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Million trees to reduce pollution on highways

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One million moodilla saplings would be planted on either side of roads to minimize carbon footprint and to manage emissions, Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said last Friday.

Speaking to journalists after launching the sapling planting project along the Marine Drive from Wellawatte to the Dehiwela section under the one million trees green project of the Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour programme, the Minister said that the tree planting project in addition to helping minimise the carbon footprint, would provide shade and shelter to pedestrians. “Out target is to plant one million saplings along the roadside. Around 300,000 saplings are already ready in nurseries belonging to the Road Development Authority. Our development projects have been designed to ensure the protection of the environment so that they would be in line with the visions of sustainable development goals. The Opposition has been clamouring during recent times accusing our government of engaging in a countrywide tree felling spree. We are not worried about their false propaganda. We continue with our development process so that within a couple more months people will see the results. Within 24 hours of the President assuming duties of office after his winning of the election, he commenced a project of cleaning the environs and he set up an environmental police unit. Within a couple of days of the victory at the presidential election, all waste and garbage that had not been cleared were cleaned up. People may recall how the Yahapalana regime could not even clean the garbage and waste during the last half of their government. Now it is they who come and give us instructions on how to run the economy,” the Minister said.

Minister Fernando said that the project to plant one million saplings along the roads was being carried out with the assistance of private sector institutions. The sapling planting project along Marine Drive is assisted by the NDB Bank.

Responding to a query by journalists on the speculations related to Basil Rajapaksa being sworn in as an MP soon, the Minister said: “The story of Basil Rajapaksa becoming an MP started from the day the last general election was won by the SLPP. Yet he did not come to Parliament. That is why this question is being raised repeatedly. Everybody is waiting to see if he becomes an MP.”

Asked to comment on the presidential pardon given to Duminda Silva, the Minister said: “It is my personal opinion that justice has been done. We all know that not only Duminda Silva but many other persons had been incarcerated during the Yahapalana misrule just because they were from our party. We all have heard the leaked audio tapes on how Shani Abeyesekera and others had manufactured evidence and manipulated the court process to put Duminda Silva behind bars. In addition, there was a Presidential Commission of Inquiry on political victimization where evidence came out on how selective justice had been dispensed against our party members and supporters. Justice had been suppressed by the political powers during the time of the former government. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has rectified an injustice. There are many more still languishing behind bars.  Public sector officials, members of the Maha Sangha, members of tri-forces and police intelligence units, artistes, etc., had been victimized politically during the times of the last government. We hope that justice would be done to them too. It is because of that conduct of the Yahapalana government that the people of this country voted us in and gave us two-thirds of the power. The President did the right thing and we stand by with him.”

Responding to a question on fuel price hikes, the Minister said: There are various statements by various parties. Let’s see what will happen in the coming days. Anyone is free to express his or her opinions. Even parties within our government are making different statements. But you have to remember that we are moving to a specific target. The government has not yet made a statement saying that the fuel prices will go down. A government cannot make such statements in advance because it would result in unfavourable consequences in the market. The businessmen may hoard supplies or fleece the consumers.”

Among those present were Secretary to the Ministry of Highways Ranjith Pemasiri, Secretary to the Ministry of Rural Roads and Other Infrastructure Ranjith Dissanayake, Director and Group Executive Officer of the NDB, Dimantha Senaratne, Director Assets Management and Revenue Rasangani Paranagama and other officials.



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At least 17 killed after explosion in Peshawar mosque

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(picture from twitter)

BBC reported that at least 17 people have been killed in an explosion at a mosque in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

The blast happened when the mosque was packed with worshippers and more than 90 people were injured.

A section of the building was destroyed, and officials say people are buried under the rubble. Several others are being taken to local hospitals.

The cause of the explosion is unclear.

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More heavy rain ahead for New Zealand’s largest city

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Auckland experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall on Friday (picture BBC)

BBC reported that residents in flood-hit northern New Zealand are bracing for more heavy rains as officials issued severe weather alerts.

At least four people have died and a state of emergency was declared in Auckland, which on Friday experienced its worst downpour on record.

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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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