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Reactivation of abandoned tanks and paddy lands can boost agricultural sector– SLLDC Chairman



There are numerous written and epigraphic sources related to the ancient water harvesting, water management and agriculture system implemented in Sri Lanka. Basically, water harvesting, water management and agriculture are interrelated activities especially in an agro-based country like Sri Lanka.

Chairman, Sri Lanka Land Development Corporation (SLLDC), Maj. Gen. (Rtd) MRW De Zoysa, in a discussion on the importance of promoting the agricultural sector in the country with the President Rajapaksa, emphasized that reactivation of abandoned paddy lands can play a vital role in this regard.

Studies have revealed that there are more than 14,000 village tanks that remain abandoned or not fully functional. Due to this snag, many farmers have moved away from paddy cultivation or from cultivation of crops altogether, he noted.

“As a developing country, we must move with agriculture rather than go for industrialization as we are far behind in that segment compared to other countries. Therefore, it is a mandatory requirement to reach self-sufficiency in an agro economy at primary level of our development program”, the Chairman outlined.

This drive should begin from the smallest societal level and subsequently expanded to villages, Divisional Secretariats and districts at national level, where the country as a whole could then reach self-sufficiency, De Zoysa explained.

He said that with the blessings of the President, he wants to implement this rehabilitation program for abandoned village tanks and cultivate abandoned paddy lands, which has also been mentioned in ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor’, the 2019 presidential election campaign manifesto.

Although, it is the responsibility of the Ministries of Irrigation and Agriculture, the SLLDC Chairman voluntarily intervened in the program as he is aware of the impact and magnitude of the project. While working on the presidential and parliamentary elections campaign, he said he received many requests from farmers and their respective organizations for the restoration and rehabilitation of village tanks.

The Ministry of Irrigation is implementing the ‘Wari Saubagya’ project to rehabilitate 5,000 tanks island-wide beginning February 2021 with the annual budgetary allocation. After discussions with relevant ministers and the approval of the President, Chairman De Zoysa stepped in to execute the project from Uva province, where the poverty rate has remained high since independence.

Initial plans are to rehabilitate 47 tanks in Badulla and 16 tanks in Moneragala districts under the first stage without seeking any funds from line ministries.

Preparation of estimates for the selected tanks began on October 26, 2020 and will be completed by the first week of November by the staff of SLLDC, Army and Navy officials attached to the institution.

In the meantime, the procurement process for goods and services has already begun to expedite the project after approval for submitted estimates is received from the respective line ministry.

The time is opportune to fast track this initiative, especially at a time the country needs to be self-sufficient with the outbreak of Covid-19, where health and safety are of paramount importance. Moreover, traditional industries with a scientific and technical approach need to be implemented to enhance the efficiency of the agriculture industry.

People will then have access to safe and fresh agri-based food within their community. This will lead to waste at minimum level or perhaps at zero level. It will also generate more interest among farmers as they will have the opportunity to sell their produce without third party interference and an assurance to improve their economic status, the Chairman noted.

This kind of people–centric economic policy will move forward from community level to national level. It will pave the way to create job opportunities and the rate of unemployment could also be reduced to a low level, he further said.

In the past, there was a well balanced eco-system as small communities managed their village tanks. They considered it their prime responsibility to protect nature, they loved it and managed well. No proposals were necessary for the sustainability of environment. Water Harvesting, Water Management and Agriculture need to play a vital role to achieve ‘A Vision for a Prosperous Nation’ with deliverables such as water harvesting, safe and sufficient water in the area, safe and fresh food, secured income for the farmers, financial benefit for customers, job opportunities, a healthy and pleasant environment and no additional expenditure on environment improvement. Healthy people will reduce expenditure in the health sector and less transportation will reduce pollution.



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Dhammika asks Ranil to resign as FM



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Investment Promotion, Dhammika Perera, yesterday told the media, in Colombo, that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had to resign from his post as Finance Minister.

Minister Perera said that the Prime Minister was blocking all dollar earnings, borrowings, bridging finance, available essential food credit lines and other credit lines.

“I am joining the Aragalaya from today. I have been in the government for seven days. I have seen what happens. The Prime Minister must stop his political game as the Minister of Finance,” he said.

Perera added that Wickremesinghe had no plan to boost the cash flow, about feeding people, or bringing in dollars.

The Minister of Investment Promotion said that instead of describing the people’s economic woes, the Finance Ministry had to find solutions.

“For example, the proposal to give investors 10-year multiple visas was finalised some time ago. One month has since elapsed, but the Treasury is sitting on it. This is because Ranil is in the habit of stopping projects if they bring in dollars. More than 50 people have come to get the visa by paying 100,000 USD.

About 300 more are on the list. We can bring in 30 million dollars to Sri Lanka, this month, with the help of this visa scheme. Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister is inviting disaster,” Minister Perera said.

Perera added that while Wickremesinghe could continue as the Prime Minister, but as the Finance Minister, the latter had no desire to resolve the foreign currency crisis. All of Sri Lanka’s economic woes are linked to the dollar shortage, he said.

“I challenge Ranil and his economic experts to an open media debate. Maybe he can answer my questions. I challenged him to a debate in 2019, and he ran away. I am challenging him again,” Minister Perera said.

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JVP Leader accuses govt. of hatching plot against his party



By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday said that the government was planning to suppress his party by levelling false allegations against the latter.

Addressing the media at the party headquarters, Pelawatte, Dissanayake said that the plot hatched by the government could lead to bloodshed.

“A video has been released, on social media, instructing how to make Molotov Cocktails. The voice, in the footage, instructs the viewer to make bombs in a similar manner, and tie them to their bodies and explode themselves at the President’s House. The video says that after the explosion I would be appointed the President. Anyone would know that the JVP would not do anything stupid like that. This video is another attempt by the government to justify the use of violence against its critics. There have been similar instances in the past and this country has suffered heavily as a result,” Dissanayake said.

He said that his party lawyers would submit the video to the CID and demand an investigation from the police on who had created and uploaded it to social media. “There is a massive protest to be held in Colombo centering the Galle Face Aragalaya.

“We, too, will participate in it. The government’s response to the protests is to use the police and the army. In addition there are several other developments, including the creation of a para-military force against us. Each SLPP MP is given a chance to recruit five persons, loyal to him or her, as home guards to provide security to the MP. There was a letter from the IGP to Defence Secretary warning of possible bomb attacks. Our party’s name is there in that warning. I have queried this letter in Parliament, too, yet there is no explanation yet. It is in the same context some MPs have requested for personal firearms from the Defence Ministry. Taken together, these developments could indicate the plans of government suppression and what is there in store for us. We do not think that they could fool the people with these tricks. The CID is capable of investigating and finding the sources of any video against the President, in social media, within 24 hours. So we expect the same expedient action would be taken with regard to our complaint, too,” Dissanayake said.

He said that the JVP was prepared to stabilize the country and help bring it out of the current crisis in a short period of time.

Dissanayake said the JVP does not intend to do it alone and was confident that the citizens of the country, and Lankans overseas, would extend their support to the party for this purpose.

“This crisis cannot be resolved by changing posts or individuals, and especially not through a government that has lost the trust of the people,” he added.

When inquired about Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement in Parliament on his willingness to step down to allow Dissanayake to implement his economic plans, the MP said he was prepared to take up the task.

He said, however, that the President and Prime Minister must resign if he were to take up the challenge and implement JVP’s programme to save the country from the crisis.

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Move to set-up smoke-free zones: PHI union says member engaged in project harassed; Ministry says action in line with establishment code



by Ifham Nizam

Public Health Inspectors’ Union has accused a section of the Health Ministry officials of working against a project to establish smoke-free zones in Sri Lanka.

The union alleged that a PHI who served the anti-tobacco campaign and went to the extent of sacrificing his personal leave for the same had been denied annual increments.

It said that the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) organised a project, under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), to set up at least one smoke-free zone in each Medical Officer of Health Division countrywide. The union said that it played a significant role in the project.

The union alleged that PHI T. G. S. L. Prakash, of the Principal Public Health Inspectors’ Unit of the Ministry of Health, had been invited as a resource person as he innovated a 10-step process for establishing smoke-free zones for combatting second hand smoke.

However, the Deputy Director General (Public Health Services) of the Ministry of Health Dr. S. M. Arnold had obstructed the project by blocking Prakash’s participation, the union alleged.

Responding to The Island queries, Dr. S. M. Arnold said that he acted in terms of the Establishment Code and recommendations made by the relevant committee. Dr. Arnold said that the PHI concerned applied for leave for his PhD on Elephant Ecology study overseas, and work-related to NATA did not come under their purview. Dr. Arnold pointed out that the PHI Union President was also working for NATA.

Public Health Inspectors’ Union, President. Upul Rohana has previously asked the Health Secretary to conduct an investigation into the conduct of Dr. S. M. Arnold. According to the union for more than five years, PHI Prakash has conducted various research on the establishment of smoke-free zones in collaboration with NATA and the WHO and published and presented the research results at local and international fora.

The union said that the Chairman of NATA had requested that PHI Prakash to participate in the project as the outfit could benefit from his experience and expertise he had gained overseas in tobacco prevention.

The union claimed that the PHI concerned had participated in the project utilising his personal leave. The union alleged that Dr. Arnold had said that he wouldn’t recommend the annual salary increment for the particular PHI Prakash as his attendance was unsatisfactory.

PHI Chief Rohana emphasised that the concerned Deputy Director General continued to harass the officers who volunteered for their duties, abusing the power of his positio. He said although the union had complained to the health authorities, no action has been taken in that regard so far and their union would not hesitate to resort to trade union action seeking justice.

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