President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that doing what is right is a serious challenge and added that despite the magnitude of the challenge, the desired goals can be achieved by moving forward together. Addressing a discussion of Agrarian Service Officers via video technology on Thursday, October 21, the President said that the desired objectives could be achieved by resolving the difficulties faced by the farmers and it is very important to meet the farmers and explain the accurate facts.
President Rajapaksa said the main objective of the Government is to create an environment where the farmers can earn a better income while protecting the environment and public health. The President said that the goal of green agriculture is to benefit not merely one or two seasons, but provide benefits for generations.
President Rajapaksa said that it is the responsibility of the officials to identify the major problems faced by the farmers and to make the Government aware of them and it would then be possible to seek expert assistance in resolving these issues.
The President said that he would never ask anyone to do anything wrong. The introduction of green agriculture could not lead to reduction in the cultivated lands. The President also said that it is the responsibility of all on behalf of the country to encourage farmers to move forward with the use of organic fertiliser.
Kushinagar Int’l Airport
Youth and Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa met the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Parinirvana Stupa on Wednesday, October 20 after the inauguration of the Kushinagar International Airport in the city.
Following the ceremony, Minister Rajapaksa gifted a Sinhala version of the Bhagavad Gita to Indian PM Modi, which also carried a message from Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Prime Minister Modi after meeting Minister Rajapaksa said India-Sri Lanka ties are getting stronger and stronger across different sectors and this augurs well for the people of two nations. Speaking at an event organised to mark Abhidhamma Day, Minister Rajapaksa thanked India Prime Minister Modi for extending a grant of USD 15 million to Sri Lanka to strengthen the Buddhist ties between the two nations.
Rajapaksa said, “It gives me great pleasure and honour to be on the inaugural international flight to Kushinagar on the auspicious day of Vap Poya Day. I recall it was Indian PM Modi who suggested to the Sri Lankan Prime Minister during the Virtual Bilateral Summit with Sri Lanka in September 2020, that 100 members of the Buddhist clergy must join the inaugural flight to Kushinagar operated by SriLankan Airlines.
It’s an honour we will cherish for years to come.” Minister Rajapaksa further said that Buddhism is the greatest gift India had given to Sri Lanka.
“Ever since Buddhism arrived in Sri Lanka, the relationship between our countries has been growing” He said that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa commissioned the translation of Bhagavad Gita in all languages spoken in Sri Lanka.
Sumanthiran seeks publicity
Pictures of TNA Jaffna District Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran engaged in paddy cultivation in Kilinochchi were seen on several social media platforms. Sumanthiran had published the photographs on his Facebook page as well.
MP Sumanthiran has visited his ancestral farmland in Kandavalai in Kilinochchi to begin cultivation for the Maha cultivation season which has already commenced. He toiled and planted seeds at his farmland in a bid to highlight the issues faced by farmers due to a lack of fertiliser. Sumanthiran, sharing his experience, had said that he will continue to raise his voice in favour of the farming community adding that farmers across Sri Lanka are facing a severe crisis due to a shortage of chemical fertiliser and agricultural chemical products.
President in Parliament
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa attended Parliament on Thursday, October 21 in another symbolic gesture. When the President entered the Chamber, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa was raising questions under Standing Order 27/2. President Rajapaksa also listened to the answers given by Ministers Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Lasantha Alagiyawanna to the oral questions of the Leader of the Opposition.
On arrival, the President was received by Leader of the House Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, State Ministers Kanaka Herath, Nalaka Godahewa, Kanchana Wijesekera, Arundika Fernando and MP Isuru Dodangoda.
Parliament sittings commenced at 10 a.m. on Thursday and the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, Regulations under the Civil Procedure Code, Youthful Offenders (Training Schools) (Amendment) Bill and the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill were taken up for debate from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thereafter, the Adjournment debate on Current issues with regard to the matters pertaining to the issuing of fertiliser to the farmers was held from 3 to 6 p.m. as per a motion moved by the Opposition.
SLFP CC meets
The SLFP Central Committee (CC) at a recent meeting chaired by Party Leader former President Maithripala Sirisena had unanimously decided to call on the Government to hold Provincial Council elections as soon as possible.
SLFP General Secretary State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara said that the Party aims to offer the Government its fullest support in holding the elections. Following the Central Committee meeting, Jayasekara told the media, “The elections have been delayed for many years now and I think the Government is doing everything to make sure they are held. A Select Committee was also appointed for this. We will provide our fullest support to the Government in this regard”.
SLFP Leader Sirisena revealed that no final decision has been taken on whether the Party will contest in the elections alone. He said, “We are preparing for the election. What we discussed at the meeting was how all sections of the Party can be strengthened to face the elections. We have not discussed whether we will contest alone or not”.
The SJB Parliamentary Group is exploring the possibility of moving a No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage for his failure to provide fertiliser. SJB MP Tissa Attanayake told the media the farmers had lost confidence in the Agriculture Minister as he could not provide fertiliser adding that the matter would be taken up at the SJB Parliamentary group to discuss modalities.
He said farmers had been compelled to suffer untold hardships under the incumbent Government and the Government is not in a position to provide relief to them. However, Attanayake has said that as there are different views on this NCM issue and it is only a proposal at present. But, after the discussion of the SJB parliamentary group, a final decision would be taken.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has rejected the request made by 11 constituent parties of the Government for a discussion on the agreement reached between the Government and US-based New Fortress Energy on the Yugadanavi Power Plant in Kerawalapitiya.
The request had been made by the Democratic Left Front (DLF), the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), the National Freedom Front (NFF), the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU), Ape Jana Bala Pakshaya, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), National Congress, Eksath Mahajana Party, Sri Lanka Communist Party, the Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya and the Yuthukama National Organsation.
Eleven political parties allied with the Government had made a request to the President on September 21 seeking a discussion on the matter. In their request, the parties had said that the agreement needs to be revisited and discussed and also that it should be implemented following proper tender procedure after a formal study.
However, President Rajapaksa has responded in writing to the representatives of those political parties stating that it would be more appropriate to discuss the matter in the Cabinet meeting or the ruling party meeting.
The President also said that the Secretary to the Finance Ministry and CEB officials would be instructed to brief them on this.
The President has also said that if there is any issue with the political decisions of the SLPP they should take it up with either Party Leader, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa or National Organiser Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said that if the grief and pain of the people who were affected by the Easter Sunday terror attacks are to be lessened, an inquiry should be held in a transparent manner to find who carried out the attacks.
He said, “It should not favour any party and should be independent, which was what we thought”. The Cardinal was participating in a Holy Mass at St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo, in commemoration of 30 months since the Easter Sunday attacks took place. When the Cardinal arrived, people who had arrived were protesting carrying boards with slogans in connection with investigations carried out into the Easter Sunday bombings.
At the same time a letter to be handed over to the Government in connection with requests that had not yet been fulfilled was signed during this instance and presented to the Cardinal.
“If someone has committed an offence it has to be mentioned then we will be able to resolve the problem.
If not, if someone is trying to sweep it under the carpet and protect their power those people are identified as foolish people, Cardinal Ranjith said.
He said that an independent investigation was not carried out and is not being carried out either. He said “Investigations are being conducted in ways required by political forces. Since the transparency and truth of these investigations is not understood properly, we have no use of these investigations,” he said.
Highways Minister Johnston Fernando recently blamed the JVP for the farmers’ protest. In response to a question by reporters in Colombo about the fertiliser shortage and farmers predicting famine, the Minister said it was the JVP which instigated the farmer protests after spreading lies.
He said, “The JVP is a party that killed farmers and set fire to agrarian centres and tractors in the past. They are aware that farmers constitute a sizable portion of the Government’s voter base.
That is why they are attempting to incite resentment between the Government and farmers. Minister Fernando said Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala, Hambantota, and Moneragala are the districts with some of the highest proportion of farmers and we received a large number of votes from those areas.
Farmers in those districts are encouraged by the JVP and their supporters to burn effigies of Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage. All the effigies and posters are identical. That means they were created at a single location and then distributed. The Minister alleged the JVP is the driving force behind these mudslinging campaigns.
He said, “The Opposition attempts to instigate a crisis to survive. They used trade unionists to create panic buying by claiming a fuel shortage, but the public did not fall for it. People trust the President and the Government because they know we have not cheated or robbed banks like the Yahapalana Government.”
Protest in Parliament
The lawmakers of the SJB, holding placards staged a protest in Parliament Chambers on Friday, October 22, demanding immediate solutions for the fertiliser issue. The MPs during their protest displayed posters and placards and chanted slogans about the difficulties faced by the farmers due to the ban on chemical fertiliser.
Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, addressing Parliament said that the national policy framework ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ had mentioned a 10-year plan to discard the use of chemical fertiliser in Sri Lanka.
He said, however, the Government has gone against the public’s mandate and took measures to ban the import of chemical fertiliser within a year.
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said the Government is proving its incapability day-by-day. Farmers are now without fertiliser and pesticide. Taking to his official Twitter account, MP Harsha de Silva said they staged the protest against the ad-hoc decision of the Government to ban chemical fertiliser and subsequent emerging calamity in the agriculture sector. “Now airlifting chemical nano nitrogen (urea) is too little too late,” he said.
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said the people of this country are suffering due to the Government’s failed economic management. Speaking in Parliament on Friday, October 22, Premadasa blamed the Government for the peoples’ suffering due to the increase in fuel and gas prices and the escalating cost of living. He said, “The price of fuel was increased on Thursday, October 21. How can retirees and public servants bear this burden?
The increases in prices of goods are to set off the allowance given to the teachers and principals. Farmers have been compelled to get onto the streets in protest due to the nonavailability of fertiliser and pesticides. Farmers’ who live with dignity and pride are today suffering from poverty.”
Premadasa said that today it is a familiar sight to see people to purchase goods. Today we see sugar queues, rice and gas queues. “Where is the promised mastermind of the Government who promised the reduction of prices of goods prior to the election?” he said. “The 1970-77 era is being repeated. I ask the Government if they obtained the votes of 6.9 million voters to bring back the 70-77 era and push the entire population into poverty.”
Agrahara pension scheme
However, in response, Leader of the House Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that while the Good Governance regime granted the Agrahara pension scheme to pensioners who had served only in their Government, another 300,000 were deprived of their pension. “However, our Government rectified that matter and granted pensions to all eligible retirees. But you failed to mention that part.”
Minister Gunawardena also riled the Opposition Leader for muddling up several issues and expecting answers to all these issues from one Minister.
He also said that the current Government is committed to uplift the country’s agriculture sector, adding that the Opposition Leader is shamelessly finding fault with the Government whereas during the former Government’s tenure they had done nothing for the betterment of the agriculture sector.