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MONLAR: Govt. does not care to ensure food security

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‘Forest lands given to big businesses’

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The government had not introduced mechanisms to ensure a stable and adequate food supply although almost a year has passed since Sri Lanka became affected by Covid-19, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), Chinthaka Rajapakshe told The Island yesterday, commenting on soaring food prices.

Rajapakshe said that if the government had worked according to a strategy, it could have increased the production of food and come up with better distribution networks last year.

“The government has shown its incompetence by not straightening up the distribution network and introducing price control mechanisms. One year is more than enough to produce 90% of the food the country needs. We also have the resources, experience and knowledge to achieve this goal. The only thing lacking is proper government planning.”

The government continued to hand over some forest land and the lands used by small farmers to large agro businesses, Rajapakshe said, adding that the government had earmarked 800,000 acres of land to be given to corporations; those lands mainly consisted of forests, chenas and pastures. “The President is facilitating this process through his Gama Samaga Pilisandara programme, which is an attempt to mislead the people by giving them false promises and some relief. Gotabaya tells people it is all right to cultivate forest land under the Forest Conservation Department and instructs officials not to punish people who send their cattle into forests. People walk away feeling good but a few months later big corporations would take over those lands.”

The MONLAR Moderator said that they had conducted a survey on the lands given to corporations by the incumbent government last year. Most of the lands are those used by cattle herders and chena cultivators.

“These big companies cultivate crops like corn and their produce does not help ensure the country’s food security. Moreover, the government cannot exert any influence over these big businesses. For example, it issued several gazettes last year stipulating prices on some varieties of rice but big millers did not heed them. We simply don’t have the power to influence the market. The government has tried to replace public servants with retired Army officers in a bid to convince the people that it has got tough with big businessmen.

The MONLAR Moderator added that early last year the government had encouraged home gardening during lockdowns. However since the government had no plan or policy to make it sustainable, the home gardening project fell through.



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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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