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LSSP cautions government on US State Secretary’s visit

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The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) has cautioned the government not to fall into the USA’s trap to get Sri Lanka involved in the war of attrition between the US and China.

LSSP General Secretary Prof. Tissa Vitarana said in a statement yesterday (27): “During the US State Secretary’s visit, there will also be pressure to sign the MCC and SOFA agreements that the UNP-led yahapalanaya government was prepared to sign to obtain a grant of US$ 480 million. The Gunaruwan Committee has given instances of countries like Madagascar that signed and fulfilled the conditions, but did not receive the promised amount of money. Not surprising, as the USA itself is in an economic crisis and heavily in debt.

“The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is one of the most powerful politicians in the world. He is also the USA’s Minister of State (in the USA the members of the Cabinet are called Secretaries, not Ministers). His present visit to Sri Lanka, and three other Asian countries including India, is to get some Asian support for its planned attack on China, which has not received the support of ASEAN.

“For example, the Philippines President Duterte has said that he is not ready to go to war with China, and will resolve their issues bilaterally and peacefully. Even the European Union led by Germany has recognised that China is only interested in trade, and it is refusing to support the USA’s military attack on China, the LSSP statement further noted.

“The USA is advancing its “India First” policy to rally Asian support against China. Pakistan has taken China’s side and Sri Lanka too must do the same. This is a truly Non-aligned Policy to which all countries that were colonized have always subscribed to, from the time we were liberated from Imperialist rule. Under no circumstances should Sri Lanka support USA military aggression against China, it added.

“Even staying neutral is tacit approval. We must oppose war by the USA against a fellow Third World country. What right has the USA to claim that China poses a military danger to it, when its boundaries are thousands of miles away? It is the USA that has over 400 military bases around China, while China has only one outside its boundaries”, the LSSP said.

“Signing the MCC and SOFA agreements would compel us to support USA aggression. The MCC agreement would enable the USA to exploit our economy without restriction and its companies to buy our land besides establishing rapid transport links from Colombo to Trincomalee. The SOFA agreement would allow thousands of armed troops from the USA to use the whole of Sri Lanka as a military base (now that they are losing Diego Garcia, their main Indian Ocean base).

“Thus, the LSSP appeals to the Government to take a non-aligned stance and support China. It is also vitally important that Sri Lanka does not sign the MCC and SOFA agreements.

“The Sri Lankan government should ensure that the UN Declaration on the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace be implemented immediately. This is a declaration which Sri Lanka itself initiated.”



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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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