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MONLAR sees ulterior motive in government’s organic policy

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

It was now clear that the government banned agrochemicals to break the existing cartel that controlled fertiliser imports and help its business associates, Sajeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) claimed yesterday.

Chamikara said that since banning the import of agrochemicals, the government had not held any discussions with stakeholders involved in organic agriculture in the country.

“It is now obvious that the government has no intention of going green. All it wants is to ensure that its associates will control the agrochemical market in the future. However, the government is bungling that up too.

Chamikara said that a country had to be extremely careful when bringing in organic material from other countries. Even air passengers are questioned whether they are bringing in seeds or plants from other countries.

“A lot of invasive plants have found their way into Sri Lanka. These invasive species can’t be controlled easily and one of the reasons our farmers use a lot of agrochemicals is to get rid of such plants. Imagine bringing in container loads of organic material. Imagine what can come in those? This is why most countries do not import compost and when they do, they are very careful,” Chamikara said.

Chamikara said that given that microorganisms in most agricultural lands had died due to the overuse of agrochemicals, it would take some time for the soil to recover. Until then a mixture of compost and agrochemicals need to be used in some lands for a year or two, he said. For that purpose, the stock of agrochemicals in the country was adequate, Chamikara said.

“Once this is done, we can move to more advanced stages of sustainable agriculture like ecological farming, agroforestry and analog forestry, that require little external inputs,” he said.

Due to various factors, Sri Lanka cannot have analog forests, an approach to ecological restoration which uses natural forests as guides to create ecologically stable and socio-economically productive landscapes, Chamikara said. Thus, the government needed to study what areas could be converted into ecological farming, agroforestry and analog forestry, he said.

“In some areas, due to slopes that lead to soil erosion, we will have to continuously use compost, especially in hill country vegetable farms. It is a decade long process to transition from organic farming to analog forests. The government must be practical and transparent, or the entire concept loses credibility,” he said. Chamikara said the government had done nothing to educate the farmers on how to engage in organic farming. For example those who planted tea used compost the way they used agrochemicals, which is not an effective way of using compost, he said.

“Farmers have not been told of the most basic things. Moreover, compost is only one component of organic agriculture. There are a number of specialised equipment and machinery needed to successfully engage in organic agriculture. We also need things like cutters and crushers to make compost on a large scale. There are a number of Sri Lankan companies that produce these machines, but they have not been given the necessary support to expand production,” he said.

Chamikara said that Sri Lanka also needed to gear its waste management system into making compost. Although, a large quantity of biodegradable waste was collected daily, most of it was thrown into dump sites. Compost could be created with the biodegradable waste and systems should be introduced to prevent heavy metal contamination.

“Heavy metals can come from things like batteries, bulbs and e-waste. We need to establish protocols to prevent such items from mixing with biodegradable waste,” he said.

Chamikara also said that dried leaves are not optimal for producing compost. A constant supply of fresh organic matter is needed for compost production. The government needs to put in a system where trees and grass removed from roadsides are collected and processed. Moreover, trees such as Gliricidia must be planted. “This is an exhaustive process,” he said.

Another factor that was vital for the success of organic agriculture was a healthy water table, Chamikara said. If the water table was not high, it was difficult to make organic agriculture work, he said. For this the irrigation tank network in the dry zone needed to be maintained and the continuous destruction of the forests needed to be stopped, he said.

“On the other hand, we keep on transferring land owned by small farmers to large companies. These companies are export oriented. In the first phase of shifting to organic agriculture, there is a drop in the harvest. We must take that into account and increase the area of farmlands but we are doing the opposite. In a way, the land use policy too has a role in organic agriculture. Has the government done anything that we have spoken about?” Chamikara asked.



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UK funds projects here to prevent conflicts that threaten its interests

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GoSL not among recipients

‘The CSSF is a cross government fund which supports and delivers activity to prevent instability and conflicts that threaten UK interests’

– UK Govt. website

The British High Commission yesterday (25) announced funding for projects worth £3.7m in 2022/23 here to thwart instability and conflicts that threaten British interests.

The announcement came after the conclusion of the visit of British Foreign Minister, Lord Tariq Ahmad, who is also Minister of State for South Asia, the UN, and the Commonwealth and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. The British official visited Jaffna and Trincomalee.

The British HC quoted Lord Ahmad as having said: “Building lasting and inclusive peace in Sri Lanka, based on reconciliation, justice and protecting human rights is key to a stable Sri Lanka, which can attract foreign investment and achieve its economic potential. We are pleased to announce continued support to Sri Lanka through the Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF) to address legacies of conflict, promote human rights and build cohesion across all

communities through programme funding of up to £3.7m in 2022/23.”

In response to The Island query whether the Sri Lankan government would be among the recipients of CSSF funding, BHC spokesperson said: “The funding is for programmes and projects implemented with support from BHC. All CSSF programming in Sri Lanka, will be delivered through a combination of civil society, private sector, and international development partners.”

According to the UK government website, the CSSF addressed complex national security challenges and promote international peace and stability. The National Security Council (NSC), which is chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by senior cabinet ministers, sets the CSSF’s strategic direction. It is guided by the priorities set out in the 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

The BHC stated: “Lord Ahmad met senior members of the government, including President Gotabaya Rajapaska and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. He discussed the importance of the UK Sri Lanka relationship and areas of mutual interest such as climate change and economic recovery from Covid-19. The Minister also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Sri Lanka on Healthcare Cooperation, which will improve knowledge sharing, best practice and expertise on healthcare, and develop an ethical and sustainable recruitment programme for the employment of Sri Lankan nurses and other healthcare professionals in the UK.

During his visit to the North and Eastern Provinces, the Minister met with local politicians and civil society. He discussed key Tamil and Muslim concerns, local governance and inclusive political engagement participation. He emphasised the UK’s support for open, tolerant and inclusive societies as well as freedom of religion or belief.

Throughout his visit to Sri Lanka, Lord Ahmad heard about the essential role civil society play in promoting respect for human rights and their views on how to make progress on reconciliation and accountability.”

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UGC Chief receives ‘The Order of the Rising Sun’ twice

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Senior Prof. Amaratunga poses for a photograph with Amb Sugiyama after receiving the title

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga, Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) has received the prestigious Japanese title ‘The Order of the Rising Sun’ twice.

The academic received the title the highest order conferred by the Government of Japan in the name of His Majesty the Emperor, on 14 Oct. 2021 from the then Japanese Ambassador in Colombo Akira Sugiyama at his official residence.

For the second time, the UGC Chief received the same title from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at Dharmavijayaloka Vihara in Rukmale in Pannipitiya at an event organised on 22 January, 2022.

The Presidential Media Division said that President Rajapaksa after receiving the award

from W.K.H. Wegapitiya, Chairman of University of Sri Jayewardenepura Alumni Association and Japanese Ambassador Mizukoshi Hideaki presented it to Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga.

Prof. Amaratunga poses for a photograph with President Rajapaksa

Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne delivered the keynote address on the occasion.

‘The Order of the Rising Sun’ is conferred by His Majesty on individuals who have made distinguished achievements in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture et al.

The Japanese embassy announced Senior Prof. Amaratunga and Manoj Fernando, Executive Vice President of the Sri Lanka Baseball/Softball Association (SLBSA) received the award.

The Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Most Ven. Ittapana Dhammalankara Thera has presented a memento to Japanese Ambassador Mizukoshi Hideaki.

W.K.H. Wegapitiya and Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, presented a memento to the President. The members of Maha Sangha, MP S.B. Dissanayake, Chancellors and Vice Chancellors of the Universities, and alumni of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura were also present.

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Cardinal insists on taking Easter killings to int’l community

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Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has said they are left with no alternative but to turn to the international community to seek justice for victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, according to a report published by the Union of Catholic Asian News yesterday (25).

“We tried our best to solve the issue within the country and do justice to our people but have failed,” he said during an online forum with an international audience on Jan. 24.

“The legal system under the Attorney General does not consider the recommendations of the presidential commission on the Easter attacks, therefore we have no option but to go international.”

Cardinal Ranjith had hinted in April 2021 of his intentions to not only approach the United Nations but also countries with global influence.

“We can influence those countries as the Church is an international organisation. We have connections all over the world,”he said.

A group of suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamaath was suspected to be behind the bombings at three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in 2019. The attacks killed 269 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and left around 500 injured.

Catholics in Sri Lanka have not been happy with the investigations and led by Cardinal Ranjith have vowed to fight for justice until the truth behind the attacks is revealed.

Cardinal Ranjith said he was not satisfied with the investigations underway since the recovery of a live hand grenade at All Saints’ Church in Borella on Jan. 11.

Muni, a church worker, has been arrested as a suspect by police but the local Church alleged he was being falsely implicated.

Cardinal Ranjith said that such a thing will not be allowed to happen. “We trust the judiciary to take steps to rectify the wrongdoing in the court,” he said.

The arrest of a retired doctor in connection with the same case had further raised suspicion, with Father Cyril Gamini questioning the police investigations.

“We understand that this is an attempt at fabricating a story. The whole country knows that this is a drama and we can see it is a very weak script,” he said.

Father Gamini was earlier questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department over his claims regarding the Easter Sunday attacks during an online forum last November.

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