Amidst Increasing Backlash, President Claims Doing Right is a Grave Challenge

By Gagani Weerakoon | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 23 2021
Ceylon Politics Amidst Increasing Backlash, President Claims Doing Right is a Grave Challenge

By Gagani Weerakoon

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrived in Parliament on Thursday (21), morning and was welcomed by Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, State Ministers Kanaka Herath, Nalaka Godahewa, Kanchana Wijesekera, Arundika Fernando and MP Isuru Dodangoda upon his arrival. The President entered the Chamber accompanied by the MPs of the Government and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa was raising questions under Standing Order 27/2 at the time. The President listened to the answers given by Ministers Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Lasantha Alagiyawanna in response to the oral questions raised by the Opposition Leader. 

Raising doubts whether the President had been properly educated on the use of NanoUrea fertiliser, Opposition Leader Premadasa told President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was in the Chamber at that time, to consult experts on the use of fertiliser. Speaking about Nano Liquid Nitrogen fertiliser which was imported from India last week, Premadasa said that according to the experts the said fertiliser presents many challenges to the cultivation done by farmers. “First thing is this Nano urea is not an organic fertiliser and it is expensive. 

A 2.5-liter bottle consists of only 100 grams of Nitrogen. Normal paddy cultivation requires at least 50 kg of fertiliser. Therefore, it is clear that the Nitrogen content in Nano urea is insufficient to nourish paddy even if it is applied four times a day. Also, there is no research conducted regarding Nano urea in both Sri Lanka and in the world either on impact on the environment,” Premadasa said. Not only that, this imported Nano fertiliser would need to be sprayed using drones for crops such as maize. This is a new product, and more researches are needed to be done. 

Nano-Urea is not even SLS certified, Premadasa said and added that President Rajapaksa should seek the advice of Prof. Saman Dharmakeerthi, who is an expert in this field. “The Government should accept that it has failed by declaring an emergency situation amid price controls and reversing gazettes. Also, small and medium-scale rice mill owners are heavily affected because of the conduct of the Government. It seems that the steps taken by the Government only benefits large scale mill owners. Due to this, small and medium scale mill owners are suffering. 

They cannot even repay their loan instalments. What are you going to do to address these matters?” he queried. Meanwhile, Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake challenged Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage to meet the JVP in Court. Aluthgamage alleged that private companies have bought the JVP and now the party is in action on instructions on those companies. Responding to this, Dissanayake said that the JVP will send a Letter of Demand to Aluthgamage over his claims. 

“Aluthgamage has to understand that no one can buy the JVP. When farmers in the country are heavily affected by the fertiliser crisis, the Government is still in their dream worlds. They have not understood the gravity of the situation yet. This is a tragedy. Aluthgamage, as the Agriculture Minister has done nothing to solve this problem either,” Dissanayake stressed. The Government is currently facing heavy backlash due to fertiliser issue, among other things that includes sky rocketing cost of living, and it was probably due to this pressure that President Rajapaksa said that doing what's right is a grave challenge. 

However, he added that despite the magnitude of a challenge, the desired goals can be achieved by moving forward together. The President pointed out 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. 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 stated that the goal of the green agriculture is to benefit not just one or two seasons, but provide benefits for generations. 

He pointed out 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 also stressed to the officials 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. 

The Government took steps to import liquid nitrogen enriched with nitrogen nutrients in order to provide the world's most recognised eco-friendly fertiliser to the farmers. Leaves can directly absorb the nitrogen compounds in these liquid fertilisers that have been produced using nanotechnology. The President said that the government will provide the liquid nitrogen to all farmers in the future. 

The Agrarian Service Officers said that there was an undue fear among the farmers about a reduction in the yield and that these fears and hesitation among the farmers could be alleviated by handing over the fertiliser in a timely manner and by raising awareness. They also requested the President to expand the facilities required for testing the quality and standard of organic fertilisers produced by the farmers since the available facilities are inadequate. 

The Government is now releasing the incentives and preliminary payments to the farmers. The officials said plans are afoot to procure the raw material required for organic fertiliser production for the upcoming seasons. Secretary to the President, P. B. Jayasundera, Principal Adviser to the President Lalith Weeratunga, senior officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, District Assistant and Deputy Agrarian Service Commissioners representing eight districts and Divisional Agrarian Service Officers also joined in the discussion. 

SJB files FR 

The General Secretary of SJB, Ranjith Madduma Bandara filed a Fundamental Rights Petition before the Supreme Court on Thursday (21) against the transfer of shares of the Yugadanavi liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plant at Kerawalapitiya to the New Fortress Energy (NFE) requesting to quash the decision. It was stated in the Petition that insufficient and improper technical assessment of the NFE proposal pose considerable risk for the cost of electricity as if the continuity of the power plants are impacted, especially due to technical failures in implementation, the cost of such breakdowns would ultimately be extended to the citizens and electricity consumers. 

‘’Under the CEB Tender the prospective bidder must obtain all environmental related approvals, including Environment Impact Assessments considering the marine biology in the Kerawalapitiya site’’ the Petition said while stating that, no EIA had been undertaken and executed by the NFE. It was also stated that the decision approving and/or authorising the procurement of LNG from NFE and/or the decision to approve and/or authorise the sale of 40 per cent of shares and for the supply of LNG are ad hoc, arbitrary, unjustifiable and illegal amounting to a gross violation of Fundamental Rights guaranteed in the Constitution. 

‘’The procurement through a streamlined competitive bidding scheme ensuring transparency and accountability, is contrary to the procurement policy set out in the National Energy Policy and Strategies (2019)’’ the Petition stated. The Cabinet Decision effectively consolidates a monopoly for NFE to supply LNG to Yugadanavi, Sobhadanavi and to the Government of Sri Lanka and restricts and limit other such industries and sectors from accessing LNG supplies under competitive market rates, and therefore, violates the National Policy on Natural Gas of Sri Lanka, the Petition said. 

Thereby the Petition sought to declare that any measures taken for the procurement of LNG from the New Fortress Energy to be illegal, null and void and of no force or avail in law, Grant and Issue an Interim Order restraining from taking any measures for the procurement of any form of LNG from NFE. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa, NFE, the Attorney General and 32 others including Cabinet of Ministers were named as respondents to the Petition. 

PCR claims his rights are threatened 

SJB MP Patali Champika Ranawaka in Parliament alleged that CID had secretly listened to his telephone conversations during Yahapalana Government without the permission of a Magistrate. Ranawaka was a Minister in the Yahapalana Government. Raising a privilege issue, Ranawaka said that the CID has violated both his personal rights and parliamentary privileges as a MP by doing so between 2018 to 2019 years. 

Also, telephone service providers have also violated his privileges by handing over the telephone conversations to the CID, he stressed. “Therefore, I request the Speaker to summon the CID officers and service providers before the Parliamentary Privileges Committee to commence an inquiry and provide a report to Parliament,” he said. Ranawaka noted that such kinds of actions are punishable offences before the Supreme Court. 

He also said that a report has been called from the Attorney General in this regard as well. “I appeared before the CID on 24 September to give a statement on alleged discrepancies occurred at the Urban Development Ministry during the Yahapalana tenure. That was how I realised the CID had overheard my telephone conversations,” Ranawaka said.

JVP irked over social media campaign 

The JVP refuted allegations published by a local website claiming that the party has spent Rs 50 million on a social media campaign aimed at Presidential Election in 2024. JVP MP Vijitha Herath claimed that this was another failed attempt by the Government to ruin the reputation of their party and legal actions should be taken on the fake documents used in the said web article. “We have no connections with the advertising agency mentioned in the article. This is nothing but bogus information to tarnish the party’s reputation. 

The said article was fabricated based on a document which had used a fake rubber seal and forged signatures of our party leaders,” added Herath. Herath urged the public to understand the ‘cheap tricks’ used by the ruling party to distract them from following a better political vision. It is reported that the JVP is planning to institute legal action against the website. Accordingly, former JVP Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti lodged a complaint at the CID against allegations that over Rs 50 million has been spent by them on an advertising campaign for the Presidential Election 2024 and sharing on social media. 

Speaking to the Media after lodging the complaint, Handunnetti said it is the Government that spends such on promoting themselves with the use of public funds. He also added that such false allegations are promoted by affiliates of those in the Government. The Government has failed to fulfil promises made to the public while also inconveniencing the public. They are now attempting to make false allegations against the JVP, he stressed. Handunnetti added that the JVP has no need to pay to promote the party as the public are well aware of it. ‘’We vehemently oppose such allegations and we believe that the CID would conduct an independent investigation,’’ he said, adding that the relevant proof to prove such allegations are false were submitted to the CID. 

UNP digital membership 

The UNP Leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday said that only the United National Party can see the tomorrow’s world and create the new world in Sri Lanka. He also said UNP is to be handed over to a youthful team, which will take the party and the nation to a new era just like its founder leader late Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake did. He said this during a programme held at Sirikotha to mark the 137th Birth Anniversary of Late Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake Wickremesinghe said that youths would be appointed to the party leadership for this purpose. 

The launch of the UNP’s membership drive and the launch of the party’s activities through online technology was held at the UNP Headquarters at Sirikotha, Pita Kotte while adhering to COVID-19 health guidelines. The membership drive was held under the themes ;Tomorrow is not so dark; ;We see tomorrow - we build tomorrow; and ;Be a member of tomorrow's generation’. The launch of the UNP Digital Membership Card and the launch of the Digital Drive App also took place. The United National Party enters to this programme as the first party in Sri Lanka to adopt online technology.

Wickremesinghe further said: “We have decided to take the UNP and the country to a new era and we have embarked on this mission by appointing three youth members to the party’s working committee. This is in line with the party’s new theme ‘lets’ have a vision for tomorrow and build up a tomorrow. “Our founding leader late PM Senanayake had a vision for tomorrow and gained Independence by bringing all ethnic and religious groups together. Late Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake also had a vision and went on to sign a trade agreement with China. 

Late Sir John Kotelawala also saw the future and donated his house and property for the Defence University and so did J. R. Jayewardene who introduced an open economy and Mahaweli. Electricity supply was enhanced by Mahaweli and late President Ranasinghe Premadasa was able to open apparel factories and provide power to the houses he built. “I also saw a tomorrow in 2015 and ensured 25 per cent women representation in Local Bodies, began the Suwaseriya Ambulance service. However, there were others who did not have a vision for tomorrow. 

This is why there was objection to online education within our Government and from outside. Children’s education is in shambles today because of those who did not have a vision for the future.” Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene, Chairman Vajira Abeywardena, General Secretary Palitha Range Bandara, Deputy Leader Akila Viraj Kariyawasam and other party seniors were present on the occasion.

By Gagani Weerakoon | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 23 2021

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