GOTABAYA RAJAPAKSA, President of Sri Lanka, said that his country has fully vaccinated nearly all people 30 years of age and older. That will be followed by a plan to fully vaccinate those aged 20 years and up by the end of October and those 15 years old or older shortly thereafter. Pointing to the severe economic impact of the pandemic, he stressed the vital need to adopt more initiatives on development financing and debt relief to support developing countries to emerge from uncertainty. Sri Lanka has suffered greatly due to the pandemic, he said, tourism in particular, a sector that supports nearly 14 per cent of the population, has been devastated, along with small and medium-sized businesses in many other sectors.
He further stressed that as a climate-vulnerable country, Sri Lanka has become a Commonwealth Blue Charter Champion and leads the Action Group on Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods. Through the adoption of the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management, seeking to halve nitrogen waste by 2030, Sri Lanka has also contributed to global efforts to reduce environmental pollution, he continued. To create a more sustainable agriculture, the Government banned the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides earlier in 2021 and incentivized the production and adoption of organic fertilizer, as well as investments into organic agriculture.
Highlighting environmental conservation as one of his country’s priorities, he announced his Government’s plan to significantly increase forest cover in the coming decades, to clean and restore over 100 rivers countrywide, and to combat river and maritime pollution. Sri Lanka has also banned single use plastics and recognized the urgent need to reduce the use of fossil fuels and support decarbonization, together with an energy policy that seeks to increase the contribution of renewable sources to 70 per cent of its national needs by 2030.
Recalling the violent attack by extremist religious terrorists in 2019, following a 30-year separatist terrorist war, he said that his country is committed to combating extreme violence and addressing its root causes. “Fostering greater accountability, restorative justice and meaningful reconciliation through domestic institutions is essential to achieve lasting peace. So too is ensuring more equitable participation in the fruits of economic development,” he said, adding that Sri Lanka’s Parliament, judiciary and independent statutory bodies should have the unrestricted right to exercise their functions and responsibilities.
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