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Implementation of National policy on prevention of child abuse 21 years late– COPE

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TNA MP Shanakiya Rasamanickam questioning officials of the National Child Protection Authority during last Friday’s COPE investigation

Chairman of the  parliamentary watchdog committee – COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), Prof. Charitha Herath had instructed the relevant authorities of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) coming under the Ministry of Education to expedite the implementation of a national policy which was one of the primary responsibilities of the Authority, parliament sources said.

Prof Herath issued the instructions at the COPE committee meeting held on Friday, Feb 12.

The COPE committee disclosed that the NCPA had been established in 1998 to formulate a national policy on the prevention of child abuse and the protection of children.

However, the ommittee pointed out that the implementation of a national policy had not been carried out accordingly paving the way for a delay of 21 years. The Committee emphasised the importance of expediting the implementation of the national policy which had been already approved.

MPs Jagath Pushpakumara, Eran Wickramaratne, Premnath C. Dolawaththa, Shanakiya Rasamanickam and officials representing the NCPA were present on the occasion.

It was also brought to the Committees’ attention that annual reports of the Authority for the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 had not been submitted to Parliament so far. Expressing displeasure at the delay, the COPE Chairman instructed the Secretary to the Ministry of Education and the Secretary to the Ministry of State to immediately look into the matter and submit the relevant annual reports to Parliament within two months.

It was revealed that Rs. 9 million had been spent on creating a database for the authority in 2016, 2017 and a grant of Rs. 1.2 million had also been provided by the Department of Computer Studies, the University of Colombo to develop a software. The COPE committee emphasised that although it was important to prepare such a database, there should be a proper methodology as regards the utilisation of state funds. Thus, the Committee instructed the Secretary to the Ministry to immediately conduct an internal investigation and submit a report thereon urgently.

Although a legal framework had been introduced to regulate the transportation of school children as a measure to prevent child abuse, the COPE committee pointed out that it had not yet been implemented. The Chairman of the The Committee instructed to expedite the implementation of the regulations by employing the newly appointed graduates.

The Committee also raised concerns over the difficulties faced by the victims due to delays in hearing child abuse cases. Emphasis was placed on the importance of developing a system to set a timeframe for finishing such cases.

It was revealed that although 3,165 child protection committees had been set up in schools to prevent child abuse, only 2,392 of them were active. The Committee recommended that action be taken to ensure that all of them were active.

It was also revealed that the Authority had received 89,405 complaints between 2011 and 2020 and as at 31.01.2021, the number of unresolved complaints brought forward was 40,668. The Committee stated that it was unfortunate to have only one person working in the Law Enforcement Division to handle complaints. The Committee also directed that the Law Enforcement Division be strengthened to expedite the process of handling complaints accordingly.

The need to investigate and regulate all orphanages in Sri Lanka was also discussed at length. The Chairman recommended that the Authority prepare a new programme for the purpose and take immediate action to obtain all the basic data.

The Committee directed that steps be taken to develop a comprehensive database.



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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