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Probe ordered into Agriculture Minister’s allegation Rs. 300 mn demanded from foreign investor for EIA on dairy farm

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By Ifham Nizam

An investigation would be carried out into the allegation that Rs. 300 million was asked for to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) for a dairy farm, Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said yesterday.

Minister Amaraweera said so in response to Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage’s recent allegation that the Ministry of Environment had asked for as much as Rs. 300 million from a foreign investor to to an EIA on a dairy farm to be set up.

The Environment Ministry never issued environmental assessment reports, and there were 63 private institutions registered with the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) for issuing EIA Reports, Minister Amaraweera said.

Those activities were carried out by university intellectuals, Amaraweera added.

“I inquired about the statement made by Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage. That is completely false statement. Neither the Ministry of Environment nor the Central Environmental Authority can make such a request. The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) will provide a list of institutions that carry out relevant monitoring activities upon request for an EIA report from the CEA.

The investor should choose from which institution to obtain the EIA report.”

Minster Amaraweera instructed the CEA to investigate and find out whether any institution had unjustly demanded Rs. 300 million for the release of an environmental report.

The Environment Ministry yesterday launched a programme to plant white sandalwood saplings near the entrance to the Defence Headquarters to mark the first anniversary of the Husma Dena Thuru tree-planting programme aimed at increasing the country’s forest cover.

Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Environment and a number of officials from the Army Headquarters were also present on the occasion.

The Minister said: “World Forest Day falls today (21). The theme of this Day is “Forest Restoration, Healing and a Path to Existence. 21 March has been designated as World Forest Day by the United Nations General Assembly since 2012.

“Sri Lanka has been celebrating this day since 2014. Also, this program is being launched today to mark the first anniversary of the programme launched by the Ministry of Environment to increase the forest cover.

“Sri Lanka’s forest cover is currently 29.02%. To increase it to 30 percent by 2030, we need to reforest 65,000 hectares. Although the responsibility for forestation is not directly vested in the Ministry of Environment, we will shoulder that responsibility.

“We have allocated Rs. 50 million this year for the Husma Dena Thuru National Tree Planting Programme.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the Army for its support for this programme. I have also done a number of programmes with the Army. I would like to mention that it was due to the unwavering commitment of the Army personnel, the Defence Minister, the Defence Secretary and the Army Commander that we were able to achieve success.”



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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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