Written by Staff Writer
13 Mar, 2019 | 7:29 pm
COLOMBO (News 1st) – The third reading or the committee stage debate of the budget took place today (March 13).
The debates on a number of expenditure heads, including the expenditures of the President’s and Prime Minister’s and independent commissions was held today(March 13).
UPFA MP Dayasiri Jayasekara and Minister of Plantation Industries, Navin Dissanayake discussed the cutting of coconut trees before the debate.
Dayasiri Jayasekara noted that Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam had cut down 4600 coconut trees in an area of 44 acres with the intention of erecting a Volkswagen factory which ultimately proved to be a hoax. Then, on the other hand, Nalin Bandara is cutting down 90,000 Coconut trees on a 1200-acre land. He added that the 1200-acre land is separated into 40-50 acre subplots. The minister questioned on how the government intends to sustain coconut cultivation if they continue to cut down coconut trees indiscriminately.
Minister of Plantation Industries, Navin Dissanayake attempted to clarify the matter.
He noted that the government policy is to come up with free trade zones yet strict conditions are imposed if coconut trees are to be cut. It has been advised to replace the trees cut down with a similar amount of coconut plants. He noted that most lands in Kurunegala are being fragmented and trees are cut down causing heavy collateral damage which the government must avoid. Nevertheless, the minister noted that they have informed the Fragmentation Board to offer necessary instructions when necessary. He also added that the government intends to allocate 40, 000- 50, 000 acres of land from North and Eastern provinces to sustain coconut cultivation.
Dayasiri Jayasekara added that import of palm oil has also become an issue, especially due to its impact on the coconut growing and oil manufacturing industries. He demanded minister Navin Dissanayake to stop the import of palm oil.
Navin Dissanayake inquired why Dayasiri Jayasekara who is concerned now was silent during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime when 20,000 hectares were given to grow the palm plant. Consequently, the decision was withdrawn due to environmental concerns. The minister added that he would take the sole responsibility and say that 20,000 acres were not harmful and it is executed in an eco-friendly manner.
Dayasiri Jayasekara added that what he meant was he did not want to see Sri Lanka turn into another Malaysia or Indonesia as those countries face issues with palm oil. He added that there is a strong objection towards palm oil within the country and they would be happy to see palm oil imports terminated.
Navin Dissanayake responded that the same countries in their 60s and 70s deforested to grow palm oil and Sri Lankan government would not go to that extent and would only use a 20,000-hectare land to grow the palm oil plant.
“This is a country where we can’t even take a policy decision,” Minister Navin Dissanayake said as he took his seat.
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