the support of politicians in the SLPP and the SJB and Mahaweli Authority officials.”

Chamikara said that the Mahaweli Authority had allowed big businessmen to pump water to their illegal cultivations inside the area within the proposed EMZ, and as a result small-scale farmers were facing a severe water shortage, he said. “The farmers of Hambantota who have been protesting for nearly 100 days, will continue with their agitation until the gazette notification declaring the Wild Elephant Management Reserve in Hambantota is published”, the environmental activist said.

“Due to the continuous protests by farmers the Mahaweli Authority now has agreed to the EMZ, but it still insists that 5750 acres be removed from the EMZ and this extent includes forest area in Usgala, Andarawewa from the EMZ. This forest area is an important catchment for many of the tanks and used by elephants to enter the Andarawewa forest. If the EMZ does not encompass this particular area the human-elephant conflict in the area will take a turn for the worse, and the water shortage will become more acute.”

The Cabinet in February approved a proposal by the Minister of Environment to declare a 23,746-hectare elephant reserve subsequent to obtaining the Legal Draughtsman’s consent for publishing the gazette at issue.

Chamikara added that according to the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, the Minister of Environment could declare a protected area. Given that, the government’s move was a clear diversionary tactic, he said. Chamikara said that the government had not obtained Cabinet approval for expanding the road to Lankagama in Sinharaja or parcel out land in Kandakadu, Dahaiyagala, and Somawathiya.

“Farmers know this and that’s why they will go on with their struggle until the gazette is actually printed. More than 156 farmer organisations and a number of trade unions have joined the struggle of the Hambantota farmers.



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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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Cardinal urges Catholics to fight for justice

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 By Norman Palihawadane

Today’s Church does not need ‘sacristy Catholics’ but a laity who fight for justice, says Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Addressing a gathering at a ceremony to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Deva Dharma Nikethanaya, at Archbishop’s House auditorium, at Borella, last week, the Cardinal said that turning every layperson into a mature Christian, fit for leadership, should be the foremost duty of the Catholic Church. “Once the Catholic Church functioned as a Bishop-priest centered church and did only what the Bishop of the priest would say. We have to change the outlook of the Church. Today, we no longer need such sacristy Catholics. We need a laity who are ready to get down to the streets and fight for justice and do what is right for society,” the Cardinal said.

“The Church needs Christians who will commit themselves for Christ and follow his example. We do not need spoon-fed babies,” he said.

He said that the Bishops and Priests should not be afraid of handing over the responsibilities to the laity. “We should share our responsibilities with joy. The Church cannot continue otherwise. Understanding this situation, Pope Francis wants to change the priest-centres position that has become a theoretical doctrine in the church and to study how the church should change in a way that suits the present world.”

Apostolic Nuncio to Sri Lanka Rev Dr Brian Udaigwe and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference President Rt Rev Dr Harold Anthony Perera also addressed the gathering.

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Protests against 13A used to arouse communal feelings – SJB

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Protests against the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution are being used to arouse communal feelings among people ahead of an election, says the main Opposition SJB.

Addressing the media on Saturday, at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip, SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said:

“This country has witnessed many instances in the past. This time, too, the same old slogan of the country being divided is heard again.

“The 13th Amendment is part of the Constitution. All parties have contested elections under the 13th Amendment. The UNP, SLFP, SLPP and JVP have contested provincial council elections. It shows that they have accepted the 13th Amendment. Those in such parties now opposing the 13th Amendment must first explain how they oppose it directly while accepting the same indirectly by sending their members to the provincial councils set up under the 13th Amendment,” Kiriella said.

“The claim of the country being divided by the 13th amendment is made to arouse the communal feelings.

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