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Sri Lanka will host the next Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit in early September this year, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told Secretary General M Shahidul Islam. The Secretary General Islam met President at the Presidential Secretariat today (04).

Sri Lanka is the Chair of BIMSTEC from 2018 to 2020. Though Sri Lanka has already hosted three Working Committee meetings, this will be the first one under the new Administration. The Senior Officials’ Meeting that were held from March 01-03. Here, BIMSTEC Charter was concluded as well as the long overdue rationalization of sectors.

Earlier, there were 14 such sectors. However, many of the areas such as climate and environment were overlapping and this created various issues. Taking all these into consideration, the number of sectors was reduced to seven. This will strengthen the institutional mechanisms of BIMSTEC.

Under the rationalizing of the sector, Sri Lanka will be the lead country for Science, Technology and Innovation. Bangladesh will lead Trade and Investment, Bhutan on Environment and Climate Change, Myanmar on Agriculture and Food Security, India on Security, Napal on People-to-People Contact and Thailand on Connectivity.

Accelerating our economic development is the primary challenge facing Sri Lanka today and most of the security issues that Sri Lanka has faced over the years have been due to the exploitation of the economically disadvantaged, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.

The proposed people-centric model takes this factor into account, said the President at a forum with representatives of the ICT sector held at the Presidential Secretariat today (4).

“We must ensure that the benefits of economic growth will reach everyone in our society, especially the very poor. We must raise their standard of living in a rapid and sustainable way, bringing them out of poverty and making them productive contributors to the economy,” President added.

To succeed in the digital era, companies need to recruit world-class talent.  We need to ensure that our citizens are equipped with new technological skills said the President adding that the government confronts the challenge to make easier for people to develop the skills they need for better job opportunities in a technology-based economy.

President highlighted the significant misalignment between the demands of the job market and the workforce that emerges from our schools, training institutes and universities. The shortage of skilled workers that the IT sector faces today is just one of the symptoms of this mismatch, he said. The importance of undertaking short- term and medium-term solutions to the problems inherent in our education system was observed by the President.

Pointing out the deterioration of the public service in recent years President said and creating an environment for productive economic activities to thrive, without any obstruction, is a priority of his Government. “Infusing technological solutions including automation to make the public sector much more efficient in discharging its duties is essential to liberating the economic potential of our people”.

Expressing his views, Chairman of ICT Industry Council Chinthaka Wijewickrema said the information communication technology industry is a very dynamic sector and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the first President of this country to address this vital sector.

The General Secretary of the Council Shantha Yapa requested the President to prioritize the promotion of local software industry.

‘The Global Delivery Destination of the Year’ award of the Global Sourcing Association won by the Sri Lanka Association of Software and Services Companies was handed over to President Rajapaksa by its Chairman Ranil Rajapaksha.

Representatives of the ICT sector and the Honorary Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga were also present at the forum.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has directed officials to ensure supply of the required amount of fertilizer for the Yala season without delay.

The fertilizer stocks are due to arrive in the island within the coming weeks.

The President further instructed to design a proper procedure to swiftly distribute fertilizer among all the farmers and stressed that the farmers should not be inconvenienced for any reason.

These directives were issued by president Rajapaksa during a review to the current process of importation and distribution of fertilizer stocks. The discussion took place at the Presidential Secretariat today(March 03).

Issues pertaining to the importation of fertilizer were discussed in-depth and the President advised to obtain the preliminary inspection reports on the quality of fertilizer within 10 days prior to distribution.

Farmers are inclined to use excessive quantities of fertilizer, in hope of a bigger harvest. The President highlighted the significance of educating the farming community about the harmful aspects of using chemical fertilizer over organic. He noted that it was high time they are gradually directed towards the use of organic fertilizer in their cultivation.

President Rajapaksa pointed out that there was an increasing demand for produce grown using organic fertilizer.  President added that it was vital to increase the production of organic fertilizer, both, in order to meet the market demand and for a healthier future generation.

President advised the officials to identify the countries that produce high quality fertilizer and import from them. President further advised them to recognize the annual harvest of the main crops including paddy, and make the fertilizer importations accordingly.

Minister Chamal Rajapaksa, Secretary to the President, Dr. P.B. Jayasundara, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, S. Artigala, Ministry of Mahaweli, Agriculture, Irrigation & Rural Development, Neel Bandara Hapuhinna, Secretary to the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Export Agriculture, Ravindra Hewavitharana, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, H.A. Dissanayake and senior officials representing the Department of Agriculture, Ceylon Fertilizer Company and fertilizer importers were present at the discussion.

Delivery of appointment letters by post to the qualified candidates under the programme to provide employment opportunities to unemployed graduates has reached its final stage.

Those who have completed a degree or an equivalent diploma course recognized by the University Grants Commission (UGC) by 31.12.2019 were eligible to apply.

Out of the total of around 70,000 applications received, 56,000 had been duly completed. The UGC and several other organizations scrutinized these applications. Only 45,585 have been identified as qualified to be appointed while others although possess a degree or a diploma did not meet required criteria.

Their appointment letters have been dispatched through the Speed Post Courier service of the Sri Lanka Department of Posts covering all districts. It is scheduled to post appointment letters to all selected candidates by this evening. It is also planned to obtain delivery receipt of all appointment letters from the Department of Posts.

The Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration is the Appointing Authority. Appointees should report to their respective Divisional Secretary within three days after receiving the letter of appointment.  Failure to report for training within 7 days of receipt of the letter will result in cancellation of the appointment.

The selected graduates will be seconded for the training to the nearest Divisional Secretariat Division to their places of residence.  An allowance of Rs.20, 000 will be paid during the one year of training period. Upon completion of training, they will be placed in the pensionable permanent service of the government. Appointments are made on district basis and it is compulsory to serve 05 years in the district where the first appointment is made.

The second interim report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to probe Easter Sunday attacks was handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat today (02).

The first interim report was handed over on December 20th, 2019.

The Commission was appointed by the former President Maithripala Sirisena on September 22nd, 2019 to investigate the series of attacks that took place on Easter Sunday same year and to recommend necessary actions.

The final report will be compiled following further investigations.

The Chairman of the Commission Court of Appeal Judge, Janak de Silva and other members  Court of Appeal Judge, Nishshanka Bandula Karunarathna, Retired High Court Judges Nihal Sunil Rajapaksa and A.L. Bandula Kumara Atapattu, former Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, W.M.M.R. Adikari and the Secretary of the Commission, H.M.P.B. Herath were also present.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa visited Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy and paid homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic, today (01).

Upon his arrival, President Rajapaksa was received by Diyawadana Nilame Nilanga Dela Bandara.

The President called on Mahanayake of Asgiriya Chapter Most.Ven. Warakagdoa Sri Gnanarathana Thera and looked into the welfare of the Thera.

The Mahanayake of Asgiriya Chapter chanted seth pirith and invoked blessings on the President.

President Rajapaksa also called on Chief Incumbent of the Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya, Venerable Dr. Godagama Mangala Thera at the Sri Chandananda Buddhist College, Kandy.

The Anunayake Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter, Ven Vendaruwe Upali Thera was also present on this occasion.

The Governor of the Central Province, Lalith U Gamage participated on this occasion.

Awarding of the Sri Sannas Pathra to Most Venerable Mataramba Hemarathana Thera who has been elevated to the status of Upadhyaya of Uposathagaraya of the Malwathu Maha Vihara and inducted as the Chief Sanganayaka of Southern Sri Lanka took place today(February 29) under the patronage of the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The ceremony was held in the Unawatuna Yatagala Rajamaha Vihara, Galle.

President Rajapaksa awarded the Sri Sannas Pathra while Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa presented the Vijinapatha.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa reminisced the unwavering service of the Most Venerable Mataramba Hemarathana Thero to the Sasana during the 30 years of terrorism that engulfed Sri Lanka.

Prime Minister stated that the thero supervised eight Viharas as the chief incumbent including Yatagala Raja Maha Vihara, Sithulpawwa Raja Maha Vihara, Magul Maha Vihara.

Prime Minister observed that the service rendered by the thera to the entire Sasana was unparalleled.

Most Venerable Mataramba Hemarathana Thera had authored a number of books including, Usaspela Baudhdha Dharma Sanghaya, Lekhana Rekha, Hindu Arya Sanskruthiya, Wandana Gatha, Aithihasika Magul Maha Viharaya.

In addition, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa highlighted the patriotic and Sasana-centered service rendered for the sustainability of Buddhism by Hemarathana Thero.

The Thero offered presents for both President and the Prime Minister invoking blessings on them.

Mahanayaka and Anunayake theros, Maha Sanga and several Ministers and MPs were present at this auspicious event.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday directed officials to discontinue the cultivation of oil palm in the area considering requests made by people in Udagama in the Galle district.

The President made this decision after considering the request made by the people in Udugama in the Galle district. The President spoke to the people on his way to the Rajagiri Len Viharaya, Gomadola in Udugama where first of the District Coordinating Committee meeting was held.

They complained of the negative environmental impacts of oil palm cultivation which had resulted in scarcity of water in villages. Considering the concerns of the people.The President made the directive to discontinue the oil palm cultivation after considering their request.

“People should be encouraged to consume coconut oil. This will eventually help develop the coconut cultivation as well. Although, many rubber product manufacturing plants have been started, the supply of material is not sufficient. President directed officials to take steps to promote rubber as a cash crop cultivation. Attention was also drawn to limit the import of rubber,” he said.

A large number of issues including urban and rural economic development, disaster management and tourism industry were discussed during the meeting held at Gomadola, one of the poorest villages in the Galle district.

Special attention was drawn to political, social and economic problems faced by the people in the area.

Area political representatives highlighted the shortage of English teachers in schools in the area. President directed to fill all the existing vacancies immediately and to regularise the recruitment of more teachers for Science and Mathematics.

The shortage of drinking water in several areas including Neluwa, Nagoda and Udugama was also discussed. The President said to complete community and other water projects which are currently underway by providing necessary funds.

The issue of solid waste management was also one of the major topics of the discussion. The President instructed the Local Government Authorities to assist in the cleansing projects while appraising the public at the local level. Attention was also paid to improve healthcare facilities in rural medical centers. The President instructed the health authorities to provide adequate facilities to the people including the appointment of required number of doctors and nursing staff to those centers. He said this would greatly reduce the overcrowding in hospitals in Colombo and other major cities.

Attention was also paid to the construction of rural roads and bridges, flood control systems in the Galle district and to provide speedy solutions for the issues arising in the process of urban development.

Galle District occupies a special place in the tourism industry of the country. President Rajapaksa instructed officials to appraise the relevant authorities regarding the importance of the protecting the tourists visiting beaches in Hikkaduwa. It has also been decided to establish a tourist police station in Unawatuna. Steps must be taken to identify the problems related to the fisheries harbours in the district with the aim of uplifting the fishing industry under the purview of relevant ministries.The President advised the officials of the respective ministries to take immediate action to solve the identified problems of the people.

Some of the issues raised at today’s District Development Committee meeting were immediately solved. These included providing a water bowser to the Udugama Hospital, appointing Principals to schools where there are no Principals and providing funds for small scale water supply projects.

Cabinet and State Ministers, Secretary to the President, Dr. P.B. Jayasundara, Secretary to the Prime Minister Gamini Senerath and other Ministry Secretaries and officials were present at the District Coordinating Committee meeting headed by Galle District Leader Minister Dr.Ramesh Pathirana.

A tree planting programme was also initiated parallel to the District Committee Meetings. The President planted a tree in the temple premises to mark the inauguration of 300-tree planting programme in the Galle District.

President Rajapaksa also called on the Chief Incumbent of the Viharaya and received his blessings.

On the recommendation of the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA), government bodies which have achieved a high performance level in the year 2018 were presented with awards at the Parliamentary Complex, today (28) under the patronage of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Of the 844 institutions of State, Provincial Councils and Local Government that have been evaluated, 109 institutions were finalized to be awarded. They were presented with 55, 23 and 31, Gold and Silver awards and certificates of commendation respectively. Gold awards for the state institutes with excellent performance were given away by President Rajapaksa himself.

During his speech, the President stated that the objective of the Committee on Public Accounts is not to impose legal restraints on the state officials. The President advised to evaluate all the institutes which come under the purview of financial inspection of the Parliament in the future. President Rajapaksa instructed the officials to update the questionnaire used to evaluate the institutes and pointed out the importance of using the procedures adopted  by the private sector in their administration as a model.

‘The government is committed to expedite as well as to expand the process of management review. A number of protesting groups from state institutions daily hold agitations in front of the Presidential Secretariat. As a result of this situation, the staff of the Presidential Secretariat has to devote more time to these agitators than performing their duties. In the resort relevant ministries should take the responsibility for making room for those demonstrations’, the President added.

The Parliament has the full control over the public funds, the President said. The media report cases regarding financial mismanagement found in certain government institutions. President Rajapaksa further said that the Committee on Public Accounts has an important role to play in revealing whether the state assets are safeguarded against frauds occurring in excess of the expenditure approved by the Parliament.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Minister Johnston Fernando, Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts, State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Members of Parliament Sisira Jayakody, Dulip Wijesekara, Secretary-General of Parliament,  Dhammika Dasanayake, Auditor General, Secretaries to the Ministries, Heads of Departments and Government Officials were present on the occasion.

43rd Session of the Human Rights Council – High Level Segment Statement by Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Foreign Relations

26 February 2020

Madam President

Madam High Commissioner

Ladies and gentlemen,

As this Council is aware, in November 2019, the people of Sri Lanka gave a resounding mandate to President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, to pursue a policy framework aimed at achieving the “four-fold outcome of a productive citizenry; a contented family, a disciplined, a just society and a prosperous nation”. It is envisaged to achieve sustainable development and peace in the country, firmly anchored in safeguarding “national security without compromising the democratic space available to our people”.

It was over a decade ago, on 18 May 2009, that Sri Lanka defeated LTTE terrorism militarily, bringing to an end three decades of conflict and suffering. The end of the brutal conflict advanced, secured and protected one of the fundamental human rights - the ‘right to life’ for all Sri Lankans- Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslims and others. I would like to state with pride that since May 2009, not a bullet has been fired in the name of separatist terrorism in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka never had any illusion that the end of the conflict against the LTTE terrorists, will overnight convert to a lasting peace. Although Sri Lanka was not a case of nation building, like many conflict situations that this Council is dealing with, we were mindful that Sri Lanka needed certain reviews and strengthening of existing structures, as part of a sustainable peace and reconciliation programme.

The government led by the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, of which the current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, initiated a sustainable reconciliation process in Sri Lanka to bring about ‘healing and peace building’, taking due cognizance of the ground realities at that time. This was viewed as an incremental and inclusive process, as it had taken even better-resourced countries several decades to address and achieve.

Madam President,

As at December 2014, at the point the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government, of which I was a member, was concluding its term, we had made considerable progress in;

-       de-mining

-       resettlement

-       return of land used by the security forces

-       reduction of military presence in the former conflict areas,

-       rehabilitation and reintegration of ex- LTTE combatants including child soldiers,

-       rapid infrastructure development

-       restoration of the right to franchise in the former conflict affected areas, and

-       establishment of domestic mechanisms to address issues related to accountability, rule of law and human rights

Notwithstanding these inclusive and locally designed measures, undertaken carrying along the people of Sri Lanka, a group of UNHRC members, failing to appreciate the GoSL’s endeavors in defeating terrorism and bringing about stability, humanitarian relief and lasting peace through a carefully balanced reconciliation process, moved consecutive country-specific resolutions at the UN HRC on Sri Lanka in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Madam President,

The previous government in January 2015 jettisoned this home-grown reconciliation process which was bearing fruit. In an unprecedented move in the annals of the Human Rights Council, and contrary to Sri Lanka’s stance on country specific resolutions, the government at the time co-sponsored the UNHRC resolution 30/1 on Sri Lanka.

Substantively, the previous government “noted with appreciation”, the much flawed OISL Report, which was used as the basis not only for Resolution 30/1, but also to unjustly vilify the heroic Sri Lankan security forces, possibly the only national security establishment that defeated terrorism in recent times. This was despite there being an abundance of evidence to the contrary, contained in;

- domestic reports such as the LLRC and the ‘Paranagama Commission’

- information presented before the UK House of Lords by Lord Naseby,

  challenging among other things the vastly exaggerated civilian casualty figures,

- other reports from the UN and international agencies including the ICRC

- as well as exposed diplomatic cables.

Constitutionally, the resolution seeks to cast upon Sri Lanka obligations that cannot be carried out within its constitutional framework and it infringes the sovereignty of people of Sri Lanka and violates the basic structure of the Constitution.  This is another factor that has prompted Sri Lanka to reconsider its position on co-sponsorship.

Procedurally, in co-sponsoring Resolution 30/1, the previous Government violated all democratic principles of governance.

-       it declared support for the resolution even before the draft text was presented

-       it sought no Cabinet approval to bind the country to deliver on the dictates of an international body.

-       there was no reference to the Parliament on the process, undertakings and repercussions of such co-sponsorship.

-       more importantly the Resolution itself included provisions which are undeliverable due to its inherent illegality, being in violation of the constitution

the supreme law of the country.

-       it also overruled the reservations expressed by professional diplomats, academia, media and the general public.

-       the then President Maithripala Sirisena also stated that he was not consulted on the matter at that time.

-       It remains to date a blot on the sovereignty and dignity of Sri Lanka.

The commitments made, bound the country to carry out this experiment, which was impractical, unconstitutional and undeliverable, despite strong opposition and evidence that many of the undertakings couldn’t be carried out, merely to please a few countries.

In terms of reputational damage, it eroded Sri Lankans’ trust in the international system and the credibility of Sri Lanka as a whole in the eyes of the international community. This irresponsible action also damaged long nurtured regional relationships and Non-Aligned as well as South Asian solidarity. The deliberate polarization it sought to cause through trade-offs that resulted in Sri Lanka’s foreign policy being reduced to a ‘zero-sum game’, made my country a ‘pawn’ on the chess board of global politics, and unnecessarily drew Sri Lanka away from its traditional neutrality.

Most seriously, it is seen that the dictated changes in the country pursuant to 30/1, undermined the national interest and compromised national security, including weakening national intelligence operations and related safeguards, which are deemed to have contributed to the lapses that resulted in the Easter Sunday attacks in April 2019, which targeted churches and hotels, resulting in loss of life, including those of foreign nationals, which poses challenges to our government to restore national security.

It is ironic that, in March 2019, the previous government which co-sponsored Resolution 30/1 in October 2015, began the process of dismantling its dictates through the statement, made in this Council by my predecessor, which acknowledged the very real constraints that had been ignored 4 years before at the time of co-sponsoring this resolution. That statement sought to qualify the parameters of co-sponsorship of the Resolution. It questioned;

-       the Resolution 30/1’s characterization of the nature of the conflict and the estimated number of deaths,

-       pushed back on the alleged culpability of the security forces,

-       curtailed the effect of security sector reform demanded

-       asserted that the Sri Lanka Constitution precludes involvement of foreign judges and prosecutors in the judicial mechanism proposed.

-       Notwithstanding this admission, the former Government continued its co-sponsorship, which fully supported the operationalization of Resolution 30/1. 

           

With the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with an overwhelming majority, the people of Sri Lanka have given a clear signal for their wish for a different path forward for the country. As President Rajapaksa stated in his address at the 72nd Commemoration of Independence of Sri Lanka, “We will always defend the right of every Sri Lankan citizen to participate in the political and governance processes through his or her elected representatives”.

According to the wishes of the people of Sri Lanka, while following a non-aligned, neutral foreign policy, our government is committed to examining issues afresh, to forge ahead with its agenda for ‘prosperity through security and development’, and to find home-grown solutions to overcome contemporary challenges in the best interest of all Sri Lankans.

It is in this context that I wish to place on record, Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from co-sponsorship of Resolution 40/1 on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ which also incorporates and builds on preceding Resolutions 30/1 of October 2015 and 34/1 of March 2017.

Madam President,

Notwithstanding withdrawing from co-sponsorship of this Resolution, Sri Lanka remains committed to achieving the goals set by the people of Sri Lanka on accountability and human rights, towards sustainable peace and reconciliation. To this end;

Firstly, the Government of Sri Lanka declares its commitment to achieve sustainable peace through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process, including through the appropriate adaptation of existing mechanisms, in line with the Government’s policy framework. This would comprise the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) headed by a Justice of the Supreme Court, to review the reports of previous Sri Lankan COIs which investigated alleged violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL), to assess the status of implementation of their recommendations and to propose deliverable measures to implement them keeping in line with the new Government’s policy. 

Secondly, the Government will also address other outstanding concerns and introduce institutional reforms where necessary, in a manner consistent with Sri Lanka’s commitments, including the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (SDGs). We will implement policies rooted in the Government’s commitment to the people by advancing individual and collective rights and protections under the law, ensuring justice and reconciliation and addressing the concerns of vulnerable sections of society. A discussion has already been held between the President and the UN Resident Coordinator where it has been agreed to connect the relevant UN agencies to help the Government of Sri Lanka in the implementation of the SDGs.

Thirdly, Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.

Finally, in conjunction with all members of the UN, Sri Lanka will seek to work towards the closure of the Resolution.

Madam President,

No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multicultural people of Sri Lanka, closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people. It is therefore our strong conviction that the aforementioned actions within the framework of Sri Lanka’s domestic priorities and policies, are not only realistic but also deliverable.

We call upon all stakeholders, within and outside this august body, to cooperate with  Sri Lanka, in this endeavor.

May I conclude quoting the words of Lord Buddha,

Siyalu sathwayo niduk wethwa, nirogee wethwa, suwapath wethwa”.

May all beings be safe

May all beings be free from suffering,

May all beings be well and happy.

Thank you.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa instructed officials to take measures to create an environment for the consumers to purchase fish at reasonable price while protecting the fisheries industry.

President issued this directive during a meeting convened to discuss matters related to multi-day fishing boat owners held at the Presidential Secretariat today (26).

While emphasizing the importance of involving both the exporter as well as boat owners when planning new measures aimed at an export oriented market the President advised the officials to take immediate steps to prevent illegal fishing.

Representatives of fisheries societies said that the export companies only purchase fish caught by vessels owned by the latter. Since they are engaged only in export- targeted fishing, the non-availability of an adequate market for their harvest is a pressing issue, they said.

President advised officials to find both short and long term solutions to these issues and to involve exporters as well as boats owners in future endeavours. President Rajapaksa instructed the Chairman of the Fisheries Corporation to mediate to purchase the fishing harvest of the multi-day fishing boat owners as a short – term measure.

Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Douglas Devananda, State Ministers Sanath Nishantha, Kanchana Wijesekara, Secretary to the President Dr. P. B. Jayasundara, Secretary to the Treasury and the Ministry of Finance S. R. Attygalle, Secretary to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource R. M. I. Ratnayake and several other officials were present at the discussion.

The first of the series of District Coordinating Committee Meetings was held in Rajagiri Len Viharaya, Homadola, Udugama in the Galle District today (27) under the patronage of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

A large number of issues including urban and rural economic development, disaster management and tourism industry were discussed during the meeting held at one of the poorest villages in the Galle district. Special attention was drawn to political, social and economic problems faced by the people in the area.

President Rajapaksa on his way to the venue of the meeting spoke to the people gathered on the both sides of the road to know what problems they were facing. They complained about negative environmental impact of palm cultivation which had resulted in the scarcity of water in villages. Considering the concerns of the people, President Rajapaksa instructed the officials to discontinue the cultivation of palm.

People should be encouraged to consume more and more coconut oil. This will eventually help development of the coconut cultivation as well. Although, many rubber products manufacturing plants have been started, the supply of materials is not sufficient. President directed officials to take steps to promote rubber as a cash crop cultivation. Attention was also drawn to limit the import of rubber.

The political representatives in the area highlighted the shortage of English teachers in schools in the area. President advised to fill all the existing vacancies immediately and to regularize the recruitment of more teachers for Science and Mathematics subjects.

The shortage of drinking water in several areas including Neluwa, Nagoda and Udugama was also discussed at length. President said to complete community and other water projects which are currently underway by providing necessary funds.

The issue of solid waste management was also one of the major topics of the discussion. The President instructed the Local Government Authorities to assist in the cleansing projects while appraising the public at the local level.

During the meeting attention was also paid to improve the healthcare facilities in rural medical centers. The President instructed the health authorities to provide adequate facilities to the people including the appointment of required number of doctors and nursing staff to those centers.  He pointed out that this would greatly reduce the overcrowding in hospitals located in Colombo and other major cities.

Attention was also paid to the construction of rural roads and bridges, flood control systems  in the Galle district and to provide speedy solutions for the issues arising in the process of urban development.

Galle District occupies a special place in the tourism industry of the country. President Rajapaksa instructed the officials to appraise the relevant authorities regarding the importance of the protecting the tourists visiting beaches in Hikkaduwa. It has also been decided to establish a tourist police station in Unawatuna. Steps must be taken to identify the problems related to the fisheries harbours in the district with the aim of uplifting the fishing industry under the purview of relevant ministries. The President advised the officials of the respective ministries to take immediate action to solve the identified problems of the people.

Some of the issues raised at today’s District Development Committee meeting were immediately solved. These included providing a water bowser to the Udugama Hospital, appointing Principals to schools where there are no Principals and providing funds for small scale water supply projects.

Cabinet and State Ministers, Secretary to the President, Dr. P.B. Jayasundara, Secretary to the Prime Minister Gamini Senerath and other Ministry Secretaries and officials were present at the District Coordinating Committee meeting headed by Galle District Leader Minister Ramesh Pathirana.

According to a concept of the President a tree planting programme was also initiated with the objective of minimizing environmental pollution in parallel to the District Committee Meetings. The President planted a tree in the temple premises to mark the inauguration of 300-tree planting programme in the Galle District.

The President who attended the meeting called on the Chief Incumbent of the Viharaya and received his blessings.

Page 10 of 39

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