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National Agriculture Policy to be formulated  soon



Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage says that a National Agriculture policy would be formulated within the next three months.

The Agriculture Ministry has, in a media statement, said that an expert committee appointed to formulate a National Agriculture Policy met for the first time on Saturday (18) at the Gannoruwa Horticultural Crops Research Institute.

The 13-member committee consists of experts in various fields, including experts in the field of agriculture. The committee is chaired by Dr. Ajantha de Silva, Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Its other members are: Director General of Agriculture Dr. W.M.W. Weerakoon, Agrarian Development Commissioner General W.M.M.B. Weerasekara, Sabaragamuwa University Professor P.I. Yapa, Senior Professor Buddhi Marambe, University of Peradeniya, Prof. Palitha Weerakkody, Vice Chancellor of Wayamba University, Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe, University of Peradeniya, Professor M.B. Rathnathilaka, Dr. B.V.R. Punyawardena, Dr. D.S. Kuruppuarachchi, Dr. Yasintha Mapatuna and Dr. Rizvi Sahid.

This committee includes the Chairman of the National Federation of Farmers’ Organizations SMG Samarakoon to represent the farming community.

Minister Aluthgamage requested the committee to formulate the National Agriculture Policy in the interest of the nation within three months disregarding political differences or any other influence.

Pointing out that during his tenure as the Minister of Sports in 2010, he had introduced a national policy for sports and that it had brought about a tremendous positive change in the field of sports in the country.

The Minister pointed out that the National Agriculture Policy was essential for the development of a productive economy as well as a self-sufficient economy from non-toxic food mentioned in the Vision of Prosperity instead of an import economy.

Pointing out that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also has a keen interest in implementing a national agricultural policy that doesn’t change with governments, Minister Aluthgamage requested the expert committee to provide the necessary support to the government.

The Vice Chancellor of the Wayamba University Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe stated that the National Agriculture Policy was formulated in 2003, 2007 and 2010 also but it did not become a reality.

Instead of downloading an agricultural policy in Canada, Israel or any other country through the internet and presenting it as ours, a national agricultural policy that suits the country, including localism, environment, health, our farming people, new technology, and making the farmer an entrepreneur, was essential, Prof. Jayasinghe said.

He pointed out that the expert committee should meet once a month or at an appropriate time interval to take decisions on agriculture and not just limit to formulating a national agricultural policy

Prof. P.I. Yapa noted that a large portion of money from the farmer’s production is spent to buy fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides as well as seeds and suggested that the new policy should include the local production of those needs.

He said that such measures should be taken in the national interest of the country in order to save a large amount of money leaving the country and to enrich the hands of the farmer.

SMG Samarakoon, Chairman of the National Agrarian Federation, representing the committee on behalf of the farmers said that throughout history there had been a problem in directing the views, suggestions and problems of the grassroots farmer to the administration.

Minister Aluthgamage instructed the Chairman of the National Agrarian Federation to file the views of the farmer and present to the committee and said  that all relevant assistance would be provided.

The expert committee pointed out to the Minister that building an agro-based economy was a timely need. The Committee of Experts was of the view that a National Policy on Agriculture should be formulated with an understanding of the chain from producer to consumer.

The Minister said that a number of programmes including the establishment of an Organic Fertilizer Authority, arming the country with seed production, making the country self-sufficient in 16 crops, enriching the farmer with agro-technology and agro-export villages were already in operation.

He said that before the Committee of Experts appointed to formulate a National Policy for Agriculture that his sole objective was to expedite the adoption of the National Agriculture Policy in the national interest for a common purpose and that he was ready to provide the necessary government intervention and assistance.

The Expert Committee agreed to gather and discuss information covering all sectors and to formulate a successful National Agriculture Policy for the future of the country and stated that it was ready to finalize it expeditiously.

Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture Retired Major General Sumedha Perera was also present at the special discussion.

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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?



… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.



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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others



The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.



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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area



Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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