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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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SC: Anti-Terrorism Bill needs approval at referendum and 2/3 majority to become law

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Certain sections inconsistent with Constitution

By Saman Indrajith

Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa informed Parliament yesterday that the Supreme Court (SC) has determined that some sections of the Anti-Terrorism Bill were inconsistent with the Constitution and, therefore, the Bill had to be passed by Parliament with a two-thirds majority and approved by the people at a referendum.

Rajapaksa said that the Supreme Court had determined that the Sections 3, 4, 40, 53, 70, 72 (1), 72 (2), 75 (3) and 83 (7) of the draft Bill were inconsistent with the Constitution.

The SC has determined that sections 3, 40, 53, 70, 72 (1), 75 (3) should be passed by Parliament with a two-thirds majority and approved by the people at a referendum if they are to become law.

Sections 4 and 72 (2) of the Bill have to be amended as per the SC determination.

Section 83 (7) requires passage by a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

However, the SC had stated that it could be passed by a simple majority if the recommended amendments are accommodated, Rajapaksa said.

Opposition MPs say the Anti-Terrorism Bill is being introduced in an election year to repress Opposition parties.They said the proposed law is a threat to democracy itself.

“This Bill is being presented not at a time of terrorism prevailing in the country but during an election period. The Bill has not defined nor analysed what a terrorist is. Anyone can be arrested,” SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said.

The MP said both the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the controversial Online Safety law were meant to quell democracy.

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Harin’s claim that SL is part of India: Govt. says it is his personal opinion

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Manusha accuses Wimal of having taken parts of Fernando’s speech out of context

By Saman Indrajith

Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara told NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa in Parliament to refrain from taking chunks of others’ speeches out of context and misinterpreting them for political mileage.

The Minister said so following concerns raised by Weerawansa over a recent statement by Tourism Minister Harin Fernando on India-Sri Lanka relationships.

Weerawansa said that Minister Fernando had recently stated that Sri Lanka was a part of India. “Was it Minister Fernando’s personal opinion or the government’s official standpoint? Was it the opinion of the Cabinet?”

Chief Government Whip Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said what Minister Fernando had stated was the latter’s personal opinion.

Minister Nanayakkara: “If anyone has read the entire statement made by Minister Fernando this type of question would not have arisen. The Tourism Minister was referring to historical relationships between India and Sri Lanka to ask Indians to visit Sri Lanka.

A distorted version of the speech by Minister Fernando is being circulated on social media. Certain parts have been removed while some words have been introduced to this edited version. Ones should read the statement in its entirety to understand it. We have not discussed this in the Cabinet meeting” Minister Nanayakkara said.

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US backs Lankan journalists vis-a-vis Online Safety law

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Kumar Nadesan, Chairman Board of Directors of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (left) Elizabeth Allen ( Centre) and US Ambassador Chung (pic courtesy US embassy)

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Elizabeth Allen on Monday (19) declared US support for journalists here against the backdrop of enactment of ‘Online Safety Bill’

She spokes about press freedom and related issues at the Sri Lanka Press Institute Press Club.

A statement issued by the US Embassy quoted Allen as having said the U.S. Embassy is all in on supporting your incredible work. Sure, we might bump heads over a story now and then, but above all, we’re your biggest fans. We’re all in on programmes that hone your skills because we believe in your right to pursue journalism freely and fearlessly.

I want to thank you for protecting the rights and freedoms of journalists here in Sri Lanka and around the world, ensuring all citizens enjoy the right to express their ideas and opinions openly and freely. Even in difficult times, you continue to press forward and ask difficult questions. Your commitment to seeking out the truth and shouting it from the rooftops remains a democratic staple, and I truly appreciate what you do.

It’s only fitting that I begin my remarks this afternoon by telling a story that I think is relevant in light of today’s topic about the media’s role in a democracy.

Over a century ago, American media coined the term “muckraker” for journalists who delved into societal issues, exposing corruption.

Although the term carried a somewhat negative connotation, labeling these journalists as mere “gossip mongers,” today, we honor them as the pioneers of investigative journalism.

These muckrakers played a pivotal role in ushering in the Progressive Era, a time of significant social and political reform in American history.

Even President Theodore Roosevelt referred to them as “muckrakers,” criticizing their focus on society’s flaws through figures like Lincoln Steffens, whose work shed light on corruption and spurred a nationwide call for accountability and reform.

Steffens’ book ‘The Shame of the Cities,’ published in 1904, made him renowned for uncovering corruption within American cities, highlighting the nefarious links between political leaders, businesses, and organized crime.

His fearless journalism raised critical awareness about the urgent need for governmental and corporate accountability. Steffens wasn’t acting as a public relations officer for the government; his role was to uncover the truth; however unpleasant it might be.

Faced with the stark realities Steffens presented, American officials and the public were compelled to confront a pivotal question: ‘Is this the kind of country we aspire to be?’ The resounding answer was no.

Steffens’ work didn’t just expose wrongdoing; it sparked a nationwide demand for reform and played a crucial role in fostering a dialogue about the essential role of investigative journalism in ensuring power remains accountable.

This story showcases how freedom of the press and freedom of expression are not just fundamental human rights, they are also vital contributors to a country’s development and growth.

This brings me to my main point: how the global media space supports democracy and fosters peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.

In my mind, the correlation is obvious: When a government constricts the rights and freedoms of its citizens, the future and the development of the country will naturally suffer.

Globally, we’re witnessing serious and escalating challenges to media freedom. The United States stands firmly for the freedom of expression, advocating for press freedom both online and offline, and ensuring the safety of journalists and media workers worldwide. Unfortunately, these essential freedoms are under threat globally, including concerns raised here in Sri Lanka.

When governments intensify efforts to withhold information from the public by restricting internet access and censoring content, we must speak up. Notably, when Sri Lanka’s Parliament passed the Online Safety Bill in January, the United States voiced concerns over its potential effects on freedom of expression, innovation, and privacy.

It’s common to hear arguments against unfettered freedom of expression. Critics claim the media is biased, aiming to embarrass governments and undermine public trust. Others worry that without checks, freedom of expression may fuel the spread of misinformation. Some argue that an unchecked press can incite tension and compromise security. And there’s concern that continuous reports on corruption, violence, and political strife can tarnish a nation’s image, deterring investment and hampering development.

However, the media’s bias should lean towards the public’s interest, acting as a guardian to ensure that leaders fulfill their duties. This principle holds in Sri Lanka, the United States, and globally.

The challenge of negative press, often labeled as “fake news” or “biased journalism,” is not new. For generations, governments and the media have navigated a complex, sometimes adversarial relationship. This dynamic isn’t unique to any one nation; in the United States, for instance, presidents from both major political parties have experienced their share of friction with the press. This tension, a hallmark of democratic societies, plays a crucial role in fostering transparency and encouraging effective governance. It’s a familiar scene: politicians and journalists engage in heated exchanges, especially when leaders feel their actions are misrepresented, leading to accusations of inaccuracies and biased reporting.

The press’s duty is to deliver facts as they stand, shedding light on the government’s achievements as well as spotlighting areas where policies or programs fall short. This transparency not only informs the public but also strengthens the nation as it encourages constructive action and improvement.

And suppressing voices only complicates matters further. Attempting to conceal issues rather than addressing them is akin to hiding a broken tool rather than fixing it. True progress comes from collaborative dialogue, even if it means embracing the messiness of public discourse.”

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