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Politicians, cops and businessmen gang up to rape Kebilitta

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By Jagath Kanaheraarachchi

Two former ministers, a senior policeman, a prominent monk and several others are involved in clearing Kotiyagala Forest Reserve in Kebilitta illegally.Over 60,000 acres of forest land have already been cleared, environmentalists complain.The forest reserve is located at Siyambalanduwa Pradesheeya sabha in Moneragala and the land cleared in this area is 20 times bigger that the clearings close to the Wilpattu National Park, recently.

The government has allocated 25,000 acres from this forest reserve for people who were displaced by various development activities in the district. Taking advantage of this, several powerful individuals have started clearing more land, using heavy equipment.Environmentalists claim that the initial allocation of land too was done arbitrarily.The land that is being cleared is the home to many plant and animal species and act as a corridor for animals to travel between Kumana and Yala National Parks.

Environmentalists claim that various powerful groups have taken advantage of the decision by the government to hand over the management of “Other State Forests (OSF)” to Divisional/Districts Secretaries.

                                        Cleared forest areas

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Secretary of the Ministry of Lands issued a circular (02/2021), “Survey and Allocation of Government Lands” on 06 August 2021 informing all the District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries that the “Forests and wildlife conservations declared by the Director General of Forests in a Gazette and other Government lands other than the wildlife areas gazetted by the Director General of Wildlife should be kept in his custody.”

This gazette has been abused to release forests for various projects that are backed by politicians and their allies, environmentalists claim.Environmentalists also claim that the politicians have instigated the people of the area to seize land from the forest reserve. On 02 June a large group of people, travelling in hundreds of vehicles, entered the forest reserve and started to clear land.

Jayantha Wijesinghe from Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka said that the IGP had instructed regional police chiefs to stop the encroachment of the forest. However, a senior politician in the area has sided the encroachers.

“This police officer has justified the encroachment. Because this man holds a key post, it has been impossible to stop those who try to encroach the forest reserve. It’s time that the government immediately did something to stop this ecological disaster,” he said.



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Avishka and Sadeera power Jaffna Kings to nine wicket win

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Half tons by Avishka Fernando and Sadeera Samarawickrema powered Jaffna Kings to a nine wicket win over Dambulla Aura in the 3rd match of the LPL2022  at MRICS Hambanthota on Wednesday (07)

Dambulla Aura 121/9 in 20 overs (Jordan Cox 43; Maheesh Theekshana 3/20, Vijayakanth Vijaskanth 3/24, James Fuller 2/16, Zaman Khan 1/28)

Jaffna Kings 122/1 in 15.4 overs (Avishka Fernando 51 , Sadeera Samarawickrema 62 not out; Noor Ahamed 1/28)

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Govt. says selling state assets only way to build reserves and prevent crippling shortages

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardena yesterday (06) said Sri Lanka wouldn’t be in a position to be part of the international trading system unless it boosted its foreign reserves by selling some of its assets. Gunawardena, who also holds media and transport portfolios said so at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

Responding to a query about the government’s decision to divest vital national assets, the Minister said that if Sri Lanka did not shore up its reserves to the tune of over three billion dollars, international companies would not accept the letters of credit given by Sri Lankan banks.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister, has proposed privatising of several state enterprises including Sri Lanka Insurance and Sri Lanka Telecom.

“Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga sold a number of state owned enterprises. If we don’t increase our reserves, to over three billion USD soon, we will have problems importing fuel, and other essential items. Last week, Fitch again reduced our rating. No matter who governs Sri Lanka, they will all face the same problem. We need to build our reserves,” the Minister said.

Minister Gunawardane said that the need of the hour was to sell some assets and boost Sri Lanka’s reserves.

“China, India, Vietnam, and Malaysia are attracting a lot of investors. Only we have failed to do so, and we need to think why this is. Even our entrepreneurs are leaving for other countries. We need to change the way we think, if we want to attract investors to Sri Lanka,” he said.

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Ven Siridhamma, Mudalige granted bail; latter re-arrested

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Convenor of Bhikku Balamandalaya affiliated Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma Thera leaving Court yesterday (06) after Kaduwela Magistrate Chanima Wijebandara granted him bail. The Thera was held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for causing damages to public property during a protest opposite the Education Ministry, over three months back. The Magistrate ordered the Thera released after the police failed to identify the monk at an identification parade. However, IUSF Convenor Wasanatha Mudalige, who was also released by the Magistrate, after the police couldn’t identify him, was taken into custody in connection with some other case.

Pics by Kamal Bogoda

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