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Villagers miss opportunity to brief President on environmental problems

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Postponement of presidential visit

By Ifham Nizam

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday put off a scheduled visit to a village under his Disucssion with Village programme. The goverment attributed the postponement of the presidentia visit to his busy schedule. Sources, however, said it was also due to a controversy over the conduct of a local politician.

A special team would look into the matter prior to the President’s visit, sources said.

Villagers and environmentalists yesterday waited at Weliweriya in Uruwala to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to bring to his notice environmental problems caused by piggeries and poultry farms.

Haritha Mithuro Oragniser, Sarath Kumara, whos is also a resident of the area, yesterday said that despite a Court Order the culprits were continuing to pollute the area, particularly a canal and paddy fields.

“We sought the assistance of the Centre for Environment Justice (CEJ) and will also take up the matter with the President,” he added.

Residents of the Weliweriya–Uruwala area complain of an unbearable stench from the pultry farms and piggeries.

Janaka Withanage, CEJ Policy and Advocacy Officer yesterday said that although the Environmental Act did not allow the establishment of any industry in residenitlal areas, the owners of the farms carried on regardless.

“There are four large scale piggeries in the area and a water catchment area is polluted due to waste released from them. The residents of the area say that there are about 1,500 animals in one piggery.”

Villagers said that large scale burning of polythene and offal caused environmental pollution.

“It is a clear violation of the right of the people of this area to live in a clean environment,” CEJ Environment Officer, Indika Rajapaksa said

Residents of the area have set up a movement called the ‘Green Friendly’ Environmental Organization to deal with environmental degradation in the area, and have notified the relevant parties, but to no avail.



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More heavy rain ahead for New Zealand’s largest city

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Auckland experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall on Friday (picture BBC)

BBC reported that residents in flood-hit northern New Zealand are bracing for more heavy rains as officials issued severe weather alerts.

At least four people have died and a state of emergency was declared in Auckland, which on Friday experienced its worst downpour on record.

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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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Cardinal urges Catholics to fight for justice

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 By Norman Palihawadane

Today’s Church does not need ‘sacristy Catholics’ but a laity who fight for justice, says Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Addressing a gathering at a ceremony to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Deva Dharma Nikethanaya, at Archbishop’s House auditorium, at Borella, last week, the Cardinal said that turning every layperson into a mature Christian, fit for leadership, should be the foremost duty of the Catholic Church. “Once the Catholic Church functioned as a Bishop-priest centered church and did only what the Bishop of the priest would say. We have to change the outlook of the Church. Today, we no longer need such sacristy Catholics. We need a laity who are ready to get down to the streets and fight for justice and do what is right for society,” the Cardinal said.

“The Church needs Christians who will commit themselves for Christ and follow his example. We do not need spoon-fed babies,” he said.

He said that the Bishops and Priests should not be afraid of handing over the responsibilities to the laity. “We should share our responsibilities with joy. The Church cannot continue otherwise. Understanding this situation, Pope Francis wants to change the priest-centres position that has become a theoretical doctrine in the church and to study how the church should change in a way that suits the present world.”

Apostolic Nuncio to Sri Lanka Rev Dr Brian Udaigwe and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference President Rt Rev Dr Harold Anthony Perera also addressed the gathering.

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