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Karu: Promises made to Sobitha Thera have gone unfulfiled

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Former Speaker and Chairman of the National Movement for a Just Society (NMSJ) Karu Jayasuriya on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the death of the founder of the movement, Venerable. Sri Sobhitha Thera on Sunday (08) called for a just society that values democracy.

 

Following are the remarks by NMSJ Chairman on the occasion:

Today is an opportunity to commemorate a Most Venerable Thero, who has worked tirelessly with sheer determination in recent times to protect the democratic rights of the people of this country and to create a society where justice and fairness reigned.

It has been five years since the death of the Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero. His honorouble character was full of sublime qualities that demonstrated his infallible rectitude.

We can identify him as a great follower of the Buddhist philosophy who had a colossal impact on our motherland in recent times, espousing the many qualities displayed by revered theros of the bygone era such as Wariyapola Sri Sumangala, Migettuwatte Sri Gunananda and Walpola Sri Rahula.

Throughout his lifetime, he has acted with a sincere sense of nationalism, and whenever he was faced with challenges, be it national, religious or cultural, he always stepped up and represented the national aspirations of the country without any hesitation.

One such instance was the political transformation that took place in this country in 2015. The people of Sri Lanka managed to change a powerful regime that had then gained a two-thirds majority. This was a result of him placing the country at the forefront irrespective of race, religion or party affiliation and leading the people towards that change. His voice was instrumental in awakening the minds of the people. It was due to the resounding admiration and appreciation he received from the people in this country.

The Venerable Thero never pursued wealth, power or fame. At the very least, he was even unwilling to accept any of the religious titles bestowed upon him. He lived an exemplary and humble life. We revered, respected, and followed him because we valued those noble qualities.

We also participated in the 70th birth anniversary celebrations of the Most Venerable Sobitha Thero that was held on 29 May 2012 at the BMICH. At that time, the very fabric of our democratic heritage was under threat and personal freedoms were in complete disarray. Justice was undermined and injustice prevailed. Disappointed at these developments, the Most Venerable Thero, at that moment, pledged to raise his voice against these injustices.

On that day, the main theme of his lecture was on how the executive presidency, a political system that was unique to Sri Lanka which possessed unlimited power, had turned into a parasite.

As such, we recall how he made an emotional appeal to all segments of the clergy, other religious leaders as well as all patriotic communities in the country to support him in his endeavor to abolish the executive presidency and to safeguard democracy.

On the same night, the Venerable Thero was visited by his followers. The fact that he was assured of their unwavering support and commitment to make the movement a success while submitting various proposals was a testament to the trust they had placed in him. It was also the country’s good fortune that a large number of people had come forward to support him.

A few days later, about 60 Buddhist monks representing the Maha Sangha arrived in Colombo and with their blessings, the ‘National Movement for a Just Society’ was born. This is how a national movement that was able to create a regime change was formed.

From that time until the 2015 Presidential Election, we respectfully and devoutly remember his great commitment, visiting all corners of the island, with the full support of the Maha Sangha, uniting various ideological and political movements in this country and amalgamating the patriotic people under one banner.

Furthermore, we should also mention the myriad of occasions when his life was under threat. We cannot forget how his life was placed in danger once as the vehicle in which he was travelling was subject to a hit and run. We can’t forget the failed attempt to poison him.

With today’s press briefing, while commemorating the Most Venerable Thero, we hope to apologise to him for the many insults and injustices he had endured.

The Most Venerable Thero,

Due to your advice, guidance and leadership, there was a regime change. Many people secured various positions because of you. It is a known fact that after your death, pledges were made to fulfill the promises that were yet to be realised. Talking about it hurts us too. Some have completely forgotten you. As there were prior instances of people who had ruined the political lives of Anagarika Dharmapala, one of the most revered figures in our country and Sir CWW Kannangara, the father of free education, it was not a surprise. But such things can no longer be tolerated.

However, it was due to your philosophy that Sri Lanka was lauded by the international community, including the United Nations and world leaders, for having one of the most exemplary democracies in the world during the first two years of that administration from 2015-2016. But you were not able to see that.

Thereafter, we were saddened by the unfortunate situation that arose in the country due to the disagreements within the government. We were shocked. We apologize to you for that.

After your demise, it has been clear to all how politics has degraded the values of our country, how some misled the masses by exploiting race and religion, how religious centers were used to propagate petty political agendas by spreading various misinformation, and how people were deceived by the snake king that manifested inside a bottle. Today, it is the Maha Sangha that exposes such incidents.

We know that the truth can never be suppressed and will come out one day. It is with great humility that I inform you that the aforementioned facts are being brought to light by the thousands of members of the Maha Sangha and the general public in remembrance of your great name.

The Most Venerable Thero, although we wish that you attain nirvana, your philosophy is very much required to restore a society that has been hoodwinked by lies, injustice and deceit.

Therefore, we are hopeful that the people who are aware of these developments and value a just society will soon accord him the respect that he deserves.

Venerable Thero, may you help us to fulfil that noble aspiration. It is for the generation that is yet to be born. May this endeavour of ours be a tribute to his name!



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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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