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President defends China investment in H’tota port

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday (30) said that the construction of the Hambantota Port, with funding from China, had been a project with enormous development potential, although some called it a debt trap.

The President pointed out that the previous government had leased the Hambantota Port to China but it was being used only for commercial purposes.

The President commented on the Chinese-funded Hambantota project after newly appointed Ambassadors of Republic of Korea, Germany, Holy See and Switzerland had presented their credentials.

The President’s Office quoted President Rajapaksa as having said Sri Lanka’s foreign policy based on neutrality and development cooperation was the country’s top priority.

“Sri Lanka is located in a place of strategic importance. Therefore, our country is attractive to many parties. In this context, Sri Lanka has chosen neutrality as its foreign policy. Our top most priority is mutually beneficial development cooperation. This country is open for foreign investments”,

The new envoys are Jeong Woonjin – Ambassador- the Republic of Korea, Holger Lothar Seubert – Ambassador- the Federal Republic of Germany, Monsignor Brian Udaigwe – Apostolic Nuncio-designate of the Holy See and Dominik Furgler – Ambassador- Switzerland

Explaining Sri Lanka’s policy towards the Indian Ocean during the discussion with the new envoys based in Colombo, the President said the Indian Ocean should be a free zone open to every country.

Five decades ago, it was Sri Lanka that proposed Indian Ocean to be declared as a zone of peace, the President recalled.

While paying attention to the development efforts of Sri Lanka in the recent past Rajapaksa said that after defeating terrorism in 2009 priority of the Government as well as the people of Sri Lanka was to achieve a rapid development.

“The economy was weakened due to terrorism. We required foreign investments for speedy development. China came forward to invest in development projects in the country. It was only a commercial transaction between our two countries. But some described this as a manifestation of a pro-China policy. Sri Lanka is a friend of all countries,” the President explained.

President Rajapaksa pointed out that the construction of the Hambantota Port with funding from China was a project with enormous development potential, “although some call it a debt trap”.

He said the previous Government leased the Hambantota Port to China but it is being used only for commercial purposes proving critics wrong.

Expressing their views the Ambassadors commended both President and the people of Sri Lanka for successfully controlling the COVID–19 pandemic. “Sri Lanka is so safe”, Ambassador of Korea Jeong Woonjin remarked.

Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany Holger Lothar Seubert said he was pleased to be appointed as an envoy to Sri Lanka that had overcome the COVID–19 pandemic.

“We are not here to lecture you, but to offer any possible assistance. We are certain that Sri Lanka is capable of choosing what needs to be done. We are ready to extend our cooperation to achieve development aspirations of Sri Lanka”, both German Ambassador Holger Lothar Seubert and Switzerland Ambassador Dominik Furgler echoed.

Communicating congratulations of Pope Francis to the President for the massive mandate received during elections Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See Monsignor Brian Udaigwe said he was a member of the entourage of the Holy Father during his visit to Sri Lanka in 2015. The Apostolic Nuncio said the geographical location was a great gift to Sri Lanka.



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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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