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Forest Department draws up plan for replanting destroyed Kallaru forest

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By Ifham Nizam

The Forest Department would decide with a team of legal experts how to implement a recent Court of Appeal judgment order the reforestation of the Kallaru forest reserve in the Wilpattu National Park buffer zone, a senior Department official said.

When contacted, Forest Conservator General W.A. C. Weragoda told The Island that they were in the process of working out a plan, which would be ready as per the court ruling.

Weragoda said that initially money had to be deposited in a government account. However, he said that the amount had to be estimated first.

In response to a query regarding damage that had been caused to the biodiversity, especially to fauna, he said animals would return when the forest was regrown.

The Centre for Environmental Justice Executive Director Hemantha Withanage told The Island that the cost of replanting the forest would be double as it was in the dry zone and the saplings had to be taken care of for at least for ten years.

He estimated it to cost roughly around Rs. 5,000 million, but said it could be more.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said the government would not hand over the task of replanting saplings in the destroyed Kallaru forest to MP Rishad Bathiudeen, who is responsible for the destruction of the forest.

“We are also preparing a report the forest destruction. We will also submit a report on the cost. Some ask me if I will hand over the task of planting saplings in the destroyed Kallaru forest to Bathiudeen.”

According to the court order, all he had to do was to pay the amount estimated by the Department of Forest Conservation, the Ministry of Wildlife and the CEA.

Replanting of Kallaru forest would be done by the Forest Department, Minister Amaraweera said, adding that the Ministry of Environment and the CEA would oversee it.

The Minister praised the Chairman, Executive Director and other officials of the Centre for Environmental Justice, who fought to the court case.

He also said that the judgment had set a good precedent on how to take action against those who relentlessly destroyed the environment.

“Some people think that they can get away with their crimes with the help of thier wealth. Due to the factual reporting carried out by all the media in this country on the destruction of the Wilpattu forest, the issue received wide publicity and justice was served.”



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Herath: COPE dissolution must not hinder probe into economic crisis

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by Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) Prof. Charitha Herath yesterday (07) said that though the prorogation of the Parliament led to the dissolution of the watchdog committee it shouldn’t hinder a planned inquiry to identify those responsible for the current economic chaos.

Prof. Herath said that the COPE was about to initiate the probe when the prorogation of the Parliament took place. President Ranil Wickremesinghe prorogued the House at midnight on July 28, just a week after the Parliament overwhelmingly elected him to complete the remainder of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term, won at the Nov 2019 presidential poll.

In a brief interview with The Island, Prof. Herath said as a result of the prorogation, he no longer functioned as the COPE Chairman. All committees, except the High Post Committee, chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Sectoral Oversight Committees and Select Committees of Parliament, stand dissolved, lawmaker Herath said, urging the powers that be to ensure the continuation of the inquiry.

The proposed inquiry would be largely based on a report received by the Parliament from Auditor General W.P.C. Wickremeratne several weeks ago, Prof. Herath said.

Prof. Herath said that the parliamentary watchdog, he headed, had planned daily sittings over a period of two weeks to inquire into the entire gamut of issues that finally led to the declaration made by incumbent Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, on 19 May, that the country was no longer in a position to service its foreign debt. This was a week after UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe accepted the premiership, Prof. Herath said, while stressing the responsibility on the part of the Parliament to conduct a no holds barred investigation into the whole affair.

According to the first-time entrant to the Parliament, the inquiry was to be launched on July 19, but couldn’t due to the political upheaval, caused by the forced resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Among those asked to appear before the parliamentary committee were the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, and his predecessors, Prof. W.D. Lakshman (Dec 2019-Sept 2021) and Ajith Nivard Cabraal (Sept 2021-March 2022), former Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera (Nov 2019-Dec 2021), Finance Secretary Mahinda Sirisiwardana and his predecessors, S.R. Attygalle and Dr. S.R. Samarasinghe, who now functions as an advisor to President Ranil Wickremesinghe.The COPE also planned to summon former members of the Monetary Board, Sanjiva Jayawardena, PC, and Dr. Ranee Jayamaha and others. Governor, CBSL and Secretary to the Treasury are ex-officio members of the Monetary Board.

Asked whether he would like to be re-appointed as COPE Chairman, Prof. Herath said that as his outfit inquired into the issues at hand pertaining to overall financial crisis that caused massive protest campaign, leading to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ouster without fear or favour those interested in serving the watchdog again should be accommodated. Prof. Herath said that he was ready to give the required leadership to it, especially against the backdrop of President Wickremesinghe’s assurance to the Parliament, regarding a high profile anti-corruption campaign.

Herath quoted President Wickremesinghe as having told the Parliament that: “It is essential to completely eliminate bribery, corruption and fraud from our society. I will implement a national policy to combat bribery and corruption. New rules and regulations and orders in this regard are being prepared by the Ministry of Justice. A consensus will be reached with the International Monetary Fund regarding combating corruption.”

Prof. Herath emphasized that regardless of consensus on political matters, the current crisis couldn’t be addressed unless tangible measures were taken to discipline the public sector and also thwart corrupt practices involving the public and private sectors.

Prof. Herath said that those who could provide information, relating to the inquiry, would be given an opportunity to do so.When The Island pointed out he may not be even considered for re-appointment as COPE Chief due to him joining the rebel group, that backed Dullas Alahapperuma, at the presidential contest, Prof. Herath stressed that he was confident his political stand shouldn’t be a disqualification. Should it be the case, would there be any purpose in even talking about an all-party arrangement to address issues at hand.Prof. Herath said that the country couldn’t move forward without establishing who brought on this catastrophe in our country.

Declaring old political strategies would be irrelevant in the current context, Prof. Herath said that no one could challenge the process adopted in the election of President Wickremesinghe as the 8th President.

Lawmaker Herath told a recent media briefing, chaired by SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris, at the Madiwela residence of SLPP MP Wasantha Yapa Bandara, that not only legality of a process but legitimacy, too, was of pivotal importance.

Prof. Peiris emphasized that unless political actions that had been constitutionally correct, received legitimacy, those responsible would always be at a conflict with the public. There couldn’t be a better example than the referendum ordered by the then President J.R.J, in 1982, meant to extend the life of his government by six years, Prof. Herath said.

“No one could find fault with J.R.J for exercising his powers in terms of the Constitution. Therefore, there was no issue with regard to the referendum that allowed the first Executive President to extend the life of the Parliament. The action, in spite of being controversial, is in line with the Constitution. But, J.R.J’s action never received legitimacy. It never will,” Prof. Herath said.

The catastrophic consequences of J.R.J’s actions should be examined, taking into consideration the eruption of separatist Tamil terrorism in the early 80s and the launch of the second JVP-led insurgency, in the wake of the proscription of that party on political grounds, the MP argued.

Prof. Herath urged all political parties, particularly those in power, to secure the legitimacy by taking into consideration concerns raised by various stakeholders. Responding to another query, Prof. Herath recalled how the then COPE Chairman, DEW Gunasekera, was deprived of an opportunity to hand over his report on the Treasury bond scams by the hasty dissolution of Parliament by President Sirisena, in late June 2015. “We shouldn’t repeat past mistakes. People have suffered enough. Therefore, let there be a clear stand on creating an administration responsible and acceptable to all.”

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JVP: Both President and ruling party MPs must be sent home

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BY Saman Indrajith

The Aragalaya protest must unite all its forces to pressure the Executive and the legislature, and the protesters should not shy away from that task, JVP trade union wing leader, KD Lalkantha, said, addressing a rally at the Ananda Samarakoon Open Air Theatre, in Nugegoda, on Saturday.

Lalkantha said that the Aragalaya had to topple both the President and the government. “There is no point in attacking any other power centre. Actually, there are no other power centres in this country today. Parliament is the place where the President derives his power. He is just a constitutional President. He has no mandate. Nor do the SLPP MPs have any mandate. The government MPs cannot even attend a funeral today. They all are hiding from the people. So we no longer need them. We must get rid of them and their constitutionally appointed President.”

Lalkantha said Wickremesinghe had unleashed two types of terror. “On one front, he uses the police and security forces to arrest, detain and prosecute the leaders of the Aragalaya protests. On the other front, he tries to promote his interests, ideologically. Dozens of university students are made to praise him on television. People should not fall for these ruses.”

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Stakeholders’ proposals to be made available

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Bid to form all-party govt.:

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said the proposals presented by all stakeholders, during talks on the formation of an all-party government, will be made available to them.President Wickremesinghe stated so during Friday’s (05) discussions with leaders of the 11 independent parties in the Parliament and the 43 Brigade on the formation of an all-party government. The discussions were held at the President’s Office.

President Wickremesinghe pointed out that only the JVP, the National People’s Power, and a few other Tamil political parties, had not come for talks. He thanked the parties that had met him for their willingness to sink their political differences for the sake of the public. Leader of the 43 Brigade MP Champika Ranawaka said his outfit was hopeful that it would be possible to restore the 19 Amendment to the Constitution. He also said that there was a need to appoint professionals as Heads of State Institutions.

Ranawaka further said that a country could not be developed by political reforms alone, and the contribution of professionals should be a key factor. He said educational reforms had to be introduced in keeping with global trends.Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Members of Parliament Professor Tissa Vitharana, Wimal Weerawansa, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Udaya Gammanpila, Asanga Navaratne, Premanath C. Dolawatta, Karu Paranawithana, Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, and President’s Additional Secretary Attorney-at-Law, Chaminda Kularatne, were present in this discussion.

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