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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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PSC action could cripple health services, warns GMOA Secretary



There were vacancies for 89 specialist doctors in government teaching hospitals due to certain actions taken by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

GMOA secretary Dr. Senal Fernando yesterday told The Island those vacancies had the potential to cripple the state health service, as the service was stressed due to COVID-19.

Dr. Fernando said: “Specialist doctors are appointed and transfered according to procedures established by the Health Service Minute. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the transfers and the PSC should oversee the transfering process to ensure that they are made in a proper manner.”

“The PSC has ordered the appointment of a committee to look into the matter but there is no mention of such a committee in the Health Service Minute. Instead of following the process, the PSC has tried to intervene in the process and 89 posts remain vacant during the time of COVID-19,” he said.

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Hizbullah denies links with Zahran



But signed agreement for Zahran’s help in 2015 GE

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Governor of the Eastern Province, M. L. A. M. Hizbullah on Monday night told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing Easter Sunday attacks, that he had not had any links to National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim. The NTJ members had assaulted his supporters at Kattankudy in March 2017, he said.

Hizbullah said so when the Commissioners asked him about his links with Zahran.

Hizbullah was also asked about billions of rupees he had received from foreign organisations since 2016. Earlier in the day, it was revealed that close to Rs. 4 billion had been deposited by foreign individuals and institutions in two accounts Hizbullah operated at the Bank of Ceylon Colpetty Branch from 2016 to 2019.

The witness said the Sri Lanka Hira Foundation, a social service institution run by him, had received money from foreign countries after March 2016.

“Ali Abdullah al-Juffali of Saudi Arabia gave Rs. 308 million and Siddique and Diana Osmond of London gave Rs. 5.5 million,” he said.

Hizbullah added that he knew al-Juffali and some other Saudi philanthropists. Al Juffali family was one of the richest Saudis with an estimated worth USD 19.8 billion, he said.

Then, a video of a discussion Zahran had with Sibli Farooq of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was played at the PCoI.

The video showed Zahran and Farooq talking about a sum of one million riyals that Hizbullah had allegedly received from Saudi Arabia. In the video, Zahran says that he had no problem with Hizbullah receiving money from Saudi Arabia.

In response, Hizbullah said that by the 2015 Presidential election, Farooq and Zahran had been against him. A member of the Commission then asked why Hizbullah had entered into an agreement with Zahran during an election if he had acted against him.

Hizbullah said Zahran had told, on social media, that he would support politicians who agreed to some of his proposals.” All the parties joined him. I also went along,” he said. Earlier, it was revealed that representatives for the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG) had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for the support of NTJ in 2015.

Hizbullah was also questioned on the Aliyar clash between NTJ and Sunnath Wal Jamaat, a group that supported Hizbullah, on 10 March, 2017.

“Did you ask Zahran to surrender to the court through his mother?” a member of the Commission questioned.

“I made no such comment. I do not know if anyone in my party did so,” he said.

The Commissioners also asked Hizbullah about growing date palms in the Kattankudy area and placing Arabic billboards.

The witness replied that he had grown date palms because of the high temperatures in the area. Nameplates with Arabic letters had been put up to attract Arabic students as they were largely visiting the area, he said.

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CA annuls summons issued on President



The Court of Appeal yesterday annulled the summons issued on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the disappearance of two persons in Jaffna in 2011.

Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan went missing in 2011. Last year, Jaffna Magistrate’s Court issued summons on Rajapaksa over a habeas corpus petition filed by the relatives of the two missing activists. They had named Rajapaksa one of the respondents since he was the Defence Secretary at the time of the disappearances.

Earlier, Rajapaksa had submitted a writ application stating that he found it difficult to appear before the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court due to security reasons. The Court of Appeal issued an injunction preventing Rajapaksa being summoned by the Magistrate.

President of the Court of Appeal A. H. M. D. Nawaz, declaring their decision, said that a Magistrate’s Court could only issue summons over a specific reason. However the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court had issued the summons based on a motion of a lawyer and that there was no legal basis for the summons. Thus, the Court of Appeal issued a writ notification declaring the summons issued by the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court void.



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