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MONLAR rejects proposed National Agricultural Policy



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) yesterday alleged that the proposed National Agricultural Policy put forth by the Ministry of Agriculture had failed to address the concerns of Sri Lankan small scale farmers, which amounts to 90% of the country’s food producers.

Moderator of MONLAR, Chinthaka Rajapakshe said that the policy did not focus on livestock development. It was a serious concern as livestock was an important part of agriculture and especially sustainable agriculture.

“In the last few weeks, a high powered committee too had been appointed to transform our economy into a sustainable one. However, the proposed Agricultural Policy has not even made any substantial proposals on sustainable agriculture. This is the problem with our governments, successive regimes have tried to implement mutually exclusive policies at the same time,” Rajapakshe said.

MONLAR believes that any National Agricultural Policy must give priority to addressing issues such as the country’s overdependence on food imports, the dwindling health and nutrition of farmers (for example CKDu, other non-communicable diseases and malnutrition,) high indebtedness and the landlessness, human – wild animal conflict and bad institutional support to farmers. Unfortunately, the proposed National Agricultural Policy has completely ignored these and has proposed market-based mechanisms that will only make matters worse.

“Successive Sri Lankan governments have signed several agreements with the World Trade Organization. These have led to serious issues in the sector. Instead of learning from the past mistakes, the government is planning to sign more bilateral and multilateral agreements that will further challenge the sustainability of Sri Lankan agriculture. However, the proposed National Agricultural Policy does not look at these future challenges,” Rajapakshe said.

Sri Lanka’s National Policy on Climate Change, National Environmental Policy and Strategies, National Wetland Policy and Strategies, Sri Lanka’s Forest Policy and its Land Use Policies should be linked with a successful National Agricultural Policy. However, none of them had been considered when drafting the National Agricultural Policy, he said.

The MONLAR moderator added that “Women play an important role in the production of food by small holders. The role played by the women are important in ensuring regional development, ensuring food sovereignty at the regional level and when disasters strike. Their contribution is also vital for the development of the national economy.

“However, none of our agricultural policies recognize that the woman is an equal partner in agriculture. Thus, they face a lot of discrimination in the policy formulation. There are many land laws that are discriminatory towards women, i.e. land development ordinance. They also face difficulties in accessing agricultural subsidies and insurance schemes. Women in agriculture also find it difficult to access the market and access technologies. Due to the above mentioned factors, women in agriculture face a great deal of difficulties and are vulnerable to various actors. The proposed National Agricultural Policy too suffers from the same weakness,” he said.

The proposed National Agricultural Policy speaks in length about the need for public – private partnerships in agriculture. However, the last four decades show that this approach would not be beneficial to small scale producers, consumers, and our natural resources. By continuing with this same failed policy, the proposed National Agricultural Policy can only make matters worse, he said.

“Most Sri Lankan farmers are indebted. This is an indication of the failure of existing agricultural loan insurance schemes. Leasing and loan schemes have also been used to make the farmer buy agricultural equipment, which are not being used optimally. The proposed National Agricultural Policy has not paid attention to strengthening the economy of small holders that would automatically address the social issues created by indebtedness. Given these MONLAR has no option but to reject this draft policy in whole,” he said.



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Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border




BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.

Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.

A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.

Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.

They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals



Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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Gas prices up



State-owned Litro has increased the price of domestic gas with effect from midnight yesterday.

Chairman of Litro Company Muditha Peiris said the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder would be increased by Rs 334, the price of a 5 kg gas cylinder by Rs 135 and the price of a 2.3 kg gas cylinder by Rs 61 .The 12.5 kg cylinder is Rs 4,743.

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