By Ifham Nizam
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has instructed Ministers to identify all potential uncultivated lands and initiate a programme to cultivate food crops, said Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday.
Amaraweera, speaking to journalists, said various experts had warned that a food shortage could occur by the middle of the year.
“Today, the youth are reluctant to take to farming. I presented a Cabinet Memorandum to launch a programme to cultivate food crops with the intervention of the government to address a possible food crisis in our country,” he added.
The President took a special interest in it. Accordingly, the Minister of Finance summoned all relevant parties and discussed the matter. “We, too, have been given some responsibility to contribute to this”, Minister Amaraweera said.
He said there were large extents of uncultivated lands belonging to the public sector.
“We were instructed to start a suitable programme to start home gardening. The government will provide necessary financial assistance. We will take steps to grow fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants.
The Ministry of Agriculture will start cultivating food crops on agricultural lands as well as on lands that can be used for that purpose, the minister said.
“What needs to be done should be done now.”
At present there are about 100,000 acres of barren paddy lands. Organic fertiliser could be used for such home cultivation, he said.
Train services on coastal line delayed
The Railway Department has announced that train services on the coastal line will be delayed due a derailment between Kollupitiya and Colombo Fort this morning (27).
It also said that trains bound to Colombo will be given priority and requested South bound passengers to make use of alternate modes of transportation until the situation is rectified.
Chinese ship visit: Sabry contradicts Defence Ministry
India consulted, concerns raised by US
Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, has denied that the government granted permission for Chinese research vessel Shi Yan 6 to visit the Colombo port late next month.
Sabry told the media in New York on Monday (26) that Colombo had not given permission for the Chinese vessel to dock. He said India’s security concerns were important for Sri Lanka.
The Defence Ministry on 27 August announced that approval for the Chinese ship to dock in Colombo had been granted
The media quoted Sabry as having said there was a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and the government consulted many friends including India.
“That’s a conversation going on for some period of time. India has expressed its concerns over a long time, but we have come out with the SOP. When we were making it, we consulted many of our friends, including India. So, as long as it complies with the SOP, we have no problem. But if it doesn’t comply with the SOP, we have a problem,” Ali Sabry told ANI.
“So, therefore, as far as I know, we have not given permission for the vessel to come to Sri Lanka during October. Negotiations are going on. Indian security concerns, which are legitimate, are very, very important to us. We have always said that because we want to keep our region a zone of peace,” said Ali Sabry.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, too, has said that an SPO was worked out for foreign vessels.
The Chinese research vessel was expected in Sri Lanka in October to conduct research along with the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA).
US Under Secretary Victoria Nuland, during her meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, had raised concerns regarding Shi Yan 6’s visit.
Taking to X, formerly Twitter, Victoria Nuland stated, “The US supports a strong and prosperous Sri Lanka. Our work together continues at #UNGA. I met with @MFA SriLanka Minister Ali Sabry to discuss U.S. economic assistance, human rights, and our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Sabry told Nuland that Sri Lanka had worked out the SOP to be followed by foreign ships and aircraft in carrying out any activity in Sri Lankan territory, according to a Daily Mirror report.
Last year, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, while commenting on Chinese vessel Yuan Wang-5 which had docked in Sri Lanka, said that any developments that have a bearing on India’s security are “obviously of an interest to us”.
“What happens in our neighbourhood, any developments which have a bearing on our security obviously are of an interest to us,” Mr. Jaishankar said at a joint press conference after the 9th India-Thailand Joint Commission Meeting.
India had expressed its security concerns over the docking of the vessel at the Sri Lankan port as it was shown as a research vessel with the capability of mapping the ocean bed, which is critical to anti-submarine operations of the Chinese Navy. The Chinese research ship had docked at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port.
Court bans Thileepan commemorations in Trinco
The Trincomalee Magistrate’s Court yesterday (26) prohibited the commemoration of LTTE cadre ‘Thileepan’ who died on 26 Sept., 1987, during a fast against the IPKF. The court order came as several events were scheduled to be held in Trincomalee yesterday.
The Trincomalee Court banned any sort of celebrations, demonstrations, parades or protests commemorating Thileepan in the Kulakottan Hall and the Gandhi Roundabout within the Trincomalee Harbour Police division, and within the Trincomalee police division.
The relevant order was issued against several activists, including
President of the Trincomalee District Tamil People’s Forum R. F. Jerome, Ramesh Nicholas, Suhirdha Priya, Krishna Pillai Sri Prasath, Kandaiyya Kandeepan alias ‘Pamaparasan’, Karthik Kalkiriyan and others.
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