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Cast aside party politics & commit to addressing the food crisis – President

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe has emphasized that all should join together to solve the people’s food issues, casting traditional party politics aside.

The President made this observation addressing the public officers at an awareness program on the multi-sector mechanism to empower rural economic revitalization centers to ensure food security and nutrition at Hardy Advanced Technological Institute Auditorium in Ampara this morning (15).

The President further noted that no one would be allowed to starve despite the fact that the country is going through a very difficult time and pointed out the importance of successfully implementing the national food production program to prepare for a possible global food crisis in 2023.

The president also said that the agriculture modernization program would be implemented from next year concurrent to the food security program.

The implementation of the multi-sector mechanism to empower rural economic revitalization centers to ensure food security and nutrition in transforming the Ampara District also into a prosperous one with a blooming community was also discussed at length.

The Ampara district contributes 22 percent to the national paddy harvest and discussions were also focused on making the paddy cultivation in the Yala and Maha seasons a success.

It was also special feature that the President paid special attention to the issues faced by the government officials during the field work. The president was made aware of issues related to the agriculture and fisheries industry in the Ampara district and he directed the officials to address those issues. He also instructed to appoint a special committee to study those issues and report to him.

Following the discussion, the President made a scene visit to the Hardy ATI farm and planted a sapling to mark the occasion.

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No communal approach in supporting Sri Lanka: India

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Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar justified his government’s support to Sri Lanka, saying India would be shirking its responsibility if it did not step forward to support a crisis-hit neighbour.

According to PTI, the Minister expressed these views in Parliament yesterday (7) in response to MDMK member Vaiko who sought explanation as to why India abstained from voting on a draft resolution of the UN Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka in Geneva.

Mr. Jaishankar said the economic support that India offered to Sri Lanka during its worst post-independence economic crisis was for the entire country and not based on any communal approach.

Replying to clarifications sought by MPs on his suo motu statement on foreign policy in Rajya Sabha, the minister said India absenting from a vote against Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Commission was in accordance with the long-standing position — which was also followed by previous governments — that it “is the most constructive way of addressing, advancing the interest of Tamil community in Sri Lanka.” “That continues to be our approach,” he said.

On the support to Sri Lanka, he said, “We have given support to the entire Sri Lanka which also includes the Tamil community.” “We have not taken the communal approach in giving support,” he said.

“To have a neighbour in this kind of a serious economic situation, we would be shirking our responsibilities if we did not step forward at that moment and that is exactly what we have done.”

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Who’s behind taxing essential items instead of cigarettes?

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The government is not adhering to a correct tax policy when it comes to the tobacco company, and as a result the country is losing revenue in taxes, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam said.

He expressed these views at a joint press conference held in Colombo for the first time with the Samagi Jana Balawegaya.

The MP pointed out that the tobacco company has earned Rs.40 billion in 2021 and Rs.50 billion in 2022.

However, he said the government is taxing the essential items used by the poor instead of taxing the tobacco company.

Officials in tobacco company’s pocket

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa made a disclosure in this regard in Parliament and revealed that former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa cut the tax on Capstan cigarettes by 50%.

As a result, he said the country loses Rs.63 billion per year.

It was also revealed that some politicians and officials are in the pockets of tobacco companies.

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Multinational company to get lands from Wedithalathivu Nature Reserve

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The National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka is planning to hand over a large area of Wedithalathivu Nature Reserve, the largest mangrove wetland in the country, in Mannar to a multinational company, environmentalists alleged.

Declared a nature reserve in 2016, this wetland covers an area of 29,180 hectares.

Samantha Gunasekara, the former head of the Customs Biodiversity Unit and former Customs Director, said that there is a plan to cancel the Gazette Notification 1956/13 issued in 2016 declaring Wedithalathivu as a nature reserve and use it for aquaculture.

Mr.Gunasekara expressed these views at the press conference held the day before yesterday (06) by the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society at the BMICH, Colombo.

He said the National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka brought a proposal in 2017 as well to cancel this gazette but an Advisory Committee suggested in 2019 that the gazette should not be cancelled.

Reptile expert Mendis Wickramasinghe said that six new snake species and two rare snake species live in this ecosystem.

Mr. Wickramasinghe said that a reptile species which was discovered by Zoologist P. E. P.Deraniyala in 1941 was found again from this natural ecosystem, and that there are several unidentified animal species in this ecosystem.

He said that a small species of python, which had not been found from other parts of the country, was also reported from this area.

Environmentalist Susantha Uadgedara said that a seagrass ecosystem is spread in the Wedithalathivu Nature Reserve. He said that 15 of the world’s 73 sea grass species are reported from Sri Lanka, and 10 of them are found in Wedithalathivu.

He said sea pigs, one of the seriously endangered species in the country, that feed on seagrass live in this Nature Reserve.

He said that seagrass is the third most important ecosystem in the world, and sea grass absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. He said one hectare of sea grass provides services worth $34,000 per year.

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