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GL highlights need for WB ‘debt forgiveness’ in current emergency situation

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G 20 Interfaith Forum:

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has the countries struggling to cope with immense difficulties due to the raging Covid-19 epidemic could receive huge relief if the World Bank agreed to a policy of debt forgiveness.

Prof. Peiris was speaking at the Ministerial Sessions on ‘Foreign Policy and Religion’ at the G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna, Italy.

The Minister said: “Today, reference was made to COVID-19 and the responses to that. Look at the Bretton Woods institutions. The Bretton Woods institutions were also fashioned in a certain political context that is the end of the Second World War but the world has changed a great deal since then. But those institutions remain largely as they were. Now the developing world in particular, if the World Bank, for example, were to agree to a policy of debt forgiveness in the excruciatingly difficult circumstances that we have today, then countries that are developing would be able to use their own scarce resources for projects connected with the welfare of their populations. Now take my own country Sri Lanka. We normally earn 4.2 billion dollars a year from tourism. That has come almost to a complete stop. Then our trade relations have been affected. Money coming into the Sri Lankan Treasury from the efforts of our expatriates working abroad in countries like Italy has been affected. So in that situation, if the World Bank were to agree to a policy of debt forgiveness, I think that would greatly accelerate and facilitate the economic development of our countries.”

Questioning the status of the UN system, Prof. Peiris asked whether the world body is functioning today in the manner that was envisaged by the founding fathers. “If you look at the seminal documents of the United Nations system- the Charter of the United Nations, the Declaration of Human Rights- are we really behaving in the manner that was envisioned by these sacrosanct instruments? I don’t think one could sincerely answer that question in the affirmative.”

Prof. Peiris added: “Then look at the composition of the Security Council. Does that in any way reflect the reality of the modern world? It does not. It reflects a certain balance of powers that was only realistic at the conclusion of the Second World War. But today there are other emerging powers. I won’t name countries but the entire organisation needs to be basically overhauled to bring it in line with contemporary realities. The Economic and Social Council needs to be strengthened. Again, there has to be an emphasis on equality, on human dignity. The whole world, not a section of the world. It is not one section – affluent, powerful, dominating the rest of the world and using the United Nations system as an instrument for their domination. That is what creates a certain lack of confidence in the organs and the structures associated with the United Nations system. So I think these are some of the critical issues, imperative issues that we need to address at this time.”



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Amidst farmers’ protests, ministers at BIA to welcome first stock of liquid fertiliser

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Minister Bandula Gunawardena and State Minister Shashindra Rajapaksa standing near the airlifted fertiliser consignment.

Activist alleges violation of procurement procedures

Amidst continuing protests in several parts of the country against a severe shortage of fertiliser, SriLankan Airlines yesterday (21) airfreighted a stock of nano-nitrogen liquid fertiliser from India.

UL 1156 touched down at the BIA 12.25 am. Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena and State Ministers, Shashendra Rajapaksa and D. V. Chanaka and Agriculture Secretary Prof. Udith Jayasinghe were there to receive the first consignment of fertiliser.

The Presidential Secretariat said that during this week 500,000 litres of nitrogen fertiliser would be brought in. It said that altogether the government had ordered 3.1 mn litres from India’s IFFCO.

The Indian fertiliser would be made available to farmers through Agrarian Centres in the Ampara, Batticaloa, and Trincomalee Districts and other districts, where paddy cultivation has already commenced, the Presidential Secretariat quoted the Agriculture Secretary as having said.

Methsiri Gunawardena, Chairman of the Colombo Commercial Fertiliser was also at the BIA.

Former Governor of Uva, Central and Southern Provinces and civil society activist Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon in a statement issued yesterday alleged that the fertliser had been ordered at a cost of Rs 9 bn without following proper procurement procedures.

Tennakoon asked whether the government deliberately created an environment for the emergency import of fertliser from India. Tennakoon said the government should explain how such large scale imports were made contrary to basic procedures. Tennakoon alleged that the government had created a monopoly for fertliser imports for the benefit of a few (SF)

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Govt. seeks an eco-tourism plan

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By Ifham Nizam

The Environment Ministry and the Tourism Ministry had joined hands to appoint a joint expert committee to formulate an eco-tourism strategic plan, a senior government official said.

Secretary to the Ministry of Environment Dr. Anil Jasinghe said that the objective of the programme was to promote the tourism industry as well as environmental protection.

“Sri Lanka has a vast flora and fauna biodiversity, pristine beaches and priceless ancient sites. The mangrove system can also attract a large number of tourists. But biodiversity is under serious threat due to the unintentional destruction by certain people in our country,” he said expressing concern.

Although there are many places in Sri Lanka where eco-tourism can be found, the ecotourism industry has not yet developed in a formal way. Therefore, the Environment and Tourism Ministries have decided to initiate a joint program to formulate an eco-tourism strategic plan aimed at attracting tourists to the ecotourism industry as part of promotion and development of our tourism industry.

A special discussion on this matter was held at the Ministry of Environment earlier this week. Environment Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe, and Tourism Ministry Secretary S. Hettiarachchi chaired the discussion.

Attention was drawn to the identification of eco-tourist attractions, the implementation of this program as a tactic to protect the environment, and to encourage more tourists to come to the country not only for entertainment but also for knowledge.

It was agreed to appoint a committee of experts with a standard knowledge of tourism and the environment to carry out the task.

It was also emphasized that the eco-tourism industry is very important as a source of income for our country as the 2018-22 Biodiversity Action Plan and the National Environmental Plan also include the development of eco-tourism industries.

Officials from the Special Projects Division of the Ministry of Environment also participated in the discussion.

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Finally, Lohan’s statement recorded but not by police

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Retired High Court judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena on Tuesday (19) recorded former Prisons Minister Lohan Ratwatte’s statement as regards incidents involving him at the Welikada and Anuradhapura prisons, sources said.

They said that the retired judge had asked for two months to prepare her report on the incidents at Welikada and Anuradhapura on 6 and 12 Sept. respectively.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC asked the retired HC judge to inquire into the incidents. Once completed, the report would be submitted to the cabinet by the Justice Minister, sources said.

The police are yet to record the State Minister’s statement regarding the incidents.

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