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The Conservator General of Forests Mr. K.M.A Bandara said that the media reports implying that Sri Lanka’s forest cover has decreased to 16% are false.
He said this in response to a query made regarding the media report on the instructions of President’s Secretary Mr. Saman Ekanayake. The Presidential Secretariat had focussed its attention regarding these reports published in the media.
The assessment of forest cover is carried out every five years and the census conducted in 2020 is scheduled to be completed in June this year. According to the census conducted in 2015, the natural forests of Sri Lanka stood at 29.15% (1,912,970 hectares) of the total land extent.
The Conservator General of Forests also said that although there has been some reduction in the amount of forests due to various development activities and other human activities in the country, there has definitely been no decrease in the amount of forests up to 16% as stated in the media reports.
According to media reports, if the forest area in Sri Lanka is 16% of the total land extent, then the existing forest area in the country should be 1,040,000 hectares. This means that 872,970 hectares of forests should have been destroyed during the seven years from 2015, which is 124,710 hectares per year and 341 hectares of forest destruction per day.
He also said that the method used to assess the forests should have been described in the presentation of data on forests. Basic points such as the definition of forests, the method of estimating forest size, and the estimation of forest size should have been mentioned in the report. However, there is no source from which the relevant data was obtained in the media reports suggesting that the forest cover had decreased.
The Conservator General further stated that if there is widespread forest destruction, as reported in the media, it should have been observed by the Department of Forest, the Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Sri Lanka Police, and the Sri Lanka Air Force, which monitors forests from the air. However, such extensive forest destruction has not been reported to any of these institutions. He also stated that the Forest Department is updating forest maps and that no such forest destruction was observed during those activities.
 

 
President invites all government employees during the commencement of duties for the new year.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that no one can shirk their responsibilities for the country in the year 2023, which is a crucial year for the Sri Lankan economy, and invited all public servants to dedicate themselves towards making Sri Lanka a prosperous nation in the New Year.
He extended this invitation to the Presidential Secretariat staff during the oath-taking ceremony for the New Year 2023 before commencing their duties this morning (02).
President Wickremesinghe hoisted the National Flag marking the commencement of duties in the New Year, and all staff members of the
Presidential Secretariat took the public service pledge together.
Thereafter, the President joined the staff members for a tea party.
The President also extended his best wishes to the staff for the New Year.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe further said, “I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.
Five and a half months ago, we took over a historic task at this office. During those five and a half months, we took steps to establish normalcy in the country at a time when the government had collapsed and the economy had also collapsed. However, not all our economic problems are over yet. Nevertheless, today we have the ability to provide fuel, gas, foodstuff and fertilizer as required.
I must first extend my gratitude to all those who assisted us during these five and a half months. However, our task is not over yet. The most crucial year is 2023. We have to move forward by implementing the debt-restructuring program and freeing our country from the debt burden.
Moreover, we have to build an economy that can compete with the new world. The opinion of the majority is that there is a need for a change in the political system of this country. We have to fulfil both these things.
We also need to come up with a new method that can solve the problems of today’s political system. We need greater unity among us than last year.
We look at this government as a sort of mechanism. This is not divided into several programs by ministries. All work as sub-parts of the same mechanism. Therefore, there can be no competition or tug of war between anyone and no one can put a limit to their responsibilities.
All of you should be bound to implement the basic policies of the country. The core of the program is the President’s Office, as well as the Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister’s Office. It is from these institutions that these activities will be carried out.
Each person’s duties cannot be limited to 08 hours a day and 05 days a week. Let’s all work with commitment. By the end of 2023, I hope to take this country forward with the support of all of you and restore normalcy.”
Member of Parliament Vajira Abeywardena, President’s Senior Adviser on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayake, President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake and senior officers of the Presidential Secretariat and all staff members were also present on this occasion.

 
We are looking at the New Year 2023 after having undergone the bleakest of times, immense hardships, as well as the uncertainties and hopelessness of the last year. I understand the great burdens that are placed on all of us and the setbacks that a majority of us have suffered due to the country’s abject economic collapse. Yet I believe that we have already gone through the worst of these times. I sincerely appreciate all of you who are committed to our country first and I thank you for your patience and courage as we took the critical, initial steps to stabilise the economy.
Indeed, 2023 will be a critical year in which we plan to turn around the economy.
2023 is also the 75th year of independence from the British Empire. Looking back, it is obvious that we have not done as well as other ex-colonies. This is why the youth of our country are calling for a system change – especially at this juncture. This cannot be ignored.
Therefore, we must boldly implement the proposed social, economic and political reforms to build a prosperous and productive Sri Lanka in the coming decade.
I wish all of you a happy and peaceful new year!

Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena presenting the ‘Asidisi’ Media Scholarship to a journalist at the Scholarship Awards Ceremony held at the auditorium of the Mass Media Ministry yesterday. Mass Media Ministry Secretary and Lake House Chairman Anusha Palpita was also present on this occasion. The ‘Asidisi’ Media Scholarships are awarded to selected journalists annually as a non-refundable financial grant by the Mass Media Ministry for them to follow academic courses which are related to the journalistic career with the objective of equipping all journalists with the knowledge, skills and attitudes. Picture by Gayan Pushpika

Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena yesterday said that the Chartered Institute for Journalists will be set up next year aiming to strengthen the professionalism of journalists.

He added that the media persons have been rendering enormous service to society and it is the government’s duty to strengthen journalists with knowledge.

Speaking at the presentation of Asidisi scholarship scheme for journalists at the Media Ministry premises yesterday, the Minister added that a journalist with humane values should be created

“The Media Ministry has made an investment by implementing this scholarship for journalists which cannot be accessed in financial terms. A journalist should have in depth knowledge on all areas if he wants to succeed,” he said.

The Minister added that the country has seen vast deterioration in terms of moral and cultural values.

The Minister added that people of all communities should have a freedom to have a political view of their choice. “That freedom was denied in the country. Every journalist should have humane qualities. Former Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa brought this Asidisi Scholarship concept. He deserves the credit for initiating this concept”, the Minister said.

The Minister added that the Information Technology, Bio Technology and Engineering Technology are becoming popular in the country.

Mass Media Ministry Secretary and Lake House Chairman Anusha Palpita said that this scholarship scheme was implemented by former Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa when he was the Media Minister.

“Whichever the government in power, this programme has been continuing and more and more journalists were benefitted by this programme, he said.

Over 980 journalists have been granted this scholarship so far and the 49 journalists are also given scholarship for this year too, Palpita said.

“Asidisi” Scholarship Program annually organized by the Ministry of Mass Media with the objective of equipping all journalists with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to establish the art of professional journalism, would have its Scholarship Awarding Ceremony this time on Wednesday, December 21, 2022 at 09:00 a.m. at the auditorium of the Ministry of Mass Media. With the chief participation of Dr. Bandula Gunawardena, Hon. Minister of Mass Media and participation of Mr. Anusha Palpita the Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media.

The purpose of this project is to create environment for journalists to improve their skills via training courses and encouraging them to cope up with the challenges in the twenty first century.

Journalists, Freelance Journalists, Provincial Journalists Web Journalists and Media Technicians within the ages of 18-55 who have obtained the Identity Card issued by the Department of Government Information and have completed three years of full- time or part- time service in recognized electronic and print media institutions in the island would be awarded with this scholarship on non-refundable basis.

A maximum amount of two hundred thousand rupees (200,000.00) for undergraduate and postgraduate courses or one hundred thousand rupees (100,000.00) for short or long term certificate courses, diplomas and advanced diploma courses would be offered under this scholarship program. Scholarship recipients can take media related courses conducted by recognized universities and higher educational training institutions.

Under this scheme of scholarship, the journalists have the opportunity to reap its benefits twice without paying any amount of money and the journalists who have successfully completed the course can apply for the second chance in five years after being qualified for the 1st time.            

Journalists who are eligible for the scholarship will be paid 50% of the course fee at the beginning of the course as the first installment, 25% of the remaining 50% as the second installment and the remaining 25% at the submission of the certificate after the successful completion of the course. 

The beneficiaries were selected after interviewing the applicants by a committee elected by the Secretary to the Mass Media Ministry.

Among the journalists who had applied for the scholarship this time, the Ministry of Mass Media has taken steps to offer this scholarship to everyone who has fulfilled the qualifications. 

 
President Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed that he will definitely work towards resurrecting the country from bankruptcy and stressed that he will build an economy that is free from debt and create a stable economy that is able to pay its debts.
He said during the opening of the Toyota Lanka fulfilment Centre in Mahara, Kadawatha today (14), coinciding with 70 years of Japan-Sri Lanka relations.
The President said that today the country has become bankrupt due to the failure to change the economic program after the war, but said that he expects to increase the investment opportunities and move the economy forward by next year.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized the need for an institutional system that can revive the country’s economy and bring investment opportunities to the country and said that steps will be taken to create an economic corporation by merging the Investment Promotion Division of the Sri Lanka Board of Investment and the Export Development Board.
The President further said,
“Vietnam’s economy today is like a Formula One racing car. Our economy is still like a three-wheeler. So how do we go about racing in Singapore? Other countries have Formula One racing cars. How can we go and compete in a three-wheeler? This is sufficient to meet the day-to-day traveling of the people. There is no issue. I say again that this is good. But, it does not suit the race. How can we win? If we are to win, we must also find ourselves a racing car. It should have a good engine. This means we must have a strong economy. This is the economy that were are in the process of making.
We are constructing that engine by creating an open economy in this country. This racing car is made to compete with the world by creating a competitive export economy. I believe you all have the ability to win.
First of all, we need to create a digital economy in the country, an environmentally friendly economy, as well as a socially just economy, and a very competitive export economy. This restructuring is done for that. People who are used to the old ways may be against this. But we have to go on a new path. Tell me, do you want to go in a racing car or a bicycle? Because the future belongs to all of you.
The president, unveiled the plaque and declared open the Toyota fulfilment centre and also went on an inspection tour.
Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Staff to the President Sagala Ratnayake, Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Mizukoshi Hideaki, Chairman of Toyota Lanka Company Sachio Yotsukura and a group of staff members of Toyota Lanka Company attended the event.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the country has had to face adverse repercussions today due to the short sighted popular decisions taken in the past and unpopular decisions have had to be taken for the future prospects of the country.

The President made this observation yesterday (08) taking part in the Third Reading debate of the Budget proposals for the financial year 2023. He said further that a Parliamentary Select Committee will be established on a resolution by the Parliament to look into those who led the economy to bankruptcy with their incorrect fiscal policies.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe further said; “Some members discussed the Mahaweli lands. The lands of the state were under the Land Commissioner until 1977. Due to the rapid development, some of the urban and rural lands were brought under the Urban Development Authority, Mahaweli Authority, and several other corporations. But now, no one knows as to where those lands are or what they are doing with them.

“Hence, the Government is concerned to find out as to where the Government lands are, and to whom they have been given. Although this is done through the Divisional Secretary, he cannot issue lands as he wishes and a committee will be appointed in this connection. The government hopes to cancel all those grants of lands. Some spoke against taking over Mahaweli lands but they were all under the Land Commissioner earlier. By now people have been settled in most of the lands under those institutions. But the rest have not been handed over to the Land Ministry by the Agriculture Ministry. Some institutions are still in the process of settling the people in those lands. We don’t have any issue with them. They can continue to develop them and settle people in them.

“However the Government owned lands in Mahaweli B, C and H zones and lands in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa should be identified and made available for the public to use. Although agriculture is developed by both Mahaweli Authority and Agriculture Ministry, so far we have not been able to exceed the harvest above 6 Mt of paddy per hectare. That is the government’s concern and nobody needs to worry about this Government’s move. In addition, in accordance with the Education Minister’s request, we agreed to establish nongovernmental universities. Hence when we meet on 12 and 13, let’s discuss this matter with the former education ministers and other MPs and let’s reach a decision by next January. Thereafter we can establish those universities. I would like to request the Speaker, as if we discussed earlier to appoint five youth to each Ministerial Consultative Committee, we can soon finalise the criteria of selecting them without delay. If we delayed it, the youth would inquire as to what has happened to it.

“After the discussions with China, we can go to the next step if we handle the economy somehow or other now with difficulty. If we can’t show the profits in such a situation we also suffer losses, nobody outside would aid us. The Prime Minister and I discussed this matter and we have to make decisions which are not popular for the sake of the country. The other countries at a time made those decisions not popular but were beneficial to their countries. We have not increased the electricity bills since 2013 and all of us are responsible for the loss. Now what are we going to do? If you have a deficit of Rs. 400 billion, what are you going to do? There are only 03 options: print money, put on VAT or charge directly.

Another matter is the Banks’ issue. If the people do not settle loans, the banks will have to auction their property. But the issue is that the people too have no money to buy such property. Therefore, we are discussing with the IMF to solve these issues. I think we all have to get together and think how this financial sector is to be lifted. We can blame each other. I can say I am not responsible. But the fact is that we can’t have the banks collapsing. So we have to go back to banking. That’s why; I want the Banking Oversight Committee”.

Responding to a query made by parliamentarians as to who drove the country to such a bankruptcy and what is the punishment for them , President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that a Parliamentary Select Committee will be established on a resolution by the Parliament to look into it.

 

Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena says that the Government is not ready to suppress any media. The Minister of Mass Media said this yesterday (28) while joining the Debate on the Expenditure Head of the Ministry of Mass Media.

The Minister of Mass Media said that the Government is also working to raise the autonomy and professional status of journalists by introducing a programme of creating a vibrant media culture.

The Media Minister emphasized that the media has to play the key role in re-establishing   the country’s image which had been badly tarnished in the international arena due to the violence which erupted across Sri Lanka after months of protests.

The violence erupted after the “Aragalaya” (Struggle) had badly affected the country’s image.

The activities that took place during the last struggle, such as the blocking of roads, absence of Parliamentary proceedings and asking for ID cards even from foreigners who came to visit this country were on the front pages of the foreign media through various media including social media. Minister Dr. Gunawardena said that the country’s image has been greatly damaged due to this reason. It is not appropriate for this country to be repeatedly advertised in the world as a country with brutal people.

Accordingly, social media or any media should act in a manner that does not tarnish the country’s image

He further said that he will ensure that the work in his Ministry is carried out in a transparent manner without any fraud or corruption.

 
Government’s intention was to resume the negotiations on free trade agreements said Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake.
It is the vision of the President that Sri Lanka will integrate with the global value chains and with the largest economies in South Asia and East Asia and then expand to the east region linking to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Further, the Secretary to the President invited private sector stakeholders to creatively engage in this development initiative as they are the ultimate beneficiaries.
He made these observations during an awareness session on the resumption of negotiations of free trade agreements held for Trade Chambers and Industry Advisory Committees at the Finance Ministry on November (16).
Secretary to the Treasury, Secretaries of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industries, and the members of the National Trade Negotiation Committee also participated.
The contours of Global trade have been significantly changed in recent years by bringing regional and global production networks as driving factors of international trade where Sri Lanka has not yet been engaged to tap the potential. Both the growth of supply capacity and the expansion of market access are therefore, recognized as essential for revitalizing the domestic economy.
Towards this end, the government intends to operationalize the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore and has taken steps to resume the negotiations of free trade agreements with India, China and Thailand where foreign direct investment can be largely attracted to channel the benefits to the goods and services trade through the Investment Trade nexus.
A Trade Negotiation Committee has already been appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers to reinvigorate the negotiations and these agreements will ultimately pave the path to gaining membership of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which consists of 30% of the world’s GDP, trade and population.
During his remarks, Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardhana emphasized the importance of leveraging the non-debt creating inflows and diversification of export products as well as markets.
He also mentioned the budget proposal- 2023 of establishing the International Trade Office (ITO) which will deal with all international trade negotiations in the future. The Treasury Secretary also emphasized the necessity of engagement with chambers and other stakeholders during the negotiation process.
The Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mrs. Aruni Wijewardana highlighted that foreign missions and diplomatic channels have fully prepared to facilitate these trade negotiations. According to the government plan, once the proposed institutional mechanism is properly established the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will bear the mandate of international trade negotiations.
The private sector representatives engaged in the session with great enthusiasm and stressed in detail the necessity of giving the highest consideration to their offensive and defensive interests.
They also made a request to focus on other non-tariff barriers such as certain quota restrictions, various issues on laboratory facilities for testing standards, not having mutual standards recognition agreements etc. that are faced by the exporters, through these agreements while removing duties on our exports.
During this kick-off session of the stakeholder consultations, the National Trade Negotiation Committee gave the assurance of conducting broad dialogue with the private sector throughout the negotiations through the responsible government institutions.

 
President Ranil Wickremesinghe assured to provide the necessary assistance to expand the scouting movement by increasing its membership to 200,000 covering all nine provinces by 2024.
The President also mentioned that he would seek the support of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth Affairs for this purpose.
The Sri Lanka Scout Association officially conferred the title of Chief Scout to President Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning (21) at the President’s Office, where he made these comments.
The Scout Commissioner, Attorney-at-Law Janaprith Fernando, commissioned and presented the Scout Scarf and the appointment certificate to President Ranil Wickremesinghe.
A report on the progress of the Scout Movement was also presented to the President.
Speaking at this occasion the President further stated that he expects to get the full support of the Scout Movement for the 75th Independence Celebration.
President Wickremesinghe invited the Scout Movement to join the environment-related programmes which are being held with the intervention of the President’s Office and headed by President’s Adviser on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardena.
The commemorative medal for the 60th anniversary of the Homagama District Branch affiliated to the Sri Lanka Scout Association was presented to the President by Girl Scout Potaka Thitulu Kathya. The related commemorative souvenir was also presented to the President.
Deputy Chief Commissioner M.S.S. Muheed, Executive Committee Chairman Ransiri Perera and other officers including Homagama District Scout Commissioner Dr. Anil Perera, New District Commissioner K. A. Chandrapadma, Assistant District Commissioner Suranga Handapangoda and others participated in this event.

The Budget for 2023 is aimed at creating a modern economy targeting the country’s youth and looking to go beyond the deeply entrenched mentality of a welfare economy, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said delivering the Budget 2023 in Parliament yesterday afternoon.

Reminiscing the nineteen fifties, Lee Kuan Yew once mentioned the following. In Singapore I followed the hard,but right path. Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike followed the popular path.

There is no future for the youth in country by continuing on this popular path. There is no prosperity for the country by giving concessions while being in debt to others. So, let’s

get out of this welfare mentality now. Let’s change our thinking patterns, the President said.

“Accordingly, I request all of you and youth to actively and proactively contribute to the effort of re-raising the country through a new economic foundation”, he noted.

A glimmer of hope on emerging from the economic abyss is currently visible as a result of the strenuous and difficult actions we have adopted during the past few months,President Wickremesinghe said.

“After the era of waiting in queues for days and protesting in various occupied places, our sufferings have been eased to some extent and we have reached an era where our peace of mind is much settled,”he said. During a special Cabinet Meeting held yesterday morning at the Presidential Secretariat under the auspices of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Cabinet of Ministers

granted approval for the 2023 Budget. President Wickremesinghe arrived in Parliament at around 1.20 pm yesterday to deliver the Budget 2023 speech “Towards a New Beginning Approach”. He commenced delivering the Second Reading of the 2023 Appropriation Bill at around 1.32pm.

In a notable departure from traditional budgets that focus on price and wage revisions, Budget 2023 is focused on a modern economy that isn’t limited to International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommendations, Wickremesinghe said presenting the budget to parliament on Monday November 14.

President Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the Finance,Economic Stabilization and National Policies Minister said the country is in debt because of the past budgets’ pre-occupation with welfare measures.

“The budget is not limited to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommendations. We will move to create a modern economy,” the President told Parliament.

He said the Budget will aim at increasing government revenue to 15 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 from 8.3 percent at the end of 2021.

The President further said that the negotiations with the IMF are currently in progress. “We are in dialogue with India and China on debt restructuring. We are confident that these discussions will lead to positive outcomes.”he said.

He further said that the inflation could be controlled to some extent due to the actions taken in the recent past. Similarly, the rupee is strengthening and the government expects to sustain these developments.

President Wickremesinghe said that he is confident that by moving along the same path, we will be able to stabilise the economy within the next year.

“But we cannot be satisfied with that. We must start a new journey” he added. Today, our country has several main revenue generating sectors. One is the plantation economy. Next is Free Trade Zones. Garment industry, Tourism and foreign employment. Looking at those, after Independence, we have been able to create only a few avenues for the country to earn foreign income. Beyond that, why have we

 

not yet been able to create large-scale foreign income generating sectors? This is something we should think about carefully, said the President.

“Is the long-term development of a country based on popular decisions? Or the right decisions?,”he questioned.

In many cases, popular decisions were taken instead of correct decisions in our country. Even today many people try to make popular decisions.

What was the result of this popular ruling tradition? To build a relief economy and a relief mentality across the country. People are used to getting concessions.

Governments do not work to create opportunities forpeople to develop. Only to provide relief.

Delivering the Budget Speech, the President invited all Sri Lankans to think anew and create innovative approaches to move the country forward. Concluding the Budget Speech, President Wickremesinghe said; “I request all of you to join and support the journey of bringing positive

change in the country through these budget proposals.We are taking these suggestions as background, let’s prepare a new economic base. Let’s come to a common consensus and create a national economic policy framework. Let’s implement that policy framework for the next 25 years.

Every five years we can review our progress. Through such a review, we get the opportunity to further develop the policies that can make our journey towards our goal successful. “I have now provided this parliament with the necessary background to contribute to this journey. On one side, parliamentary sectoral committees. On the other hand, the National Assembly represents the Parliament. In addition, we have proposed several committees on public finance

and financial services. As I recently drew the attention of the Speaker,”. The Parliament has not fully formed these committees yet.

The sectoral committees can play a big role when the budget proposals that I have presented are implemented through government officials. The finance committees can effectively intervene in the exercise of reducing public expenditure.

“Therefore, I request this parliament to implement all those committees as soon as possible. Then we can create the space to initiate a new journey with a new guise.

Let’s make the best use of that space and join together to create a better future for our true national resource, our youth,” he said.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the Minister of Finance will present the 2023 budget to Parliament tomorrow (14) aimed at creating long-term, stable economic growth.

The 2023 budget has given special attention to the sectors of the capital market, export market, labour market, and digital economy and it is expected to achieve the budget targets through the social market economy.
This year's budget will focus more on providing social welfare benefits to the people who need them most and creating a policy environment to build the private sector as the driving force of the country's economy.

Through the 2023 budget, the process of building a new economy tailored for the new world has been initiated aimed at creating a program to ensure a decent country for the youth.

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Latest News

Media reports implying that Sri Lanka’s forest cover has reduced to 16%, false – Conservator General of Forests.

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The Conservator General of Forests Mr. K.M.A Bandara said that the media reports implying…

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Chartered Institute for Journalists will be set up next year - Minister

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“Asidisi” Media Scholarship Awarding 2021-2022

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No suppression of media - Dr. Bandula

Nov 29, 2022
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Government’s attention to resume negotiations on free trade agreements.

Nov 22, 2022
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