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National Agriculture Policy to be formulated  soon

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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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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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