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Opposition propagating lies to derail govt’s development drive – Johnny

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Those who had once fooled the people with lies such as golden horses and Lamborghinis owned by the Rajapaksas and spread rumours about their non-existing properties and assets now were again working hard to make people believe that there was unprecedented destruction of the environment, says Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Vari Saubhaagya project with the renovation and dredging of the Mahawewa at Pinnapolegama in Nikaweratiya recently, the Minister said that the JVP and SJB had their activists and so-called environmentalists working overtime publishing social media posts of a government sponsored forest clearing spree.

“Some of them have taken pictures of forests cleared in foreign countries from the internet and edited and put them up on Facebook to mislead the public. This shows their political bankruptcy. “Soon before the 2015 presidential election, they propagated lies and got some people to believe wild allegations such as golden horses, expensive cars, hotels and acres of lands belonging to the Rajapaksas. Some people seemed to have accepted their lies about Rajapaksas owning hotels, resorts and lands. That would not happen again. If the SJB and JVP liars think that people would fall again for their lies, then they are mistaken. When we built the Lankagama road they clamoured from their rooftops that we were felling trees in the rain forest. Then we pointed out that there was not a single tree felled under that project. Thereafter, there was an uproar calling for a crudia zeylanica tree ; they claimed it was the one and only such tree in the entire world. That show came to an end when people found that there are many other such trees in this country.”

Fernando said that the incumbent government had been formed with the votes of the people who had been promised a developed country in return for their votes. “We are bound to develop this country. It is as a part of those development projects we construct roads. According to the SJB and JVP the purpose of constructing roads is not providing people with means of access and of transporting their produce to the market but to cut the trees and damage the environment.  We develop this country while conserving the environment. Today, we started a project to plant 75,000 saplings along the expressways in the country. This is in addition to 100,000 saplings to be planted along the roads coming under the purview of the Ministry of Highways.”

He said that times and people’s needs had changed and the government had to work in line with the aspirations of the people today and not as per the archaic regulations in the gazettes issued in the 1800s. “We have to update ourselves as per the needs of the time we are living in. Provisions of the old gazettes would no longer suit the situation prevailing now. We must do away with them when those regulations no longer serve the purposes or stand as stumbling blocks on our way to develop this country for the betterment of people’s lives of people.”

The Minister said that the yahapalana government had imposed Rs 1,000 tax on a cube of metal and it would be removed soon so that the metal crushers of the quarries in Anuradhapura and Kurunegala districts would benefit.

Minister Fernando said the government would not allow its development drive to be derailed by the Opposition and various outfits pretending to be environmental groups.



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from 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 locked down, he said.

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