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Most Venerable Maha Sangha and the clergy, my fellow citizens, all Sri Lankans abroad, dear children,
Today, I will not be delivering a traditional Independence Day statement. I am not going to dwell on the freedom we gained. While honouring those who were dedicated and worked hard for the country’s freedom, including the late Mr. D.S. Senanayake, I will focus on regaining the freedom that we have lost today.
Around 75 years ago, the esteemed ‘London Times’ newspaper carried an editorial stating that “It is our desire to see Sri Lanka become a Switzerland in the East, very soon.”
They had not expressed a similar vision for any other country in the East.
However, what has happened to us today?
Today, we are facing an unprecedented economic crisis, hitherto never experienced.
Why have we to face such a situation? Who is responsible for such?
Let’s be truthful. All of us are more or less responsible for this situation. None of us can point fingers and blame each other.
We made mistakes from the beginning. Efforts were made to rectify those mistakes, though it was not possible to correct them completely.
The policy followed by the late Mr. D.S. Senanayake in securing the country’s freedom was to unite all Sri Lankans. He believed that everyone, be it Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher, should forge ahead as Sri Lankans.
However, after independence we divided in terms of race, religion and region. We were divided to a point of developing suspicion and animosity against each other. Various groups exploited this division to gain power and created further rifts among the people. Instead of rejecting such groups, we accorded power to these very same groups.
In politics, lies were spread instead of the truth. Politicians who spoke the truth were rejected by the people. Those who pointed out the real situation of the country and sought related remedies were hardly given a place. Yet, those who satisfied people with their lies gained greater acceptance.
We got trapped in a consensual political culture. Our characteristic was to be depended on borrowed resources and we borrowed even more.
We adopted the notion that, “The government is a spring of resources”. Many were of the view that the duty of the rulers was to distribute the various resources obtained from that spring, among the people. Accordingly, job opportunities were provided and various goods and equipment were also distributed. Cash was also made available. In most instances, we did not vote on behalf of the country. Instead we voted for a candidate in order to receive a job, to gain admission to a school for our children and to have a tender passed etc. We worked for political candidates expecting personal favours in return.
Most of us contested not for the country, but for personal power, for greater perks and to earn a little more.
We were trapped in promises and endured slogans which finally resulted in the gradual collapse of the country’s economy. We borrowed increasingly to fulfil election pledges and proved the slogans shouted at the protests were correct.
We borrowed more for consumption rather than for investment. However, according to the Buddhist Philosophy one should take loans for investment purposes and not consumption. While we are talking of Buddhism, our action is not in keeping with the Buddha’s teachings.
Lee Kuan Yew, who visited Sri Lanka to study and formulate a strategy to rebuild Singapore, said after many years, that . “This situation has arisen in Sri Lanka due to unnecessarily prioritising politics. If Sri Lanka was followed as a role model, even Singapore by today would have perished.
In fact, we have reached the point of destruction. There are those who want to keep perpetuating this wound forever, though I don’t wish. Let’s seek to heal this wound though it’s difficult and painful. If we endure the suffering and pain for a short period of time, we can get the wound healed completely.
We have no way out of this crisis with short cuts as that some political parties are pointing out.
We have only one way to get rid of this situation, if we want to overcome this crisis and achieve real economic and social freedom.
Remember, if we miss this path due to misplaced political agendas, we would neither have a future nor a country.
On several occasions, I pointed out the seriousness and danger of the looming economic crisis we are facing today. I have already said that the first six months of this year will be extremely difficult. We have to face this difficult situation in our stride, although unwillingly, for the sake of the country.
Although a large number of people in this country got out of poverty with the free education and expanded the middle class, today the country has turned into a land where it is impossible to fulfil their aspirations. I see the youth who should be working hard in different fields in this country are creating long queues to obtain passports. We need to change this situation too.
To achieve this end we should modernize the economy and open it to the world. The corrupt political factionalism that deceives the people making them dependants and poor for ever should also be changed. This is the “system change” that the youth of this country have been demanding for over a long period of time.
My government therefore has embarked on new path of reform to fulfil the needs of the youth. Even though those decisions that have to be taken for it are painful, it has to be done in order to overcome.
We have to move away from narrow politics in order to be rid of this crisis situation. We must face this challenge together as children of one mother and make our fullest contribution to strengthen the path towards the successful development of this country. We must all move forward as Sri Lankan nationals leaving aside all differences.
Hence the basis and foundation for a strong new economy has already been formulated. We are successfully completing the difficult stage required to get support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). We expect to get their consent without delay.
We cannot be satisfied just by strengthening the economy. The entire system needs to be changed. All areas of this political system, the legislature, parliament, Executive, state machinery, etc. should be modified to suit the modern era. The nation, and we should benefit from this change. More space should be created in the new system, for representation and opinions of young people and women in particular.
For this system modification, we are proposing a number of orders to the Parliament.
Additionally, immediate action needs to be taken in relation to the unique issues that the people in the North and East face. A cabinet subcommittee for this purpose has already been established.
All political parties are informed of its decisions and their implementation dates. Thereby those tasks are carried forward. We have given priority to activities such as release of land and prisoners. Furthermore, measures are being taken for the maximum division of power in a unitary state. However, we’ll never consent to the division of this nation.
I’m not attempting to treat the superficial condition with painkillers. But to treat the root cause of the malaise. It is challenging and difficult, but it’s our only option.
I know that many of the decisions I have been compelled to take since assuming the presidency have been unpopular.
However, because of those decisions, today no citizen of this country will die of dehydration in oil queues. You won’t starve without gas. Not curse without fertilizer.
Therefore, regardless of the obstacles the anarchist political forces seek to create, I will continue this new reform program with the majority of people who love this country.
We can become a developed country by 2048 if we work and move forward in a united and planned manner envisioning peace and reconciliation. There is the potential to become a developed country which is not begging from any other nation in the world. True freedom can be achieved and it is possible.
It is our collective responsibility to build a new country in which our children can compete with the rest of the world. Therefore, I urge all parties to come together to overcome this difficult period.
Let’s unite! Let’s join hands!
With joined hands let’s embark on a united journey over the next 25 years, as we have planned. Let’s further nurture those plans in accordance with the views of all parties. Let’s get stronger. Let’s make them more systematic and streamlined.
Not only should all of us who live in Sri Lanka join this effort. But the Sri Lankans living in the different countries around the world should also shoulder this journey. Everyone should be united. Everyone should contribute to the achievement of these goals as much as possible.
Let us devote ourselves, unite as children of one mother. Let us make our country one of the most developed in the world by 2048, when we will celebrate 100 years of independence.
Thank you all.

 
The commemorative stamp issued by the Philatelic Bureau and the special commemorative coin issued by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka on the occasion of the 75th National Independence Day, was presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning (02) at the Presidential Palace in Kandy.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe received the commemorative stamp from the Minister of Mass Media, Transport and Highways, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena, and the commemorative coin was presented to the President by Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Governor of the Central Bank.
The Philatelic Bureau issued the Rs. 50 stamp and first day cover in keeping with the practices followed over the years on such significant events. The new stamp could be purchased from all post offices and sub-post offices in the island from today.
Additionally, the Sri Lanka Philatelic Bureau has created special stamp windows at Kandy, Trincomalee, Kurunegala, Galle, and Negombo where customers can purchase this commemorative stamp with the first-day cover.
In conjunction with the 75th Anniversary of Independence, the Sri Lanka Postal Department has organized the Independence Stamp Exhibition and Museum Exhibition from the 6th to the 12th of February from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm at the Postal Headquarters premises located at D.R. Wijewardena Mawatha, Colombo 10.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) issued an uncirculated commemorative coin in the denomination of Rs. 1000 to mark the 75 th Anniversary of Independence.
The national flag of Sri Lanka is embossed on the middle of the coin, and the number “75” is displayed there in bold numerals. The words “Independence Commemoration” are printed in English, Tamil, and Sinhala along the top edge of the coin. Around the lower edge of the coin’s periphery is the year “1948 – 2023.” In big numerals, the face value “1000” is displayed on the centre of the coin. The national emblem of Sri Lanka appears above the face value. The year “2023” is at the bottom edge of the coin. Words “Sri Lanka” in English, Sinhala, and Tamil appears along the periphery on the upper edge of the coin.
Minister of Transport, Highways and Mass Media Dr. Bandula Gunawardena, State Minister of Media Shantha Bandara, President’s Senior Adviser on National Security and President’s Chief of Staff Mr. Sagala Ratnayake, Secretary to the President Mr. Saman Ekanayake, Secretary to the Ministry of Media Mr. Anusha Palpita, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Acting Postmaster General Mr. S. R. W.M. R. P. Sathkumara, Deputy Postmaster General (Operations) Mr. Rajitha K. Ranasinghe, Deputy Postmaster General (Central Provinces) Mr. Chamisha de Silva, Director of the Philatelic Bureau Mr. Lanka de Silva, Senior Publicity Officer Mr. Channa Munasinghe and several other officials were present on the occasion.

• 77 senior military officers awarded Vishishta Seva Vibhushana medals



President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that although lives lost during the war cannot be regained, the income lost during the economic war could be regained.

The President also pointed out that the stability of political and territorial integrity of a country is the best factor to win over the economic war.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made this statement while addressing the ceremony held today (01) at the Presidential Palace in Kandy to present the distinguished service awards “Vishishta Seva Vibhushana” to 77 senior officers of the Tri Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force). The award ceremony was organized in conjunction with the 75th Independence Day celebrations.

The Vishishta Seva Vibhushana is a unique award and is awarded only to officers of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and above in the Army and officers holding similar ranks in the Navy and Air Force who have served at least 25 years of continuous service and holds an unblemished a service record.

In relation to the years 2019, 2020, 2021, 53 Army officers, 17 Navy officers and 7 Air Force officers were awarded medals during today’s ceremony.

The President also presented the 75th Independence Anniversary Commemorative Medals to 20 Tri-Forces personnel.

Expressing his views at the ceremony, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said,

“Today we have awarded the “Vishishta Seva Vibhushana” awards to those who deserve this Medal. Also, these service awards were given on the occasion of the 75th Independence Anniversary. I congratulate all the recipients of these medals today. I also extend my appreciation for your service.

This event is the first event to be held to mark the 75th Anniversary of Sri Lanka's Independence. There is a reason to hold this event for the armed forces.

National leaders of the past, led by the Hon. D.S. Senanayake gained freedom for our country. Today, some act as though the country automatically gained independence. Freedom was not gained automatically.

There were 2 countries that supported the Allies in Asia during World War II. One was China and the other was Sri Lanka. But, only Sri Lanka had a legislature which was elected by franchise.

After appreciating the support given for the Second World War by the former leader of the council Mr. D.B. Jayathilika and afterwards Hon. D.S. Senanayake, the British Prime Minister Mr. Winston Churchill said that Sri Lanka would be given freedom after the war on one condition, that India were given freedom first. That is how we got this freedom.

During World War II, the Council of State decided to support the allied countries. In addition, Sri Lankan officials volunteered to support World War II.

Mr.D.S. Senanayake appreciated the release and formed three armed forces from those troops. If we supported the Second World War and gained independence, we should also honour the service of our three armed forces during this anniversary celebration.

For the safety of the nation, members of our security forces gave their lives in battle. Our Army was founded during a world war. It protected democracy over the world. The second war was to preserve Sri Lanka's unity and territorial integrity. Our armed forces sacrificed their lives for that.

We should keep in mind this outstanding contribution performed by our armed forces as we commemorate the nation's independence as a republic. Therefore, I made the decision to host the first ceremonial event in connection with the 75th Independence Day for the Armed Forces.

Our three armed forces are now not only in Sri Lanka they serve as a UN peacekeepers as well. In the future, we intend to increase the number of recruits for this peacekeeping force.

We commemorated our 50th anniversary of independence while the nation was at war. We are commemorating our 75th Independence Day at a time when there is another conflict. It is not a battle in which we individually take a weapon and engage in combat. A significant economic battle is currently underway.

The country's economy has now totally collapsed. Our nation's economic freedom will vanish if we don't rebuild that economy and rescue ourselves from this debt trap. If the economic freedom of the country is lost, political freedom is of no use. We cannot surrender to the economic powers of the world today. Building this economy should therefore be our priority.

Make means for the people to live, and revive their lost sources of income. I am aware of the fact that many people are facing difficulties today. Some government employees are facing a situation where nothing of their salaries is spared after settling their loan installments and taxes. We all bear this pressure and we will be able to get rid of this pressure.

I met the U.S. Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland today. She further expressed the US Government’s support for the ongoing recovery efforts in our country. Hence we have been expressed support by many countries.

I believe that during the next two to three months, we would be able to complete this debt restructuring process. The dialogues with India and China have reached the final stage. When we reach the agreement for debt restructuring from the International Monetary Fund, it would be accepted by the rest of the world.

I believe that we would have a better economic situation by the end of this year. At the same time, we would get an opportunity to provide some relief to all government employees. We must drive this program forward and we are not in a position to get out of it. If we are on the right path, we have to be strategic and only then victory could be achieved.

There is only one difference between terrorist war and economic war. Lives were lost those days during the terrorist war. Today we have lost the income. That's the only difference. We cannot give a new life to those who lost but the lost income can be recovered. As a government, we are all committed to reviving it under this program.

I believe that we can move forward reviving the economic freedom along with the political freedom back then we won while protecting the territorial integrity.

State Minister of Defence Pramitha Bandara Thennakoon, Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Mr Sagala Ratnayake, President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake, Secretary of Defence General Kamal Gunaratne (retd.) Chief of Defence Staff Shavendra Silva, Army Commander Lieutenant General Wikum Liyanage, Air Force Commander Air Vice Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana, Navy Commander Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera and officers of Tri Forces participated in the event.

 

Decisions Taken by the Cabinet of Ministers on 30.01.2023

1. Acquisition of land for the construction of District/Magistrate Courts Complex
Palamadulla
The Palamadulla Court functions as a Magistrate Court as well as a District. Due to lack of
sufficient space in the court where 8385 cases are currently being heard, the general public,
lawyers and judicial staff are facing severe difficulties. Therefore, the need to build a new
court complex with necessary facilities has arisen and for that purpose, it has been identified
that it is desirable to obtain a portion of about 3 acres from the land called Pelmadullawatta,
which is governed under the Land Reform Commission. Accordingly, the Cabinet of
Ministers approved the proposal made by the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and
Constitutional Reforms to take over that land to the Ministry of Judicial Prison Affairs and
Constitutional Reforms.

2. Agreement for provision of research services between Institute of Industrial Technology
and University of Sydney, Australia
The International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, USA and the University of
Sydney in Australia have entered into an agreement with the Consortium of International
Agricultural Research Centers to conduct research on the use of fruits and vegetables for a
sustainable nutritious diet in collaboration with Benin, the Philippines, Tanzania and Sri
Lanka. Under the program, the Institute of Industrial Technology has been selected by the
University of Sydney to conduct selected research activities on the current status of post-
harvest management and food security in Sri Lanka. Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers
approved the proposal presented by the Minister of Industries to sign an interim contract
agreement between the Institute of Industrial Research and the University of Sydney to
secure an amount of 11,250 Australian dollars for that purpose.

3. Cooperation agreement on the BIMSTEC Charter and Establishment of the
BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility
The government of Sri Lanka has signed the cooperation agreement on the BIMSTEC
Charter and Establishment of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical
Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Technology Transfer Facility on 30.032022. The
Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to
ratify the said cooperation agreement.

4. Installation of electricity storage system to ensure uninterrupted power supply in
Hambantota district during emergency power outages and peak power demand
Under the Framework Agreement for Grant Aid signed between the Republic of Korea and
the Government of Sri Lanka, the Korean Government has agreed to provide Korean won
14.3 billion (about 11.9 million USD )to establish a 08 MWh Electricity Storage System with
a capacity of 05 MW associating the grid substation, Hambantota. Accordingly the Cabinet
of Ministers Approved the proposal presented by the Minister of Power and Energy to sign
the relevant Memorandum of Understanding between the parties in the respective
negotiation note.

5. Presenting the regulations issued under the Import and Export (Control) Act No. 1 of
1969 for Parliamentary approval
The proposal presented by the Hon. President in his capacity as the Minister of Finance,
Economic Stability and National Policies to present the following regulations issued under
the Import and Export (Control) Act No. 1 of 1969 for Parliamentary approval was approved
by the Cabinet of Ministers.
 Special Import License Regulations No. 01 of 2023 published in the Extraordinary
Gazette Notification No. 77/2312 dated 01.01.2023
 Import and Export (Control) Regulations No. 02 of 2023 published in the
Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 78/2312 dated 01.01.2023

6. Access to the Protocol for the Amendment of the Convention on Offences and Certain
Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft (Montrial Protocol 2014)
The proposal presented by the Minister of Ports , Shipping and Aviation to accept the Draft
Amendments to the Convention Relating to Offenses and Certain Other Acts Committed in
Passenger Aircrafts and to take the necessary steps to enact the necessary legislation for the
implementation of the provisions in the said Convention in Sri Lanka was approved by the
Cabinet of Ministers.

7. Introduction of provisions by a Parliamentary Act for the management and disposal of
items used as evidence (case goods).
An economic loss is caused due to insufficient legal provisions existing in regard to the
management and disposal of certain items used as evidence (case goods) that should be
disposed of immediately whereas some of these items has turned into items that cannot be
utilized as a result. Therefore, a committee has been appointed to recommend a new policy
and a legal framework including legal provisions and relevant procedures applicable to
disposal of case goods that is in the custody of the courts before the trial is over. The Cabinet

of Ministers granted their approval to the proposal submitted by the Minister of Justice,
Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms to empower a new act for management and
disposal of case goods depending on the recommendations of the said committee, and to
instruct the Legal Draftsman to draft a bill in regard to that.

8. Conferment of National Awards (2023) – Sri Lankabhimanya award to Deshabandhu
Hon. Karu Jayasooriya
Conferment of once a life - time national award to Sri Lankan and non Sri Lankan citizens
for rendering an excellent service for the nation within the Democratic Socialist Republic of
Sri Lanka was a practice continued from the year 1986. “Sri Lankabhimanya Award” is the
higher award presented within this country. The Cabinet of Ministers decided to grant their
concurrence to the steps taken by the Hon. President to confer Deshabandhu Hon. Karu
Jayasooriya the “Sri Lankabhimanya Award” on 03 rd February 2023 recognizing the service
he rendered.

9. Revisions to the Social Security Contribution Levy Act No. 25 of 2022.
A social security levy of 2.5% has been imposed under the Social Security Contribution Levy
No. 25 of 2022 on the individuals who can be taxable for exceeding a yearly income of
rupees 120 million and the exemptions from the said levy has been pointed out under
schedule one of that act. Motor vehicles and the equipment utilized for the needs of
differently abled persons which are under the production levy under Excise (Special
Provisions) Act No. 13 of 1989 have been released from social security levy at the budget
proposals for the year 2023. Whereas, several revisions to be made to the said act has been
identified by now. Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal furnished by
the Hon. President as the Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies
to amend the said act and to direct the Legal Draftsman to prepared a draft bill for the
purpose.

 

 
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.

Page 11 of 96

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