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Govt. to use GPS to track threatened extents of country’s environmentally sensitive areas

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Environment Ministry Secretary, Dr. Anil Jasinghe receieves a book from CEJ Executive Director Heamantha Withanage

By Ifham Nizam

The government would shortly scale up the monitoring of the country’s entire environmentally sensitive area through GPS to find out all threatened extents, Environment Ministry Secretary, Dr. Anil Jasinghe said

Dr. Jasinghe, making the guest speech at the launch of a book titled `Nature in Therapy’ published by the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) at the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute, stressed that co-management model was was under study, which would be concluded within two months.

Dr. Jasinghe said that air pollution was one of the major issues in the region and the good news was that South Asian Co-operation Environment Programme (SACEP) headquarters was now based in Sri Lanka with the support of World Bank and other institutions.

He also said that Sri Lanka was among better countries in the region when it came to air pollution, though there were no boundaries to the problem, but being an island nation the country was so far spared from its harsh effects.

Dr. Jasinghe added that next year the government would launch a clean air project with public participation.

CEJ Executive Director Heamatha Wthanage said that in 2020 they setup an online survey to get the public opinion about the situation which was responded by over 300 persons from diverse backgrounds.

“This encouraged us to develop the study further. As a result we have requested various governmental bodies to provide the data which they collect though various monitoring programmes, including sales data,” he said.

Withanage said that the Western Province Waste Management Authority provided waste generation data, and the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) also provided air quality data during that period. Forest Department and Department of Wildlife Conservation also made available the data related to forest and wildlife impacts.

However, despite their requests under the Right to Information law, the Water Supply and Drainage Board, Central Environmental Authority, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and the Ceylon Electricity Board failed to share data although they responded to the RTI requests. “It is pathetic that those agencies don’t make available such information although they use public funds to generate such information,” he added.

Dr. Pathmalal Manage of the University of Sri Jayawardenepura, too joined hands with the CEJ to compile this report. As a result, they have agreed to conduct new data collection along the Kelani River which will make this study complete in a successful manner.



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JVP accuses EC of conspiring to delay LG polls

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By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, MP, has told Parliament that the Election Commission and its Chairman are collaborating with the government to postpone the local government elections.

Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023, on Friday, MP Dissanayake said that as local government bodies should be reconstituted before March 20 2023, the Election Commission had to publish a gazette calling nominations by late December or early January.

“The EC has the authority to do so. It has sought the Attorney General’s opinion on some matters. There is no need at all for it to seek the AG’s advice,” he said.

“This is a conspiracy. The Elections Commission can publish the gazette even tomorrow. It is clear that the Elections Commission is collaborating with the government,” he said.

Dissnayake said that Election Commissioner Nimal Punchihewa’s impartiality was in question. “We know where Punchihewa worked before and at what party office. We know the governments and persons he has worked with closely. He is not an independent person.”

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Diana wants bars open 24/7

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By Saman Indrajith

State Tourism Minister Diana Gamage says liquor outlets should be kept open longer if the country wants to boost tourism.Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023 on Friday, State Minister Gamage said: “We have to keep these places open 24/7. I have spoken about it many times. Liquor is the highest tax earner in the country. In this paradise, we are closing bars after 11pm. Foreigners in hotels can’t get any alcohol if they need, because all the places are closed.

We need to keep this country open 24 hours. Like Singapore and other countries, people must have entertainment.”

“I talk about the night life, and when I talked about that earlier many criticized it and saw it as a big sin. That is ones who are incapable of understanding it,” she said.

“What we call night life is actually a night economy. All the countries in the world have developed because of night economy. These countries get 70 percent of their income from the nigh economy. They only get 30 percent during the day time. We have to develop a night economy in this country. That will earn 70 percent of the income. Only that can develop this country.

“We can do that. And also our museum, that closes at 5 pm. In other countries, museums earn most during night. It must be opened 24/7.  This night economy is essential for a country’s economy. People must have places to spend their money.”

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SJB asks govt. to introduce political reforms fast

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has asked the government when it will introduce the political reforms demanded by the international community.

Speaking in Parliament on Saturday, Kiriella said that when the Opposition parties met the members of the Colombo-based diplomatic community during the Aragalaya protests, the latter had demanded that Sri Lanka implement political and economic reforms to receive foreign assistance to get out of the prevailing crisis. “That was six months ago. We have been asking the government repeatedly to inform this House whether it has implemented those reforms.

“The riginal plan was to establish an interim government for six months to restore the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. It was stated that an election would be held after six months. Now, what has happened? The politicians who are responsible for the crisis are still in power.

“Foreign Minister Al Sabry met USAID Administrator Samantha Power on Friday. Samantha Power called for the same political and economic reforms again. The international community is asking for the same.”

Leader of the House, Minister Susil Premjayantha said that political reforms were being implemented. “It is as part of the political reforms we are setting up a National Council, Sectoral Oversight Committees and three other committees. Counter terrorism act is in the pipeline. It will be taken up within couple of weeks. We passed several bills with your support. There were nine amendments to be introduced to the criminal law,” he said.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa: “The bills and amendments that have been passed are not enough as far as the international community and we are concerned. The biggest request is to allow the people of this country for a new mandate. Allow the people to express their will. Give them a chance to establish a new government or to maintain the same government now they have.”

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