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‘Govt. destroying 500,000 hectares of forests’ – Harsha De Silva

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SJB Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha De Silva charged that the government has begun destroying 500,000 hectares of forests when the focus is on Covid-19. The government has now placed 500,000 hectares of valuable forests in the country under the control of Government Agents and Divisional Secretaries for agricultural purposes.

These forests are known as remnant forests, but they range from tens of thousands of acres of rich biodiversity forests to small ecosystems.

These include rivers, canals, streams, reserves as well as historical and archeological sites, he said.

Allowing such massive deforestation to take place with state sponsorship, when there are enough cultivable lands in the country would be the greatest devastation to our environment in recent history, he warned.

Although the government says that these forest lands will be used to give lands to farmers, this will never happen, and these lands will be in the hands of large-scale businessmen in the future, the MP asserted.

“The government will inevitably hand over other forests also to big time entrepreneurs if we don’t oppose this massive environmental destruction”, he continued.

“I am well aware of the importance of business development and strongly condemn the foolish act of formulating a strategy for such environmental damage. These remnant forests, which have been growing for nearly 50 years, are rich in biodiversity, and even black leopards that have recently died, have lived in these forests,” he said.

“A country cannot be developed by the construction of concrete buildings and highways alone and the preservation of a healthy and precious ecosystem is essential for balanced development. Let us rally against this great environmental catastrophe, regardless of party affiliation, the parliamentarian stressed.



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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