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

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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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AG not bound by its recommendations, yet to receive report

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PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC is not bound by recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, or presidential directives in that regard, according to authoritative sources.

They said that the AG couldn’t under any circumstances initiate legal proceedings until he had received the full PCoI report.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the PCoI report on Feb 1. The President’s Office delivered a set of PCoI reports to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Feb 23, a day after the report was presented to the cabinet of ministers. The Island raised the matter with relevant authorities in the wake of a section of the media reporting the PCoI recommending punitive measures against former President Maithripala Sirisena, Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, IGP Pujitha Jayasundera, Chief of State Intelligence Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena, Chief of National Intelligence retired DIG Sisira Mendis and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader and Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Rishad Bathiudeen et al over the Easter Sunday carnage.

Sources pointed out that due to the inordinate delay in sharing the PCoI report with the AG, the department hadn’t been able to take preliminary measures required to initiate the proceedings. Sources said that a team of officers would take at least six weeks or more to examine the report before tangible measures could be taken.

With the AG scheduled to retire on May 24, 2021, even if the AG Department received the P CoI it would be quite a tough task to initiate proceedings ahead of retirement, sources said. However, in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in last October, both the AG and the IGP could receive extensions beyond 60 at the President’s discretion.

 

Dappula de Livera received an Acting appointment as the AG a week after the Easter Sunday carnage whereas his predecessor Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, was elevated to Chief Justice.

Responding to another query, sources said that the Attorney General two weeks ago requested Secretary to the President for a copy of the P CoI. However, the AG was yet to receive one, sources said. In spite of the AG not receiving a P CoI copy, the AG had instructed the IGP to obtain a copy of the report when he requested the police to complete investigations into the Easter Sunday carnage. The AG issued specific instructions after having examined police files pertaining to the investigations.

The IGP, too, hadn’t received a copy so far though some sections of the report were in the public domain.

Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage displayed at a live political programme on Derana a copy of the P CoI report he received at the cabinet meeting earlier in the day.

Sources said that the Attorney General’s Department couldn’t decide on a course of action in respect of the Easter carnage on the basis of a section of the report. In terms of the Commission of Inquiry Act (Section 24), the AG enjoyed significant powers/authority in respect of investigations; sources said adding that the Department urgently required both the P CoI report and police investigations report. The Attorney General’s Department has raised the delay in receiving a P CoI report amidst the Catholic Church attacking the government over the same issue.

Sources said that ministerial committee appointed to study the P CoI report couldn’t decide on how to proceed with the recommendations and the matter was entirely in the hands of the AG. Sources pointed out that the delay on the part of the government to release the report had received the attention of sections of the international media, including the New York Times. Public Security Minister retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera having met Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at the Bishop’s House on Dec 8, 2020 said that the AG would get a copy of the P CoI report once the President received it. Minister Weerasekera said that the CID had handed over the relevant files after having completed investigations into eight blasts. Referring to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) report on the Easter Sunday carnage, the former Navy Chief of Staff said that all such documents would have to be brought to one place and considered before initiating legal proceedings. Acknowledging that there could be delays, lawmaker Weerasekera said that on the instructions of the Attorney General a 12-member team of lawyers was working on the case. The minister vowed to expose the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks. Investigations continued while some of those wanted were overseas, the minister said.

The minister acknowledged that the Attorney General couldn’t proceed without the P CoI report. Minister Weerasekera reiterated that once the President received the P CoI report, it would be sent to the Attorney General. The minister said that there were documents two to three feet high that needed scrutiny. The minister assured comprehensive investigation. The minister said that investigations pertaining to eight blasts had been completed and the reports handed over to the AG. However, the Attorney General had found shortcomings in those investigations.

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JVP picks holes in PCoI report

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By Saman Indrajith

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday bombings had failed to identify the mastermind of , the JVP said yesterday.

Addressing the media at the party headquarters in Pelawatte, JVP Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath said that the PCoI report had levelled accusations against former President Maithripala Sirisena, former IGP and head of intelligence for their dereliction of duty, shirking of responsibilities and not taking action to prevent the attacks and negligence. There were reference to the causes of the terror attacks and actions to be taken to avoid such attacks and the influence of extremist organisations. “However, there is no mention of the mastermind of the attacks, the handlers of the attackers and those whose interests the carnage served. It is also not mentioned whether there has been any foreign or local organisation behind those attacks. As per the PCoI report the attack took place as a result of culmination of extremism.

“According to the PCoI the extremist activities were a result of the prevailing political situation then. The entire nation was waiting to see who was responsible and who masterminded those attacks. The PCoI has failed to identify the true culprits responsible for the terror attacks. The report says that the leader of the suicide cadres killed himself in the attacks and it was a puzzle. That means those who are actually responsible for the attacks are still at large. The report does not provide exact details of the sources of the attacks. The PCoI had sittings for one year and five months. It summoned various persons and got their statements but it has failed to shed any light on the terror attacks. Everybody knows that the top leaders of the government and heads of security and intelligence establishments failed in their duties. Ranil Wickremesinghe was the second in command and he too is bound by the responsibility but the PCoI report fails to identify him as one of the persons against whom legal action should be instituted. The PCoI has treated Wickremesinghe and former President Maithripala Sirisena differently. We are not telling that this report is a total failure but we cannot accept this as a complete report. The PCoI handed over its report to the President on Feb 1. After 23 days it was sent to Parliament. Now, a copy of the report is there in the parliamentary library for the perusal of MPs.”

Herath said that the PCoI did not have powers to take punitive action. “It only has powers to name those responsible and recommend action to be taken against those named.

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TNA MP faults govt. for delay in answering questions, gets under Johnston’s skin

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By Saman Indrajith

It did not matter whether the MPs were wearing pressed clothes or had travelled long distances when their questions were answered, Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando told Parliament yesterday.

 The Minister said so in response to a complaint by Batticaloa District TNA MP Shanikyan Rasamanikkam, who expressed his dismay for government taking time to answer a question raised by him.

 MP Rasamanikkam has raised a question whether the Minister of Health is aware that the Dikkodai ospital, located in the Batticaloa district is not used for public purposes and the patients who visit the hospital for receiving services, face inconveniences, owing to that. On behalf of the Minister of Health, the Chief Government Whip and Minister asked for additional two weeks time.

 MP Rasamanikkam: I come to parliament from Batticaloa, which is 422 km away. To attend Parliament we take great care including pressing our clothes. After taking so much trouble to come there braving the pandemic threat we do not get answers. There is a Health Minister and Acting Health Minister and neither of them is here. I saw Minister Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle in the House this morning. She too has gone out. I travel more than 800 km. We could attend to many other problems. It is because the government does not give answers we are conducting protest marches, but when we do so we are hauled up before courts.

Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando: Every MP comes here wearing pressed clothes. But that has nothing to do with questions and answers here. I have been requested by the subject minister to ask for two weeks’ time. The MPs have a right to ask questions and in the same way the ministers have the right to ask for time. On the other hand, whether you cover 400 km to reach parliament does not matter. The majority of MPs travel 200 to 250 kilometers to come to Parliament. It is for that purpose they contest elections and get elected. Once elected the distance is not an issue you have to come to Parliament. The government has answered all your questions. This is the first time the Minister has asked for additional time. It is unfair for you to level charges. A more responsible conduct is expected of you as an upcoming political leader.

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