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Excerpts from SJB’s National Green Initiative

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We acknowledge that human beings are only a part of the natural world, and we respect the specific values of all forms of life, including non-human species. We acknowledge the wisdom of the indigenous people of the world, as custodians of the land and its resources. We acknowledge that human society depends on the ecological resources of the planet, and must ensure the integrity of ecosystems and conserve biodiversity and the resilience of life supporting systems.

We recognize that there are limitations to material expansion of human society within the biosphere, and the need to conserve biodiversity through sustainable use of renewable resources and responsible use of non-renewable resources. We believe that to achieve ecological sustainability, and in order to provide for the needs of present and future generations within the finite resources of the earth, continuing growth in global consumption, population and material inequity must be halted and reversed.

We recognize that sustainability will not be possible as long as poverty persists. Political Leadership in Environmental Sustainability We recognise the significance of providing necessary political leadership and requisite political commitment. Through the National Green Initiative leadership will be provided for a new political culture in Sri Lanka to mainstream environmental sustainability into the National Development Agenda to boost the country’s ability to provide sustainable ecosystem services for its development.

Participatory Environmental Conservation: We strive for a democracy in which all citizens have the right to express their views, and are able to directly participate in the environmental, economic, social and political decisions which affect their lives; so that power and responsibility are devolved to local and regional communities, with ascent to higher tiers of government only where essential.

Preamble : We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future holds great peril and great promise, at the same time. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny.

We must join to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life.

Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all, while reducing our impact on the environment. The emergence of a global civil society is creating new opportunities to build a democratic and humane world. Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions.

People need Nature. Nature is essential for every aspect of human living. It enhances our lives, helps us feel better, has positive impacts on our social skills and therefore lays the launch pad for us to become environmentally responsible citizens. It gives us all food, air and water that we need to survive. But we are taking more from nature than it can provide, and we are putting our own lives on the line. Nature “needs” People. We live on a planet of finite resources. We can’t continue to consume our stocks of natural capital because there will be nothing left for our grandchildren. So while people need nature, increasingly, nature needs people. Nature has to be nurtured and protected so that the benefits we get from it continue to flow. For that people and nature must work as players in the same team.

Policy on Environment, Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change: Not only do we live on an island with finite resources, but we live on a planet with finite resources. Therefore, we can’t continue to consume our stocks of natural assets in an unsustainable manner because there will be nothing left for our future generations. We have an expanding human population and a declining natural resource base within a finite land area. It is obvious that this model cannot be sustained in the long term.

The country is currently confronted with the serious degradation of its ecosystems and the biodiversity they host. This will no doubt have a detrimental effect on the provision of ecosystem services. It is well established that a reduction in ecosystem service provision will adversely impact economic development. Reversing the current trend of ecosystem degradation should be a priority for every Sri Lankan regardless of our political affiliations.

SJB as the first ever officially declared green political party will ensure that environmentally sustainable development will be the central goal of our future Government’s policy. We are fully committed to mainstreaming the principles of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals throughout the decision making and operational processes so that development under a future SJB led Government will truly be sustainable.

Reversing the Trend of Biodiversity Loss: Despite decades of conservation efforts, deforestation, forest degradation and biodiversity loss continues. Considering that biodiversity influences the quality of ecosystems services, which in turn affects the country’s development and human well being, conservation of biodiversity including the ecological processes that sustain ecosystem services will be a priority under a future SJB led Government .

National Priority on Environment, Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change Environment, biodiversity conservation and climate change were a national priority under the Environmental Charter placed before the public by me as the presidential Candidate in 2019. This was the first time in Sri Lanka that any presidential candidate had placed an Environmental Charter before the public. As the leader of the SJB, I have commenced a process of consultation with environmental experts to update the Environmental Charter to address the unprecedented threats posed to Sri Lanka’s natural resources from the misguided and short sighted decisions made over the last two years.

The Environmental Charter will be revised to take pragmatic action to address the current threats and to accommodate the “new normal” conditions resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic. Considering the crucial role Sri Lanka’s natural assets play in the country’s development, our future Government will consider proper management of the environment, biodiversity conservation and climate change as a national priority. With an outcome oriented program with tangible targets.

The first step will be to end the fragmentation of institutional mandates and eliminate conflicting responsibilities by introducing an effective institutional mechanism for inter-ministerial coordination to mainstream conservation into the development process. National priority programs on Environment, Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change under our future government will have clearly defined outcomes and targeted goals to be achieved. An effective, new mechanism for timely follow-up and monitoring of implementation progress of the proposed national priority programs will be introduced to ensure the timely achievement of outcomes.

Our future Government will ensure that the country’s development pathway is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. Sri Lanka joined all UN member states in 2015 to adopt the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. The SDGs will form the cornerstone of our national sustainable development program, but we will be taking a pragmatic approach to ensure that Sri Lanka’s development is sustainable.

National priority will be given for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation & Mitigation of the Human Elephant Conflict. Our Government is committed to the long term conservation of keystone (flagship) species. Special emphasis will be given to long term conservation of three keystone (flagship) species, the Sri Lankan elephant, Sri Lankan leopard and blue whale Focused conservation and management programs will be initiated.

The Government will give special focus to plastic waste management and waste management in urban areas. Measures will be taken to mitigate per capita plastic consumption to protect what mother nature has given us. Forest Conservation & Reforestation Forests are the lungs of our land. The national goal of Sri Lanka should be to have one third of the total land area of the country under forest and tree cover. Maintaining environmental stability through preservation and restoration of the ecological balance where needed, is a priority for the government. A comprehensive program for reforestation will be initiated, while taking all possible measures to mitigate deforestation.

The Government will initiate a special mechanism to investigate and resolve all problems related to unauthorized deforestation issues and ensure strict law enforcement. The Government will introduce a National Policy on Land Utilization which will rationalize the use of land. Emphasis will be given to protect critical ecosystems so that the country’s economic development will benefit from much needed ecosystem services. We hope that this platform will enable us to develop a sincere and fruitful partnership between the nongovernmental conservation organizations and our Government, to promote a genuine conservation agenda in Sri Lanka and ensure that the country’s development is truly sustainable.



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Endure daily power-cuts or face countrywide indefinite blackouts, warns Minister Gammanpila

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‘Electricity supply cannot be maintained at the expense of transport sector’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila yesterday (18) said that the foreign currency crisis was so acute the country had no option but to implement daily 90-minute power cut until the hydro power generation increased with the onset of rains.

Minister Gammanpila, who is also the leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) has advised the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to impose daily 90-minute power-cuts or face the consequences.

Gammanpila said that the entire country would face indefinite blackouts if the CEB tried to avoid 90-minute power cuts. The warning was issued at a media briefing called by Minister Gammanpila at the Power Ministry where he stressed that power cuts were inevitable in view of the foreign exchange crisis.

The cash-strapped government was able to pay for stock of diesel on Tuesday (18). In spite of vessels carrying diesel entering Sri Lankan waters nine days ago the government had to struggle to pay them, the lawmaker said.

At the onset of the briefing, Minister Gammanpila flayed the CEB for blaming the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) for the rapidly developing crisis.

MP Gammanpila said: “About 60 percent of the electricity requirement was met by hydro-power till end of Dec 2021. By then, hydro-power generation was down to 38 percent. Struggling to cope up with the situation, the CEB on January 11 asked us to provide additional fuel with effect from January 13. The CPC was not prepared to meet their requirement for obvious reasons. We were told they needed additional supplies at the end of January.”

Minister Gammanpila asked as to how the CPC could supply 1,500 metric tonnes beginning January 13 as it didn’t have the required stocks. The Energy Minister emphasised that the cash-strapped government couldn’t maintain extra stocks.

Lawmaker Gammanpila emphasised that his ministry had no option but to refuse to provide diesel to the CEB at the expense of the transport sector. The lawmaker pointed out that the country couldn’t afford to allow the disruption of transport by releasing sparse stocks available to them.

The Energy Minister asserted that disruption in public and private transport would be far worse than being subjected to daily 90-minute power cut.

Advising the CEB to be mindful of the current situation, Minister Gammanpila said that of the 37,000 tonnes of diesel the government paid for on Tuesday, 10,000 tons would be made available to the CEB. Declaring that would be sufficient for just eight days, Minister Gammanpila said that the CPC would also provide 2,200 tons of furnace oil and 700 tons of diesel to a privately-owned power station that supplied electricity to the government.

Minister Gammanpila said that it would be better to experience daily 90-minute power cuts than facing the prospect of three-hour disruption after having uninterrupted supply for a short period.

The outspoken lawmaker said that there was no point in denying the fact that the country was in severe difficulty due to the foreign currency crisis.

Pointing out that Sri Lanka received USD 750-800 mn a month, the Energy Minister asked how banks coped up with the situation as the government sought 2/3 of that amount for oil imports.

Minister Gammanpila told The Island that the public should be taken into confidence. The current crisis would cause further problems, the lawmaker said, urging the decision makers to be responsible to those who elected them.

The MP warned the failure on the part of the powers that be to realise the actual ground situation and take tangible measures to cut down the fuel bill would plunge the country into an unprecedented crisis.

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Speaker: MPs borrowed only 330 books from Parliamentary library in 2021

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122 of them are novels!

By Saman Indrajith

The MPs’s poor reading habit had led to deterioration of their conduct in the House and made their speeches full of unparliamentary language, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament yesterday.

The Speaker said that it was very embarrassing to note that all 225 MPs had borrowed only 330 books from the House library during the whole of last year.

Making a special statement at the commencement of the sittings, the Speaker said that the Members of the House should take note of their conduct during the debates. “Once you have crossed the bar of the House you are considered honourable members of the House of Parliament. The honourable title demands that you speak and behave accordingly in a respectable manner which in turn reflects back on the House. When I first spoke in Parliament I did so after weeks of preparation. Today, very few members prepare before their speeches. According to the information furnished to me by the library only 330 books have been borrowed by the MPs during the year 2021, and 122 of them were fictions. Ninety-four of the books borrowed were on political science and 27 on sociology, only 11 books on economics. Five books on science, four books on law and three books on technology, one book on education, and one book on Sinhala literature among those books borrowed by the MPs.

“For a House of 225 members this is embarrassing. This lack of knowledge and preparation on subjects have led us to insufficient awareness, false allegations, in speeches. Most of the speeches are to score political points. This has led to shameful, unparliamentary conduct. As the Speaker it is my duty to conduct the House affairs productively and ensure the rights of all its members.

“The members must understand that it is their sacred duty to uphold the dignity of this institution. If people lose faith in this House that means they lose faith in democracy. Repercussions of such a situation would be a grave danger for all political parties and citizens of this country. People expect the members of the government and Opposition to act responsibly.”

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Sri Lanka disputes Canadian Travel Advisory

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… immediate steps taken to apprise Ottawa

Sri Lanka has challenged a Canadian bid to undermine ongoing efforts to attract tourists. In the wake of the latest Canadian Travel Advisory on Sri Lanka issued on January 13, 2022, the Foreign Ministry has stated that the communique contained erroneous and outdated information that did not reflect the actual situation in Sri Lanka. As such, the Ministry has taken steps to apprise the Canadian authorities of ground realities.

The following is the text of the statement: “There are flawed references to the economic and security situation in the country as well as inaccurate information with regard to the safety and security of female travelers and harassment of foreigners.

Sri Lanka has successfully overcome the immediate challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and is now in a state of normalcy with all public service, corporate and business, and education activities functioning normally without interruption, in accordance with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The nationwide inoculation programme has been commended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and almost 90% of the eligible population has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. A campaign has been launched to provide the booster dose to the population above 20 years of age.

Despite the pandemic, Sri Lanka has received several international accolades in the tourism industry including CNN’s “Where to Travel in 2022”; the Global Wellness Institute; Conde Nast Traveler 2021 Reader’s Choice Awards as well as other endorsements received previously in 2019 by Lonely Planet and the National Geographic Travel. GoSL looks forward to more tourists visiting Sri Lanka from Canada and elsewhere with the gradual normalization of travel globally.

It is important to note that even though Sri Lanka’s economy has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is making every endeavor to reinvigorate its economy this year, through the implementation of prudent policies. Food security and law & order are the topmost priorities of the Government, and the availability of all essentials is considered as a vital part of the Government’s functions. As such high priority is given to ensuring that all essential items continue to be available to the public at all time and there are sufficient stocks of food items.

With regard to the security situation, the GoSL maintains minimum presence of military in the North and the East to ensure security and stability in keeping with national security imperatives and this is similar to such presence elsewhere in the country. There is no arbitrary arrest and detention of persons by the police or security forces. Since the end of the terrorist conflict in 2009, security forces have conducted a comprehensive demining operation in the North and East, with technical support of several foreign Governments and international agencies. As at December 2014, 94% of the de-mining had been completed, while presently, the figure has risen to 98.7%. The Advisory states, that ‘there is a threat of terrorism’ and that ‘further attacks cannot be ruled out’. It is notable that since the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019 the GoSL has taken all necessary measures to ensure public safety and national security throughout the country, to prevent any resurgence of terrorism. It is noteworthy that during this period, there has not been even a single terrorist related incident in Sri Lanka, due to the enhanced vigilance and proactive measures taken by the relevant security authorities.

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country with a rich, cosmopolitan heritage where different communities have peacefully co-existed over centuries. There is no civil unrest in the country. Sri Lanka has a long democratic tradition with strong institutions, and a vibrant civil society. Freedom of association and assembly are safeguarded with peaceful demonstrations occurring in Sri Lanka as in any other country where liberal democratic norms and traditions prevail. The police have allowed and continue to allow such peaceful demonstrations to take place unimpeded. These demonstrations do not in any way hinder the comfort, movement, safety or activities of tourists.

Specific attention is being paid to the safety and security of women tourists with measures taken to strengthen the presence of police, including tourism police, island-wide in all regions. Under this programme, police presence is being increased in all popular tourist destinations of the country with greater presence of women police officers in police stations. Emergency numbers of tourist police regional units, local police, and other emergency units such as hospitals, are available online to be accessed by travelers to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is an island nation with friendly people with a high level of education, knowledge of English and literacy, and incidents of harassment or violence against tourists or foreigners are extremely rare.”

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