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The country will overcome bankruptcy, resolving the youth employment crisis

President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that the initiative to provide job opportunities for unemployed youth will commence once the country overcomes bankruptcy this year.

The President also mentioned that next year will see the launch of a program aimed at introducing modern agriculture to villages in collaboration with private companies to revitalize the export economy.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe shared these plans at the Jaffna District Youth Conference organized by the National Youth Service Council at Duraiappah Stadium, Jaffna, yesterday (24).

The youth of Jaffna had the opportunity to directly present their needs and concerns to President Ranil Wickremesinghe. Chairman/Director General of the National Youth Service Council Pasindu Gunaratne was also present at the event. Later, the President joined in to watch a cultural performance that showcased the talents of the local youth.

Addressing the event President Ranil Wickremesinghe commented:

It was mentioned today that there is a significant amount of unused land in the Northern Province. This unused land is not only in Jaffna but also in other parts of Sri Lanka. These lands have not been utilized for cultivation. In the distant past, our country’s agriculture was at an export level. During the Anuradhapura period, Sri Lanka exported grain and later, crops such as tea, coffee, cinnamon, and rubber were major exports. However, these export activities have stalled.

Therefore, agriculture should be modernized, and efforts should be made to re-establish an export economy. The youth should also be given the opportunity to engage in agriculture. We aim for the government and private companies to jointly introduce smart agriculture to the villages. This will significantly enhance Sri Lanka’s ability to earn foreign currency. Last week, I joined an observation tour in the Kegalle area, where I witnessed first-hand an entrepreneur utilizing modern agricultural techniques. It is essential to say that the country needs more of such entrepreneurs.

Utilizing 5000 square feet of land through modern agriculture holds the potential for significant income generation. Presently, modern agricultural methods can yield approximately eight metric tons of paddy per hectare, fostering both an export-oriented economy and one resilient against collapse.

Furthermore, the government has prioritized tourism development while also emphasizing renewable energy and energy exports. Regions like Kilinochchi, Mannar and Jaffna boast wind power potential, with plans underway to produce gigawatts of electricity, not just megawatts. Solar panel installations on tanks, particularly Poonaryn and Iranamadu, are part of this initiative, enhancing the Northern Province’s renewable energy capacity.

Moreover, efforts are underway to establish Asia’s largest solar panel battery, capable of generating 700 MW, marking just the initial phase. These endeavours position the North to emerge as Asia’s primary hub for renewable energy production, emphasizing the imperative for expanded electricity generation in the energy sector’s forward trajectory.

Hence, we’ve inked agreements with India’s Adani Company to spearhead renewable energy generation. A dedicated investment zone is slated for development, centred around the Cement Corporation site in Kankasanthurai, with plans for another in the Mankulam area. Safeguarding our seas for the benefit of our fishermen is paramount, alongside modernizing the fishing industry.

Over the past four years, Sri Lanka’s economy endured significant setbacks, causing considerable hardship for its people. Presently, the nation is on the path to recovery from bankruptcy. Post-recovery, concerted efforts will be made to provide employment opportunities for the unemployed youth. The Economic Transformation Law Bill has already been tabled in Parliament, aiming to pivot towards an export-oriented economy. It’s our aspiration to compete with export-based economies like those of Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand, fostering sustainable economic growth.

Furthermore, in response to your request, I’ve instructed the Chairman of the National Youth Service Council to arrange a grand concert featuring South Indian artists in Jaffna within the coming two months. Our government remains steadfast in its commitment to revitalize the nation’s economy from bankruptcy and uplift the living standards of its people.

Below are some of the questions posed to the President by the youth, and President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s responses:

Q: Hon. President, the shortage of drinking water has become a significant concern in the north. I urge you to provide a solution to address this issue.

A: To address the drinking water shortage in the north, the government has initiated a new project aimed at purifying seawater through desalination. This Desalination Project is scheduled to commence in June. While the Northern Province experiences ample water availability at times, there are severe shortages during certain periods. It’s imperative to devise strategies to manage these fluctuations effectively. It’s worth noting that this issue is not confined to the north alone; similar challenges exist in some southern regions as well. Reports indicate that by 2050, there will be a decrease in rainfall in dry zones while precipitation will increase in wet zones, leading to water abundance. We are actively exploring solutions to mitigate these challenges, recognizing that climate change poses complex problems not only for us but for many nations worldwide.

Q: Hon. President, given the widespread unemployment, could you implement an interest-free loan scheme for self-employment?

A: Unemployment is a pressing issue not only in Jaffna but across the nation. Over the past years, the country has faced economic challenges leading to a lack of job opportunities. However, efforts are underway to revive the economy and overcome bankruptcy by the end of this year. Agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been finalized to facilitate this recovery process. As part of our long-term vision, we aim to transition to an export-oriented economy over the next 5-10 years. Legislation to support this transformation will be introduced in Parliament between June and July. Despite the economic downturn experienced last year, once the country emerges from bankruptcy in 2024, we plan to extend concessional loans through the banking system to support self-employment initiatives.

Q: Hon. President, there are reports that Elon Musk, a prominent global entrepreneur, plans to visit Sri Lanka. How will this benefit the youth?

A: I’ve had discussions with Elon Musk regarding the integration of the global ‘Starlink’ network with Sri Lanka. This initiative aims to address the Wi-Fi connectivity issues, particularly in areas outside Colombo. Additionally, we explored the potential of solar energy and other renewable energy sources in our country. I extended an invitation for him to collaborate on significant projects in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has been tasked with assessing the ‘Starlink’ network, with most of the preliminary work already completed. We are awaiting feedback from the Ministry of Defence to proceed with approval.

The presence of Minister Douglas Devananda, Northern Province Governor Mrs. P. S. M. Charles, Chairman/Director General of the National Youth Service Council Pasindu Gunaratne, and numerous young individuals further enriched the discussion.

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Warning issued for fishing and naval communities over cyclonic storm

The Department of Meteorology has issued a ‘red’ warning for strong winds and rough seas for naval and fishermen communities in the deep-sea areas in the South-eastern Arabian Sea and in the Bay of Bengal.

The ‘red’ alert states that a low-pressure area over south west Bay of Bengal has intensified into a Depression and lay centered near 15.0°N and 88.4°E at 05.30 a.m. of today (24 May).

It is likely to continue to move northeastwards and concentrate into a cyclonic storm over east-central Bay of Bengal by 05.30 a.m. of 25th may, 2024. Thereafter, it is likely to move northwards, intensify further into a severe cyclonic storm over same region by 11.30 p.m. of 25th May 2024, the advisory said.

Very strong winds 60-70 kmph, accompanied with heavy rainfalls and very rough seas are likely over the sea areas around the country and over the South-eastern Arabian Sea areas and Bay of Bengal.

Naval and fishing communities are advised not to venture into the sea areas marked by ‘RED’ color on the map below until further notice.

Those who are out at aforementioned sea regions are advised to return to coasts or moved safer areas immediately.

Naval and fishing communities are also requested to be attentive to future forecasts issued by the Department of Meteorology in this regard.

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Yupun Abeykoon wins at Anhalt Athletic Championship

Sri Lankan sprinter Yupun Abeykoon secured another victory in the men's 100m race at the Anhalt Athletics Championship in Germany, clocking a time of 10.16 seconds.

This win marks his fourth consecutive title at the event, having previously triumphed in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

While 10.16 seconds is not his personal best for the season (previously achieved at 10.15 seconds in the preliminary round), it demonstrates his continued dominance in the 100m at the Anhalt Athletics Championship.

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Aura Lanka chairman Viranjith Thambugala arrested

The Chairman of Aura Lanka, businessman Viranjith Thambugala, has been arrested by police over allegations of financial fraud.

He has been remanded until May 27 after being produced before the Colombo Magistrate’s Court.

Thanbugala is the Chairman of Aura Lanka Group of Companies and the former owner of the ‘Dambulla Aura’ team in the Lanka Premier League (LPL).

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The President inaugurates the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health Services at the Kilinochchi District General Hospital

President Ranil Wickremesinghe inaugurated the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Healthcare at the Kilinochchi District General Hospital. The facility, constructed with funding of LKR 5,320 million from the Government of the Netherlands, under the government’s initiative to enhance healthcare infrastructure nationwide, was officially inaugurated by the President, this morning (25).

Established in 2006, the Kilinochchi District General Hospital serves as the primary healthcare facility in the district, catering to the medical needs of over 150,000 residents.

The inauguration of the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health Services today marks a significant advancement in maternal and Neonatal care in the North. This initiative is poised to enhance the healthcare system in the Northern Province by addressing the needs of women and new-borns, as well as their families.

During the ceremony, the President unveiled the plaque and officially opened the Centre, while also taking the opportunity to observe its activities first-hand.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, addressing the gathering, reflected on the journey of the project initiated in 2017 under the good governance government. Despite facing challenges such as the COVID 19 epidemic and economic crisis, he expressed joy in witnessing its successful completion and delivery to women.

Highlighting the government’s commitment to safeguarding women’s rights, the President announced plans to establish a dedicated commission to enforce legal measures aimed at empowering women. He further assured the passing of the gender equality bill before the end of June, expressing hope for unanimous support from Parliamentarians.

Speaking at further President Ranil Wickremesinghe stated,

“Although initiated in 2017, the completion of the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health Services was hindered by challenges stemming from the COVID 19 epidemic and economic constraints. Nonetheless, I am pleased to announce its successful culmination and dedication to women today.

Moreover, notable progress is evident in Kilinochchi. Plans are underway to foster development, including the establishment of an investment zone in the Mankulam area. Additionally, the region presents opportunities for renewable energy projects, with approvals granted for such initiatives in Kilinochchi.

Efforts have been directed towards resolving land disputes and addressing the issue of missing persons in these areas.

The inauguration of the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health Services signifies a significant milestone in serving the women of our nation. We have implemented various special measures to empower women, reaffirming our commitment to their well-being.

In our country, there has been a notable absence of laws safeguarding women’s rights beyond the basic provisions outlined in the Constitution. To address this gap, we have introduced two new drafts to Parliament aimed at enhancing women’s rights.

The Women’s Empowerment Act proposes essential provisions to legally empower women, including the establishment of a dedicated commission for their implementation. Furthermore, we aim to pass the gender draft by the end of June, currently undergoing review by the courts before submission to Parliament, with anticipation for unanimous support.

Our commitment to protecting women’s rights extends to enacting laws against violence and ensuring equal opportunities for women in workplace promotions and transfers. We anticipate the formal legalization of women’s rights and pledge to operate within this framework.

Additionally, we prioritize the safety of women within their homes. These proposed women’s rights bills are readily accessible on our website, and we encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with them. Furthermore, we plan to launch a specialized educational program to raise awareness about women’s rights and empower them accordingly.

Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda,

The newly opened buildings in Kilinochchi today and Jaffna yesterday are poised to deliver exceptional services to the public. On behalf of the people of the Northern Province, I extend sincere gratitude to President Ranil Wickremesinghe for providing these essential facilities.

Additionally, the President entrusted me with the task of presenting a proposal to elevate Jaffna Hospital to a national level in the upcoming Cabinet meeting. Had the Tamil people extended their support to him during the 2005 presidential election, they would have experienced substantial benefits.

During the recent economic crisis, President Wickremesinghe demonstrated leadership by swiftly addressing issues such as long queues, shortages of goods, and fuel scarcity. If we continue to support him and work alongside him, we have the potential to propel our country forward.

Northern Province Governor P.S.M. Charles,

Citizens have been waiting in long queues for gas and other essential goods, and tragically, some have died while doing so. They have collapsed, and many were admitted to hospitals. For Sri Lankans living abroad, hearing this news was shocking. Many of our relatives and friends reached out to ask about our well-being, given the dire situation in the country.

Today, we have forgotten that past and are fighting to increase salaries and employment opportunities.

We need a leader for this country who is globally recognized and accepted. The current economic crisis cannot be resolved solely through internal efforts; it requires international collaboration. Our current leader, despite not having a majority in Parliament, has managed to guide the country through this crisis due to his global acceptance and leadership qualities.

Member of Parliament M.A. Sumanthiran,

Yesterday, the President announced in Jaffna that efforts will be taken to upgrade the Jaffna Teaching Hospital to a national hospital. We welcome this because, in any case, a teaching hospital comes under the central government. However, as we are intent and keen on the devolution of power in a very meaningful way, we are conscious that health and education are two areas where governmental power must be fully devolved.

Healthcare is fundamental to the survival of any community, and as we inaugurate this building in Kilinochchi today, we sincerely thank all those who have contributed in immeasurable ways to make this a reality and a success.

Member of Parliament Dharmalingam Siddharthan,

I am pleased to inaugurate this special facility for women, made possible through funding from the Dutch government. This project stands as a testament to its exceptional quality.

I express gratitude to President Ranil Wickremesinghe for his steadfast commitment to these initiatives, both during his tenure as Prime Minister and in his current role as President.

Ambassador of the Netherlands to Sri Lanka Bonnie Horbach,

It brings me great joy to inaugurate the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health Services at the Kilinochchi District General Hospital. This project stands as a testament to the fruitful collaboration between the VAMED organization in the Netherlands and the Ministry of Health of Sri Lanka.

Established on June 12, 2018, this partnership aimed to develop four cutting-edge hospitals in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. To facilitate this endeavour, 75% of the estimated project cost was provided as a concessional loan by the Dutch government, with the remaining 25% granted by the same. Notably, in response to the subsequent challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn in Sri Lanka in 2022, the Dutch government increased its grant to 35% of the total project cost.

The event was attended by religious leaders, former State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran, local politicians, government officials, members of the local community and various other individuals.

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President Wickremesinghe conveys condolences at Iranian Embassy on President Raisi’s passing

President Ranil Wickremesinghe paid a visit to the Iranian Embassy in Colombo this morning (22) to extend his condolences on the untimely tragic passing of the late Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi.

Upon arrival at the Embassy, President Wickremesinghe was warmly received by the Iranian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Dr. Alireza Delkhosh, and the Embassy staff.

During his visit, the President engaged in brief conversation with the Iranian Ambassador and others present, conveying his heartfelt condolences on behalf of the Sri Lankan government and himself to the Iranian government and people for the loss of the Late President Ebrahim Raisi.

Iran ambassador office 09

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Jaffna Hospital would be upgraded as a national hospital in the near future

President Ranil Wickremesinghe stated that the Jaffna Hospital would be upgraded as a national hospital in the near future to enhance and ensure excellent healthcare standards in the Northern Province.

He further noted that the Cabinet has given its approval for the Karapitiya Hospital to be upgraded as a national hospital.

These remarks were made during President Wickremesinghe’s attendance at the inauguration of the Clinical Training and Research Block at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Jaffna, today (24).

Chairman of the University Grants Commission, Prof. Sampath Amaratunga, emphasized the need for modernizing technology across all science-based faculties in the country, including engineering, medical, science, and agriculture faculties. He highlighted that the current out dated technology hinders progress and adaptation to the modern world.

Furthermore, he noted that Sri Lankan children studying abroad excel not because of the technology they use but because of their knowledge. He emphasized that the integration of new technology could significantly propel the country forward.

In response, the President instructed the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education to collaborate on drafting a proposal for modernizing technology in these faculties and present it for his consideration.

Furthermore, the President highlighted significant developments in the region, notably the construction of the Clinical Training and Research Department building at the Jaffna University—the first such structure to be built in 46 years. With an investment of LKR 942 million, this facility will accommodate 1200 students for undergraduate and postgraduate clinical training, fostering international research collaborations.

The building, spanning 6000 square meters, comprises multiple lecture halls, clinical skills laboratories and an auditorium. Additionally, it features essential medical facilities such as operating theatres, recovery rooms, cleaning and disposal areas, sterilization units, preparation rooms and storage facilities.

Furthermore, the building houses patient waiting rooms, consultation rooms, and specialized units dedicated to endoscopy, vascular surgery, and mammography. It also accommodates research laboratories, a forensic investigation unit, and a museum for educational purposes.

Under the management of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, supported by the Department of Surgery, and other consultants from the teaching Hospital Jaffna, the Fertility Care Unit is set to offer a wide range of services, encompassing specialist consultations, diagnostic procedures, and treatment facilities.

Meanwhile, the Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) will facilitate clinical research on locally adapted patient-oriented, and cost-effective treatment methods. Additionally, the Clinical Genetics Unit (CGU) will aid in genetic cost-effectiveness, disease management, and preventive measures.

Following the unveiling of the plaque and the inauguration of the new building, the President proceeded to embark on an inspection tour.

The President addressing the gathering further stated:

“Your request for the establishment of a national hospital in Jaffna has been duly noted. Coincidentally, I have been contemplating the same. Just last week, the Cabinet approved the upgrade of Karapitiya Hospital, and next hospital to be upgraded as a national hospital is going to be Jaffna Hospital.

It is imperative for Jaffna to have an excellent healthcare system, ensuring equitable access to quality healthcare services not only in Colombo and the southern regions but also in the north and central areas. However, our efforts should not stop there. We must also turn our attention to the broader developmental needs of the region.

Regarding my frequent visits to Jaffna, allow me to clarify the purpose behind my recent visit. Despite it coinciding with a long weekend, I felt compelled to address pending matters, particularly the inauguration of two hospitals as requested by both the local community and the Ambassador for the Netherlands during my previous visit.

I have made it a point to visit Jaffna regularly, both as Prime Minister and President, recognizing the pressing need to address the longstanding issues stemming from the conflict in the north and east. The time has come to shift our focus towards development. There are people here without who are looking for jobs and the potential for Jaffna for development is great, to use that term. Jaffna, which has seen limited development in recent years, holds immense potential for growth.

While I may not delve into all the issues at hand today, it is evident that progress has been made in addressing certain challenges, such as land-related issues. However, there remain unresolved matters concerning detainees and other related issues that require our attention. But we still have, to bring this to a close and that revolves around the remaining political issues.

Moving forward, we must prioritize reconciliation efforts, address concerns regarding missing persons, and devise mechanisms for compensation and truth and reconciliation. I think this is the time now we have to deal with all these issues.

These are complex issues that demand collective cooperation and engagement from all stakeholders. I have discussed this with the members of Parliament from North and the East, as to what measures we need to take.

Amidst economic challenges, we’ve been unable to allocate significant funds in recent years. However, we must earmark resources for truth and reconciliation efforts. The government is committed to establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), but we must address the critical issue of judicial powers.

We’re deliberating whether the TRC should wield judicial authority or if a separate court should be empowered based on TRC recommendations. This decision is paramount, and I’ve tasked relevant ministers, in consultation with parliamentarians and ambassadors, to draft legislation for parliamentary review.

Moreover, Jaffna holds immense developmental promise, particularly in renewable energy, agriculture, and industries. Harnessing solar and wind power capacities could position Jaffna as a major energy hub. This is the biggest and we have not yet tapped, I mean the potential for the north is not in terms of megawatts but in terms of gigawatts. Additionally, agricultural modernization and industrial zoning initiatives aim to elevate economic prospects in the region.

We aim to cultivate a competitive, high-value export-oriented agriculture sector nationwide, with the Northern Province playing a pivotal role. The province’s farmers possess the requisite skills for this endeavour, which promises to significantly enhance both individual and provincial incomes.

In the realm of industry, discussions are underway to establish the inaugural investment zone in Kankasanthurai, followed by industrial parks in Paranthan and Mankulam. Collaborative efforts with India are also underway to develop Trincomalee.

Furthermore, we’re exploring tourism prospects in the north, anticipating transformative changes with forthcoming land connectivity, particularly benefiting Jaffna.

These initiatives hold the potential to position the Northern Province as a key economic hub of Sri Lanka.

During our visit, we witnessed captivating dance performances by students from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Jaffna, most of who are under 21 years of age, born in 2002 or 2003.

These individuals belong to Generation Z and are deeply invested in shaping their own futures. It’s incumbent upon us to facilitate their aspirations, which underscores our legislative efforts aimed at propelling rapid development within a new economic paradigm”.

Minister Douglas Devananda:

“For over a decade, since 2003, the Jaffna University Faculty of Medicine Students’ Union has tirelessly advocated for the construction of this building. Today, we stand here witnessing the fulfilment of that long-standing request. Furthermore, swift actions have been taken to address other pressing needs, including those of the Faculty of Agriculture.

During a critical period when the nation grappled with unrest, it was President Ranil Wickremesinghe who stepped forward to assume leadership, demonstrating unparalleled commitment. Today, we witness a multitude of developmental endeavours underway across the country.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, with his visionary leadership, has transformed a non-functional vehicle into a vehicle fit for travel, symbolizing his capability to navigate the challenges ahead. His unwavering dedication inspires confidence, as evidenced by his track record of tangible achievements.

Member of Parliament Mr. Dharmalingam Siddharthan:

“In a remarkably short span of two years since assuming office, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has spearheaded numerous initiatives for the advancement of the Northern Province. The inauguration of this building for the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Jaffna is yet another testament to his commitment to Northern development.

His decisive actions, particularly concerning sensitive issues like the release of lands, reflect his deep concern for the welfare of the northern population. Even as the Prime Minister, he played a pivotal role in driving development efforts in both the northern and eastern provinces.

Member of Parliament Mr. M. A. Sumanthiran, PC:

“Hon. President, I extend my sincere gratitude for granting me the opportunity to address this esteemed gathering on behalf of the people of Jaffna. I also personally thank you for gracing us with your presence here today.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has exhibited an unwavering commitment to the progress of not only the North but also the East, dating back to his tenure as Prime Minister. The inauguration of the Faculty of Medicine building at the Jaffna University is a milestone event transpiring today and underscores not just an investment in the North but also a significant contribution to the nation’s advancement. I firmly believe that this institution will evolve into a hub for scientific innovation in Sri Lanka’s future.

As emphasized by previous speakers in this event, the President has accorded special consideration to the development of the Jaffna district and its residents. It is possible that challenges in the North may have impeded your journey in 2005, a fact that I believe is now regretfully acknowledged by the people of the region.

I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Jaffna for realizing this monumental project. The dividends of this investment are bound to be substantial. We extend a warm welcome to the President for gracing the Jaffna district with his presence, and we commend him for his dedicated efforts in advancing the interests of the North during this visit.”

Governor of the Northern Province Mrs. P. S. M. Charles:

“It is with immense pride that I announce the completion of the Clinical Training and Research Department of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Jaffna, marking a significant milestone after 46 years.

In March of last year, I requested the President’s presence for the inauguration of this building. He assured me of his attendance in May, and true to his word, he is here with us today.

In attendance were esteemed dignitaries, including Secretary of the Ministry of Education Thilaka Jayasundara, Chairman of the University Grants Commission Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Jaffna Professor Rajendra Surendrakumaran, and former Member of Parliament Vijayakala Maheswaran.

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Two Pilot Projects to Address Elephant-Human Conflict

The government plans to initiate two pilot projects, the ‘Temporary Agricultural Electric Fence’ and the ‘Village Electric Fence,’ to protect villages and farmlands experiencing significant elephant-human conflicts.

This announcement was made during a discussion held yesterday (20th), led by Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayaka, alongside the heads of line agencies, focusing on recent measures to mitigate wild elephant-human conflicts.

In addition to the existing electric fences built and maintained to mitigate elephant-human conflicts, pilot projects have been initiated in several conflict-prone districts to protect farmlands within regional secretariats’ jurisdictions. These farmlands will be safeguarded only until the harvest season, with a focus on the construction of temporary agricultural electric fences (Agro Fences).

Furthermore, there was an in-depth discussion about the pilot project for constructing electric fences (Village Fences) around villages that experience frequent human-wild elephant conflicts, aiming to protect these communities.

Furthermore, it was decided during the discussion that the agricultural electric fence (Agro Fence) should be dismantled by the respective farmers after harvesting and that the Department of Agricultural Development would assume responsibility for its maintenance and custody. Maintenance duties will also be delegated to the respective divisional secretariats.

Additionally, attention was given to the preservation of a group of trained elephants for cultural events and parades, besides addressing the issue of private elephant ownership.

Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka further instructed the pertinent authorities to compile and present a comprehensive report outlining the challenges encountered in executing these resolutions for review by President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The meeting was attended by Gunadasa Samarasinghe, the Secretary of the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, as well as representatives from various line agencies and members of the Wild Elephant Human Control Committee, including Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya and Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando.

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Dilith offers to replace Sajith in debate with AKD

The leader of the Mawbima Janatha Party (MJP) Dilith Jayaweera has claimed opposition leader Sajith Premadasa would not take part in the proposed debate with National People's Power (NPP) chief Anura Kumara Disssanayake on 06 June and offered to replace him.

In that debate, Jayaweera said he was prepared to answer any question to be raised by Dissanayake. He assured him that he would not raise his clothing, business class travels or the personal life.

Jayaweera was speaking at a republican day celebration at Light House on 22 May.

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Interim injunction issued against Wijeyadasa and Keerthi Udawatta

The Colombo District Court has issued an interim order preventing Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe from functioning as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and Keerthi Udawatta as Acting General Secretary of the party.

This order was issued today by Colombo District Judge Sandun Withana after considering a plaint submitted by Member of Parliament Duminda Dissanayake.

On May 16, the Colombo District Court had rejected the petition filed by Dissanayake seeking an interim injunction preventing Minister Rajapakshe from functioning as the Chairman and Udawatta as Acting General Secretary of the SLFP.

Accordingly, the Colombo District Court refused to issue an injunction restraining the party, its organizations and officials from acting on the decision taken to appoint Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe as the Chairman and Attorney-at-Law Keerthi Udawatte as the Acting General Secretary of the SLFP.

However, Colombo District Judge Sandun Withana had stated that the complainant has the opportunity to amend his plaint and confirm the facts for the relevant injunction.


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President Participates in Multiple Vesak Celebrations in Colombo

Published on: May 24, 2024 President Participates in Multiple Vesak Celebrations in Colombo President Ranil Wickremesinghe participated in various Vesak programs held in Colombo yesterday (23) as the nation celebrated Vesak.

The ‘Buddha Rashmi’ Vesak Zone, organized by the Hunupitiya Gangarama Temple, was inaugurated under the patronage of President Wickremesinghe, yesterday.

The President arrived at the Gangarama Temple, where he offered flowers to the Buddha statue and participated in religious rituals. Ven. Dr. Kirinde Assaji Thero, the Viharadhikari of the Gangaramaya Maha Viharaya, conducted the religious ceremonies and bestowed blessings upon the President.

Subsequently, the President inaugurated the “Buddha Rashmi Vesak Zone” by illuminating the electric lights.

Numerous guests from both domestic and international spheres, including diplomats, Foreign Ambassadors and High Commissioners, graced the occasion, engaging in cordial conversation with the President.

As part of the Buddha Rashmi National Vesak Festival, various events such as the Vesak pandals, Vesak lantern exhibitions, Bodu Bathi Gee, Vesak Dhansala, ‘Thovil and Devolmadu Shantikarma’, Flower procession, and mindfulness programs which was jointly organised by the Gangarama Temple, along with the Presidential Secretariat, Prime Minister’s Office, and the Maha Karuna Buddhist Association of Singapore. The Vesak zone will be held at Shangri-La Green, Galle Face and Presidential Secretariat Premises from May 23 to May 26. The festivities include cultural performances, folk songs and captivating lighting decorations.

To inaugurate the Vesak program, the Secretary to the President Mr. Saman Ekanayake, lit the ceremonial lamp, followed by a vibrant devotional Bathi Gee recital at the Presidential Secretariat.

Concurrently, President Ranil Wickremesinghe opened the ‘Maha Bath Dansala’ at the Shangri-La Green Grounds.

Additionally, yesterday afternoon (23), President Ranil Wickremesinghe participated in the opening of the inaugural Vesak Zone organized by the Peliyagoda Municipal Council and Community Development Foundation and the local trading community.

This Vesak festival, spanning from May 23rd to 25th, will feature a variety of events including a Vesak lantern competition, devotional Bathi Gee recitals, drama and rice dansals.

President Wickremesinghe, inaugurated the Vesak Zone by lighting the lamps, interacted warmly with attendees at the event.

State Ministers Prasanna Ranaweera, Sisira Jayakodi, and several others graced the occasion with their presence.

Meanwhile, President Ranil Wickremesinghe also inaugurated the Vesak Zone and the magnificent Vesak pandal organized by the Maradana-Suduwella United Buddhist Association in celebration of the Vesak Festival, yesterday.

Following the vision of former Municipal Council Member Mr. Kitsiri Rajapaksa and under the guidance of Ven. Yatihena Saddhaloka Thera the Chief Incumbent of Sri Dharmaloka Daya Maha Viharaya, this Vesak extravaganza showcases the grand Vesak pandal depicting ‘Manikara Kulupagatissa Jathakaya’. It will be on display at Maradana Junction until May 27th.

President’s Senior Advisor on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff, Sagala Ratnayaka, Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, Chief of Defence Staff General Shavendra Silva, Army Commander Vikum Liyanage, along with a delegation of political representatives and government officials, accompanied the President during these ceremonies.

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‘Economic Transformation Bill ‘ and ‘Public Financial Management Bill’ to Parliament on May 22 – Acting Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe

Acting Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe announced plans to introduce two significant bills to Parliament on May 22, aimed at bolstering the country’s economy.

These bills, the “Economic Transformation Bill” and the “Public Financial Management Bill,” are designed to enhance the management of public finances, thereby safeguarding against future economic downturns.

Minister Semasinghe made this announcement during a press conference at the Presidential Media Centre today, themed ‘Collective path to a stable country’.

Acting Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe, further stated,

‘The government has scheduled the submission of two significant bills crucial for the country’s economy on May 22. One of these bills is the “Economic Transformation Law,” aimed at preventing future economic collapses. Notably, this legislation stems from the vision of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, rather than being proposed by the International Monetary Fund. The recent stabilization of the economy following previous downturns underscores the importance of preserving this stability going forward.

Additionally, it is necessary to maintain optimal levels of public financial management to avert future economic crises. The “Public Finance Management Bill” is set to be presented to Parliament on the same day, with a focus on enhancing accountability in managing public finances. This legislative initiative aligns with recommendations from a collaborative program with the International Monetary Fund and holds significant importance for the country’s future financial management.

It’s important to underscore the critical significance of both these bills for the country’s future. These drafts contain numerous technical intricacies aimed at bolstering confidence in the economy and maintaining the trajectory of the new economic direction implemented thus far.

Further elaborating on the Economic Transformation Bill, it holds paramount importance for the country’s economic growth. Despite experiencing economic contraction in the second and third quarters of 2023, a notable growth rate of 4.5% was achieved in the fourth quarter. Consequently, the benefits of this economic upturn have started permeating to the grassroots level within the country.

Furthermore, it is imperative to enhance the economic competitiveness of the nation and adapt the economy to confront global challenges while fostering international cooperation and growth. Additionally, this bill addresses necessary changes in various sectors.

Specifically, the legislation encompasses reforms essential for international trade, trade agreements, and climate change mitigation efforts.

The establishment of a new Economic Commission in Sri Lanka, aimed at attracting investments to enhance competitiveness, fostering a conducive environment for investors, expanding international trade, establishing the National Productivity Commission, and developing export-related institutions, is also outlined in this bill.

Recently, Parliament endorsed the decisions made, particularly regarding economic transformation. In 2022, the public debt ratio stood at 128%, a figure slated to be reduced to less than 95% by 2032.

Similarly, the fiscal requirement, which was 34.6% of the gross domestic product in 2022, aims to be lowered to below 13% by 2032.

Effective debt servicing is paramount, with efforts focused on establishing Sri Lanka as a debt-sustainable nation capable of meeting its obligations. The aim is to reduce the debt payment ratio from 9.4% in 2022 to below 4.5% by 2027.

A proposed bill will outline specific national goals and actions taken to address economic challenges, providing a roadmap for sustainable economic growth, debt management, agricultural modernization, import-export regulation, and economic governance.

Additionally, considerable attention has been given to the Public Finance Management Bill, aimed at identifying weaknesses in the current legislation and proposing a robust legal framework to meet future needs.

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