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MEPA Launches Sayura Rakina Ralla

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In order to protect Sri Lanka’s endangered water resources and environment, Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) launched the ‘Sayura Rakina Ralla’ (Protect the Sea) community-led programme. Under this umbrella initiative the organisation also launched the ‘Sayura Rakina Ralla’ Facebook page and a theme song to engage and educate the public on proper waste disposal and minimizing the use of non-biodegradable waste, thereby encouraging them to take a proactive approach in restoring the coastlines of Sri Lanka to its former glory.

In order to shed light on the country’s lack of correct waste disposal whilst parallelly encouraging and educating Sri Lankans to ‘clean up their act’, MEPA, which is under the aegis of the State Ministry of Urban Development, Coast Conservation, Waste Disposal and Community Cleanliness, commenced the community-led Corporate Social Responsibility programme ‘Sayura Rakina Ralla’ which was inaugurated by Sri Lanka Rugby and Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata PLC (“Dialog”) with a beach clean-up at Sarakkuwa beach in Ja-Ela.

The ‘Sayura Rakina Ralla’ Facebook (FB) page and campaign was also launched at the beach clean-up by State Minister of Urban Development, Coast Conservation, Waste Disposal and Community Cleanliness Hon Dr. Nalaka Godahewa MP, MEPA goodwill ambassadors Bhathiya and Santhush (BnS), Chairperson of the Environment Protection Agency (MEPA) Dharshani Lahandapura and General Manager of MEPA Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara.  

Sri Lanka has ranked poorly according to a global pollution study conducted by the World Bank in 2015, with plastic emerging as the chief culprit. On average, a Sri Lankan produces 500g of non-degradable waste per day resulting in a mammoth amount of 100 million KGs of solid waste added into Sri Lanka’s coastal waters, according to 2017 records. Sri Lanka despite taking pride in its turquoise seas, white sandy beaches, lush virgin forests and extensive lakes and rivers is one of the biggest polluters of non-bio-degradable waste in the world, especially in terms of plastic.

“I hope ‘Sayura Rakina Ralla’ generates the necessary traction that will educate the public to take the much-needed steps to help turn the fate of Sri Lanka’s coastline around so that future generations too can enjoy and savour its beauty,” stated Dr. Nalaka Godahewa MP, State Minister of Urban Development, Coast Conservation, Waste Disposal and Community Cleanliness.

“Being an island nation, with 510,000 square kilometres of sea under its belt as an Exclusive Economic Zone, which is eight times the size of the country’s land mass, it’s critical for Sri Lanka’s economy that we safeguard our primary national asset, our marine resources from pollution and lead the way in sustainable economic growth within the South Asian region.” Dr. Godahewa further added.

“Sri Lanka’s national wealth is the sea and as Sri Lankan citizens we should take responsibility in protecting our natural assets for the future generations to come,” Dharshani Lahandapura, Chairperson of MEPA said. “I would like to thank MEPA’s goodwill ambassadors, renowned musical duo Bathiya & Santhush for producing our theme song, Dialog Axiata for the overall support they have given towards MEPA and Sri Lanka Rugby who joined us for the inaugural beach clean-up project at Sarakkuwa Beach,” she further said.

The FB page can be found by simple typing ‘Sayura Rakina Ralla’  on FB search – https://www.facebook.com/SayuraRakinaRalla

If you would like to contribute your efforts towards the Marine Environment Protection Agency (MEPA) please contact Operations Manager of MEPA, Ms. Thalatha Ranasinghe on 076 6599088 



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Govt. eases restrictions on foreigners as Covid-19 rips through country

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DGHS, IGP informed of SLTDA decision

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In what many thought was a shocking decision, the Tourism Ministry yesterday (16) declared that tourists would be able to travel across the country despite movement restrictions in force since last Thursday (14) to control the rapid spread of Covid-19.

 Tourism Ministry, in a statement issued yesterday afternoon (16) quoted Director General of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Dhammika Wijesinhe as having said that the foreigners in the country could travel in what she called a bio bubble. Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr Asela Gunawardena and IGP C.D. Wickremaratne had been informed of the arrangements, she said.

The announcement was made as the government struggled to cope with an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 positive cases as well as deaths. It came close on the heels of Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga declaring that the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) wouldn’t be closed. When The Island sought an explanation from the Tourism Ministry how such a decision was taken regardless of tough quarantine laws and health guidelines in place to control the spread of rampaging Covid-19 epidemic, an authoritative official said that the Ministry issued a statement received from the SLTDA.

DG Wijesinghe said that those individuals and firms responsible for bringing in tourists had been instructed to strictly follow health guidelines or face the consequences.

Declaring that tourism has been categorized as an export industry, DG Wijesinghe said that the SLTDA stepped in the wake of complaints that foreigners experienced difficulties as a result of travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the latest Covid-19 eruption.

The Tourism Ministry further quoted the official as having stressed that arrangements were now in place to ensure tourists could travel in a bio bubble without hindrance.

Police headquarters said that after the lifting of ‘lockdown’ on Monday at 4 am, travel restrictions from 11 pm to 4 am on a daily basis during May would continue.

GMOF (Government Medical Officers’ Forum) spokesperson Dr. Rukshan Bellana said that the government seemed hell-bent on causing further chaos. Having allowed influential parties to bring in foreigners for quarantine in the country, the government caused the deterioration and now restrictions were done away at the risk of further intensification of the spread of the virus.

Dr. Bellana recalled how the government permitted the England cricket tour of Sri Lanka to go ahead in January this year at a time the UK was in a grave crisis over a new deadlier variant of Covid-19 spreading there and also allowed groups of Ukrainians in when Ukraine was in lockdown.

Responding to another query, Dr. Bellana pointed out that the shocking declaration that restrictions would not apply to foreigners meant that the government was yet to comprehend the gravity of the situation.

Dr. Bellana said that the government seemed to be blind to the fact that the death toll was on the verge of passing 1,000 and the cases nearing 150,000. If those at the helm of administration really believed tourists could move across the country safely in bio bubbles let them create the same for others, Dr. Bellana said.

According to the GMOF, the government was pulling in different directions in the absence of a cohesive strategy to meet the daunting Covid-19 challenge. The failure to understand the need to apply the same set of quarantine laws and health guidelines to all was one of the primary reasons for the deterioration of the problem.  Dr. Bellana asked how the government did away with restrictions while the doctors reported the detection of at least six Covid-19 variants.

Dr. Bellana said that he expected experts would oppose the government’s short-sighted policies.

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Gaza conflict: Parliament calls for truce; govt. silent yet

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP Dr. Suren Raghavan, on behalf of the Sri Lanka-Palestinian Parliament Friendship Association has urged the government and the Opposition to join the international community in calling for an immediate cessation of violence in the latest conflict involving Israel and Hamas.

The recently formed Association in a statement issued on May 13 called for cessation of hostilities in Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Association represents both government and the Opposition.

Citing international media reports, the Association expressed concerns over suffering of civilians on both sides due to military action during the month of Ramazan. Dr. Raghavan, the only SLFPer accommodated on the SLPP National List made reference to indiscriminate rocket attacks carried out by Hamas and Israeli air strikes.

The Foreign Ministry yesterday (16) acknowledged the government was yet to issue a statement on the situation in Gaza.

According to international media reports, an Israeli airstrike on Saturday destroyed a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press offices in the Gaza Strip. The airstrike came about an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to leave the building. The building houses the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments.

Meanwhile, Israel Solidarity Movement (ISM) strongly condemned Hamas for attacking civilian targets in Israel. Calling Hamas a terrorist organization, the ISM pointed out that terrorists used Palestinians as a human shield while attacking Israeli civilians.  Pointing out that Hamas actions had placed the Palestinian community in peril, the IMS recalled how Sri Lanka suffered during the war against the LTTE. Making reference to sufferings caused by 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, the ISM stood solidly with those who backed whatever Israeli action taken to neutralize the Hamas challenge.

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Central Bank: No immediate threat of inflation rise from monetary expansion

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By Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka was currently experiencing high monetary expansion, but the Central Bank did not expect an acceleration of inflation in the near future, Economic Research Director at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara told The Island yesterday.

Answering a query on the broad money growth and its wider implications, Dr. Amarasekera said, “At the end of 2020, broad money expanded by 23.4% compared to the end 2019. The extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic required increased credit to the government from Sri Lanka’s banking system, and the historically low interest rate structure also resulted in a pickup in the growth of credit to the private sector in the second half of the year. This policy driven expansion in broad money supply was essential for the country to dampen the effects of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.”

“As the Sri Lankan economy is operating below its potential, we do not project a demand-driven acceleration in inflation in the near term. Even the relatively high economic growth projected for 2021 will be partly driven by the low base in the previous year, and therefore, it is unlikely that there will be an overheating of the economy in 2021 as well, although we envisage a monetary expansion of 21%.”

“However, as the authority responsible for the money stock of the country, the Central Bank remains cautious about any excessive expansion in money growth. Nevertheless, the close relationship between money and inflation that we used to see in the past is no longer in existence. For example, during the most part of a period of single digit inflation that Sri Lanka experienced since 2009, broad money growth has remained above 15%. The breakdown of the close relationship between money growth and inflation is also one reason for the Central Bank to move away from a monetary targeting framework towards a flexible inflation targeting framework to conduct monetary policy. Anchoring of inflation expectations has also helped curb the inflationary effects of exchange rate movements as well. Many other countries have also experienced similar situations.”

“When the economy recovers and demand conditions improve, the Central Bank will take appropriate action to make necessary policy adjustments to ensure the continuation of inflation at the desirable levels of mid-single digits without disrupting the growth process,” Dr. Amarasekara said.

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