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President reiterates country’s commitment to protecting heritage sites

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, addressing the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity, on Wednesday, stressed that Sri Lanka was firmly committed to protecting the two UNESCO Natural Heritage Sites: the Central Highlands, and the Sinharaja Rain Forest Reserve and the six sites recognised under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

President Rajapaksa told the virtual gathering held under the theme of ‘Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development’, “Protect and sustainably manage these natural assets that contribute to our unique and rich biodiversity” that as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Sri Lanka endorsed the Commonwealth Blue Charter in 2018 and as such “we will champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods”.

He said Sri Lanka was home to two UNESCO Natural Heritage Sites: the Central Highlands, and the Sinharaja Rain Forest Reserve. “We are also proud of our six sites recognized under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.”

He added: “There is a critical need for a transformational change in the relationship between nature and people and contemporary global environmental governance.”

The President said the Sri Lankan kings believed that the ruler was never the owner of the land; he was merely its caretaker on behalf of his people and all the living beings.

“This is the very principle that my government has adopted in our development agenda said the President while stressing as mere trustees of this planet and its resources we must resolve to protect what is in our trust and pass it to future generations as best as we could.”

The Summit will highlight the crisis facing humanity from the degradation of biodiversity and the urgent need to accelerate action on biodiversity for sustainable development.

It will provide an opportunity for Heads of State and Government and other leaders to raise ambition for the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework to be adopted at the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2021.

Emphasising that the concept of biodiversity must be at the very core of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, President Rajapaksa stressed that in spite of the rapid decline in biodiversity globally, over the recent decades, Sri Lanka had been deeply committed to upholding the overarching spirit of the Convention on Biodiversity.

“There is a critical need for a transformational change in the relationship between nature and people and contemporary global environmental governance.”

(IN)



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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