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Sinharaja road project:

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Yoshitha threatens legal action

Yoshitha Rajapaksa, son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has sent a letter of demand to environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara seeking Rs. 500 million for making a defamatory statement at a media conference.

Rajapaksa’s lawyers have stated in the letter that Rajapaksa does not own a hotel in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve contrary to a claim made by the environmentalist to that effect.

“I strongly deny false allegations made by certain individuals that I own a hotel in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. My lawyers are pursuing legal action against those who have made such claims and demand that these statements are corrected immediately,” Yoshitha tweeted with a copy of the letter of demand sent by his lawyers, Neelakandan & Neelakandan.

In his letter of demand, Rajapaksa has sought a retraction of the statement, an apology and Rs. 500 million in damages.

Chamikara is said to have told the media last week that a controversial road project had recommenced to connect a main road to a hotel owned by Yoshitha Rajapaksa in Sinharaja.

Yoshitha Rajapaksa claimed that the allegations were false, unfounded, baseless and fabricated with clear intention to defame and tarnish his image.

His lawyers have also warned that legal action will be taken if the environmentalist fails to meet the demands.

Concerns were raised by various environmentalists after the road project was recommenced with the Army constructing a road through the Sinharaja Forest Reserve which was declared a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The Centre for Environmental and Nature Studies of Sri Lanka (CENS) had also filed a complaint with UNESCO on the illegal road construction.

Thereafter, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa instructed the authorities to temporarily suspend road development work taking place inside the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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