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National policy to protect ecologically sensitive areas awaits whetting by AG



By Ifham Nizam

The national policy to protect ecologically sensitive areas in Sri Lanka had been completed, Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said yesterday, adding that steps would be taken to submit it to the Attorney General’s Department for whetting and to the Cabinet and Parliament subsequently.

“Our country is rich in biodiversity. According to the National Red Data List, 253 species of snails, 245 species of butterflies, 240 species of birds, 211 species of reptiles, 748 species of vertebrates and 1492 species of invertebrates live in our environment.”

“Nearly 43% of the Teridopite species, 87% of the amphibians, 59% of the reptiles, 19% of the mammals and seven percent of the bird species were endemic as well as 336 species of ferns and 3154 species of flowering plants,” he said

“As the Minister of Environment, I fulfill my responsibility to take policy measures to protect all these natural resources. Therefore, the draft National Policy on Environmentally Sensitive Areas in Sri Lanka has now been prepared. These days I am studying its legal provisions”, the Minister said.

He also said that it was the first time that a national policy on such sensitive environmental zones had been formulated in Sri Lanka.

Those included Gangawadiya and Eluwankulama in Puttalam District, Manewa in the Anuradhapura District and Galnewa in the Kurunegala district.

When development projects were carried out without the requisite national policy protection such sensitive environmental areas might not be identified and thus unknowingly damaged, the Minister said. Living in such sensitive ecosystems, even endangered species of animals and plants could become extinct, he added.

“We also plan to designate three sensitive marine ecological zones in line with this policy. The first is the ocean region from Mannar to Rameshwaram. We look forward to the support of the government of India in designating this marine zone as a sensitive ecosystem. The other two are Trincomalee and Batticaloa Marine Zones and South sea zone from Galle to Hambantota zones.

“We will designate these three zones as sensitive ecological zones and take steps to conserve them.”

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Overtime gravy train for public sector back



Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy

By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.

The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.

Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.

Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.

Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.

Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.

One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.

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Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee



Prof G L Peris

Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.

Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.

Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.

Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.

The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)

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Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.

The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.

They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.

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