Sri Lanka News in Brief SEP 2016 - Compiled by Victor M

Over the past thirteen years, HALO had cleared more than 3,088 acres of land of mines in northern Sri Lanka and 2,471 acres remained to be cleared under its demining programme, the HALO Trust Operations Manager Edward Robert Syfret said. The Government of Japan (GOJ) has decided to provide USD 607,380 in grant aid for humanitarian mine clearance in Northern Sri Lanka, under its grant assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project (GGP). The 'Project for Humanitarian Mine Clearance for Resettlement and Livelihoods in Northern Sri Lanka' implemented by The HALO Trust, will expedite the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) to make mine contaminated areas safe for people to return and resume their livelihood activities. Under the newly signed grant, the HALO would clear 21 hectares of land in the north, Syfret said. "This year alone teams supported by the GOJ have cleared over 26 hectares and removed more than 8,183 mines and other explosive devices," he noted. Japan had been a steadfast donor to HALO, and all mine clearance operations in Sri Lanka, supporting HALO without fail since 2003. Consistent support from the GOJ had been crucial in clearing the minefields, the Halo Trust Operations Manager said. "This has ensured the safe resettlement of over 800 families and enabled approximately 6,645 people to return to their lands for productive use of housing, farming and infrastructure," he said, adding that it would enhance peace and prosperity in the north for the benefit of all Sri Lankans. "We know how much work remains to be done," Syfret said. "GOSL is fully cooperative and we have the knowhow and trained staff to do it if donors help us achieve our goal. With Japan's continued support we can aim to achieve a mine free Sri Lanka." Japan has been a major donor supporting mine clearance in Sri Lanka to accelerate the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and to facilitate engagement in agriculture and other livelihood activities of the returnees. Since 2003, the Government of Japan has provided a sum of approximately USD 28.7 million for demining activities in the North and the East under its grant assistance schemes. This can be seen as a vital contribution by Japan in achieving Sri Lanka's target of being mine-impact free by the year 2020. (Daily Island 2.9.2016.)

Hatton National Bank (HNB) is to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to obtain shareholder approval to allow the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to invest US $ 50 million in a private placement, taking a stake of up to 10 percent of the bank's ordinary voting shares. "An HNB stock exchange filing states that it sees the ADB as a 'strategic investor' and that the money will be used to strengthen the bank's balance sheet and support overall business growth, besides expanding its operations beyond the region, Manager, Sales, Candor Equities Limited Buddhike Payoe told The Island Financial Review. "This is the largest transaction by ADB with a Sri Lankan private sector bank and the funds raised would be deployed towards infrastructure development projects with special emphasis on renewable energy, power and irrigation, which are key sectors in the economic resurgence of Sri Lanka, HNB sources said. The ADB would be sold the stake at the average price at which HNB shares were traded in the 30 market days preceding the EGM, or at Rs220 if the average price is over Rs220 or Rs190 if the average price is less than Rs 190. According to Payoe, the 145,000 shares of HNB that were traded at Rs 227.20 per share, which amounts to a turnover of Rs 33 million, were the highest contributor to the day's turnover. Other heavily traded stocks were Grain Elevators, which traded Rs 25 million worth of shares, Hayley's Exporters Rs 19.3 million, Commercial Bank Rs 18.2 million and John Keels Holdings Rs 10 million. CSE trading was subdued yesterday due to reduced market activities by both foreign and local investors, CSE sources said. The All Share Price Index dropped by 12.64 points, while the S and P SL20 dropped by 6.42 points, with the day's turnover reaching Rs 281 million, CSE sources said. "The market was subdued yesterday because most investors did not purchase new stocks, but people were keen on taking profits, they added. (Daily Island 6.9.2016)

Two Judges out of the three High Court Judges, who comprised the trial-at-bar yesterday convicted former Parliamentarian Duminda Silva and four others of the conspiracy to murder and commit the murder of former Parliamentarian and presidential advisor, Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra. The Death penalty was imposed on the convicts for that crime. Eight out of the 13 accused who were indicted were discharged. The death penalty was imposed on Duminda Silva, Anura Thushara de Mel, Chaminda Ravi Jayanath, G. D. Sarath Bandara and Priyantha Janaka Bandara. The High Court Judges who convicted these accused and imposed death penalty were High Court Judges Padmini N. Ranawaka Goonetillake and M.C.B.S. Moraes.High Court Judge Shiran Guneratne (Chairman) acquitted all the accused on grounds of contradictory evidence. Deputy Solicitor General Thusith Mudalige appeared for the Attorney General. President's Counsel Anil Silva appeared for the defence. The crime was committed on October 8, 2011 in Kolonnawa area on the day of the last local government elections. (Daily Island 9.9.2016) Sustainable Development and Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera said that steps are being taken to amend the Wildlife Act of 1932 to fall in line with the changing times.

A committee has been appointed to amend the present Wildlife Act which is over 80 years old and make suitable recommendations, the Minister said "We have to look into international agreements and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) when effecting amendments to the Act. We have to abide by the international law on endangered species," he said. The CITES is an international agreement between Governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants do not threaten their survival. This year, the CITES Conference will be held in South Africa from September 24 to October 5. "Our biggest problem is that the Wildlife Ministry was corrupt in the past. Various complaints had been made against the officials by politicians and they became helpless. Some of them had got into trouble as a result of various Commission Reports," the Minister said. According to the Minister, the number of tourist arrivals in the country would be around 2.5 million by the end of this year. (Sunday Observer 11.9.2016)

Sri Lanka had recorded 1.8 million tourist arrivals last year. In 2015, the Wildlife Ministry had remitted Rs. 3,500 million to Government coffers. At present, the Ministry is faced with a shortage of approximately 1,500 workers including the marine sector. The Minister said, "I have submitted a Cabinet paper in this regard. We can't run national parks without an adequate number of workers. For example, if we take Minneriya National Park, it has only 12 trackers while its daily income exceeds Rs. 3 million. Nearly 300 vehicles visit Minneriya daily. The situation in Yala and other National Parks is more or less the same," he said. The Minister said that the Wildlife Ministry generates an income of Rs. 22 million per day and that this will exceed Rs. 25 million by end of this year. (Sunday Observer 11.9.2016)
A new World Bank study has found that exposure to ambient and household air pollution could cost the country a staggering loss of 7.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually. The study cited that in 2013 alone, exposure to air pollution cost the world's economy $5.11 trillion in welfare losses. The researchers say that air pollution which is especially severe in some of the world's fastest-growing urban regions is a drag on development. They rationalized that illness and premature death reduces the quality of life and thereby causing a loss of productive labour. The losses were the highest in South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific in terms of magnitude, at 7.4 percent and 7.5 percent of the regional gross domestic product (GDP). Losses to Sri Lanka's annual GDP at 7.75% amount to $16.366 million. In low-income countries, declines in death rates were more than offset by population growth and greater total exposure to polluted air. In middle-income countries, total exposure and health impact also increased," the report said. The study also found that air pollution was especially severe in some of the world's fastest-growing urban regions, where the combination of more people, more vehicles, and energy derived from dirty fuels, construction, improper management of wastes, and other factors have elevated exposure. "Exposure has increased most quickly in the developing countries of South Asia and East Asia and the Pacific, reaching 46 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3 ) and 42 µg/m3, respectively, or about three times the guideline value of 15 µg/m3 recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the level below which adverse health effects have not yet been observed." Air pollution has emerged as one of the world's leading health risks. Each year, more than 5.5 million people around the world die prematurely from illnesses caused by breathing polluted air. Those illnesses include lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, acute respiratory infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema. S/O 11/9

The UNP-SLFP coalition has proposed a 15 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on private sector health, including medical consultations, while exempting diagnostic tests, dialysis and OPD services .Co-Cabinet Spokesman and Media Minister Gayantha Karunatilleke explained the enforcement of the new tax structure in line with the proposed Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill expected to be presented in parliament soon. Co-Cabinet Spokesman and Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne admitted that even those who had undergone surgery with financial assistance provided by the President's Fund, too, would have to pay VAT. When the media pointed out that the government hadn't provided relief to those who would be undergoing surgery at private hospitals, Dr. Senaratne promised to bring their concerns to the attention of the cabinet. Asked to give a specific date on which the proposed Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill would come into operation, Ministers Karunatilleke and Senaratne consulted Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake before assuring that it would be presented to parliament after being gazetted. Both Ministers reiterated that proper procedures would be followed. The media was told that the presentation of the proposed Bill in parliament next week was unlikely. The government intended to finalise the process within two weeks, Minister Karunatilleke said. Cabinet spokesmen said the new Bill wouldn't be imposed with retrospective effect. (Daily Island 15.9.2016)

Dr. Senaratne, Co-Cabinet Spokesman, said that the government had addressed the major issue raised by traders with regard to a business with a turnover of Rs. 12 million per year having to pay VAT. The ministers said that VAT would be imposed on wholesale and retail trade with a turnover of Rs 50 million. Media Minister Karunatilleke said that 15 per cent VAT would be imposed on telecommunication services, tobacco products, powdered milk which contained added sugar or other sweetening matter and passengers, both local and foreign leaving an airport here for foreign destination. Dr Senaratne admitted that various taxes including the proposed 15 per cent VAT amounted to a nearly 50 per cent levy on mobile phones. The minister strongly defended imposition of such heavy taxes pointing out that there were 21 million hand phones in use here though the population was 20 million. The Minister suggested that those who couldn't afford more than one phone should discard or switch off the additional ones. The media was told that the government couldn't wait till the new Budget to impose VAT as the country's finances were in dire straits. Ministers blamed the crisis on the previous government claiming that the government was struggling to service massive foreign debt. In accordance with the new VAT (Amendment) Bill, the government would restrict VAT exemptions granted to a range of projects. The Information Department provided the following brief note on the VAT imposed on projects: "Restriction on VAT exception applicable on the supply, lease, or rent of residential accommodation to projects of which the investment cost is not exceeding USD 5 mn. However, such supplies made by the Strategic Development Projects approved prior to 01.11.2-15 and other projects where the sales agreement are entered into or project completed before 01.10.2016 will be continued to be exempted from VAT." The government also levy Rs 75 each on piece of garment supplied to the local market by companies established under BOI laws. The minister said that the government wouldn't want to depend on taxes from tobacco industry. The Co-Cabinet spokesman alleged that those at the help of the tobacco industry sought meetings with him to discuss matters before they went on the offensive. Comparing the tobacco industry with prostitution, Minister said that even prostitution could be legalized to bring in much needed revenue though they wouldn't resort to such a measure. (Daily Island 15.9.2016)

National carrier SriLankan Airlines today completely banned the use or charging of Samsung's latest Galaxy Note7 smartphone onboard, with immediate effect and until further notice. The decision follows Samsung suspending sales of the Galaxy Note7 after several incidents in which the phone batteries caught fire were reported. The ban applies to turning on or charging any Samsung Galaxy Note7 onboard, or shipping it in checked-in luggage and cargo, SriLankan said in a statement today. It said passengers would also be notified of the ban through on-board announcements and notices at airport check-in counters. Several other airlines and aviation authorities have announced similar bans. The international Air Transport Association (IATA) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have also issued directives banning the use and charging of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones on flights. The FAA in a statement said: "In light of recent incidents and concerns raised by Samsung about its Galaxy Note7 devices, the Federal Aviation Administration strongly advises passengers not to turn on or charge these devices on board aircraft and not to stow them in any checked baggage." (Daily Financial News 15.9.2016)

In the wake of outgoing UNSG Ban Ki-moon calling for a further reduction of Jaffna peninsula based Army deployments, the military told The Island that the fighting strength there had been substantially reduced along with gradual releasing of land held for security purposes. The process commenced in Oct 2010 about 18 months after the successful conclusion of the Vanni offensive. Dr. Senaratne responded when The Island sought an account from Military Spokesman Brigadier Roshan Seneviratne regarding the Army giving up land since Oct 2010. At the height of the war, Palaly cantonment comprised 11,269 acres. Authoritative sources told The Island that subsequently, the Army had released sections of the cantonment area, thereby bringing the total number of acres returned to civilians so far to 7,210 acres. The Army had been making arrangements to release a further 474 acres from the Palaly cantonment area, sources said, adding that the Palaly airfield, too, was situated within the area under military control. In addition to the Palaly cantonment area, the Army had held 27,259 acres of land in the Jaffna peninsula at the conclusion of the war though the previous government as well as the incumbent administration gradually released 21,134 acres out of it. Once the Army released 474 acres, the total number of acres (both Palaly cantonment and other Jaffna bases) will be reduced to less than 10,000 acres. At the conclusion of the war in May 2009, there had been 152 battalions deployed under four commands, namely Jaffna (37), Wanni (31), Kilinochchi (42) and Mullaitivu (42). In accordance with re-deployment plan, by Dec 2013, the number of battalions assigned for each command had been reduced with Jaffna given (29), Wanni (29), Kilinochchi (27) and Mullaitivu (19). The previous government had briefed the US regarding the decrease of the troop strength in the Jaffna peninsula as well as returning of land in accordance with overall national reconciliation plan. Authoritative sources said that in June 2006 a few months before the outbreak of Eelam War IV, the Army deployment in northern theatre consisted of 68 battalions, 16 in the Eastern province and six in the South. Sources said that there hadn't been Army Commands at Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu at that time as both districts were in the LTTE's hands. At the outbreak of Eelam War IV in August/Sept 2006, the Army's northern deployment had been primarily geared to defend the Jaffna peninsula with four Divisions, two each on offensive and defensive posture facing LTTE northern defence line extending from Kilali to Nagarkovil on the Vadamaratchchy east coast. One-time SF Commander Jaffna, Maj. Gen. Mahinda Hathurusinghe told The Island yesterday that there had been 26,400 officers and men at the time he succeeded Maj. Gen. L.B.R. Mark in Dec 2009. The army strength had been reduced to approximately 14,600 by the time Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera had succeeded Maj. Gen. Hathurusinghe in January 2014. Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's government brought Jaffna under its control in Dec 1995. The government liberated the entire peninsula in early 1996. Having captured Elephant Pass in April 2000, the LTTE almost succeeded in defeating the Army in Jaffna. The Army suffered a massive setback in Jaffna in the following year leading to suspension of large scale operations until Oct 2006. (Daily Island 15.9.2016)

Sri Lanka Wednesday announced it was planning to relocate farmers living on the edges of forests inhabited by elephants to reduce the numbers killed on both sides. Wildlife minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera said the island's elephant population had dropped to 6,000, from 7,379 counted five years ago, as deadly encounters between animals and humans increase. "Although various measures like erecting of electric fences were taken to prevent human-elephant conflicts, so far this has not been resolved," Perera said in a statement. "Steps are being taken to resolve the issue by relocating the inhabitants in identified elephant migratory pathways." He did not say how many farmers would be relocated in 18 affected districts out of the island's total of 25. But elephant expert Jayantha Jayewardene said he believed thousands were encroaching on elephant habitats and moving them would be a challenge. "Sri Lankan elephants usually don't migrate from one area to another, but what has happened is that thousands of farmers have encroached and split the traditional habitat of elephants. "This means frequent clashes and we need a much more thought out plan to deal with the problem," Jayewardene told AFP. "Evicting thousands of people will not be easy. One thing is sure, more elephants than people get killed in this battle." Elephants are considered sacred animals in Sri Lanka and killing them is a criminal offence, punishable by death. But officials said there had been a rapid expansion of farms near wildlife parks, shrinking elephant habitats and causing frequent clashes between the two. Official figures show 270 people and 942 elephants were killed in such encounters across the country over four years to 2014. Some 5,095 homes were damaged during the same period. Wild elephants were also killed after being hit by trains and due to floods and lightening strikes. Female elephants are known to have been killed so that their babies can be snatched and kept as pets. Owning a baby elephant is a status symbol in Sri Lanka although authorities recently began a crackdown against the trend. S/I 18/9
Health and Indigenous Medicine Minister Rajitha Senaratne yesterday told Parliament that there were now about 2,436 HIV infected persons in Sri Lanka. Thirty one AIDS related deaths had been reported during 2015 and from 2011 to 2015 there had been146 reported deaths, the Minister said. The Health Minister said so far a total of 324 deaths from AIDS related had been reported in Sri Lanka. (Daily Island 22.9.2016)

The Epidemiology Unit said that the number of dengue cases in the country had topped 40,985 between the beginning of the year and mid-September, while the number of dengue deaths reported within the same period was approximately 60. The unit said last year the number of dengue cases reported from January to the end of September had about 21,250. In 2014 the number recorded during the same time period was 32,362 while the total number recorded from January to December the same year was 47,500. It said 1,771 dengue cases had been recorded from the beginning of September till Wednesday (21) this week, the highest number of 474 being from the Colombo District. Over 10,630 cases had been reported in the month of July. The highest number of cases this year had been reported from the districts of Colombo (12,960), Gampaha (5341), Kandy (3311), Kalutara (2772), Ratnapura (2387), Kurunegala (2041), Kegalle (1164), Jaffna (1753) and Galle (1704) Last year the highest numbers were reported from Colombo (6381), Gampaha (2982), Jaffna (1287), Kalutara (1072), Kurunegala (990), Kandy (890), Ratnapura (797), and Galle (620) districts, the Epidemiology unit said. (Daily Island 23.9.2016)

Adverse weather conditions, combined with rising costs and greater competition, threaten to weaken Sri Lanka's position in the global tea industry, though efforts to develop new markets could help offset downturns in exports and revenue. Flooding in mid-May struck a number of tea-producing regions and led to the inundation of several tea export facilities around Colombo, causing widespread disruption and compounding losses from El Niño-related drought conditions in the first half of this year. According to a research note issued by Colombo-based broker John Keells in mid-August, output from Sri Lanka's plantations remains low, at a time when production by key competitors is rising. "Most black tea-producing countries have recorded substantial gains," the report noted. "However, crop harvest from the Sri Lankan perspective is yet to show any significant improvement and continues well below last year's levels." As of the end of the first half of the year, Sri Lankan production totalled 153m kg, down 11% y-o-y. By comparison, Indian production increased by 22.3% y-o-y to 230m kg, while Kenyan growers posted even stronger results, with harvests up 42.3% to 249m kg. Tea exports from January to June were down 3.4% y-o-y to 146.5m kg, according to figures from the Tea Exporters Association, with declines seen in both packets and bags. The fall in exports accelerated following the May floods, though there was a modest gain in free-on-board value per kg, which was up 1.8% y-o-y to LKR609.88 ($4.20) in the first half of the year. Nonetheless, overall rupee-denominated export revenues declined by 51.6% over for the period. (Daily Island 24.9.2016)

Sri Lanka still maintains the lowest HIV/AIDS prevalence in South East Asia which is less than 0.01 "Sri Lanka cannot be satisfied and rest because this is a result of hard work which should continue, strengthened and expanded," Health Services Director General Dr. Palitha Mahipala said. Addressing a press briefing at the Health Education Bureau Auditorium, in Colombo, he said that 2,436 HIV/AIDS cases had been reported from Sri Lanka so far from the day the first cases were detected in 1987. "The government provides free ARI treatment for HIV/AIDS affected persons. There are 52 major clinics, 930 clinics and 22 temporary clinics conducted by the staff of those 30 clinics) countrywide which offers services to conduct free blood tests and other services. The clinics also offer free condoms," Dr. Mahipala said. (Daily News 24.9.2016)

Sri Lanka has one of the highest drowning rates in the world, with more than three deaths a day. According to the Life Saving Association of Sri Lanka (LSASL), last year alone, 1,250 people died from drowning. Swimming or bathing under the influence of liquor has been one of the main causes leading to drowning, while 25%-50% of adolescent and adult deaths are associated with water recreation activities and drowning. Alcohol use is highest in the age group of 20-34 years. Adults aged 25-44 years had the highest number of drowning deaths followed by those aged 45-64 years. "Most cases of drowning came from recreational activity, with holidaymakers at the sea, tanks or rivers, who completely ignored basic safety measures," LSASL Secretary General Asanka Nanayakkara said. Lakes were reported as the key locations for drowning incidents in Sri Lanka, followed by sea. A 2014 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), the drowning rate for Sri Lanka over three years 2012-2014 was 4.2 deaths per 100,000. Sri Lanka ranked 12th out of 61 countries, and 10th highest when compared with 35 Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC). An average of 74 people drowned in the Sabaragamuwa Province each year. There are 14 main points where a majority of drowning incidents occurred. They are, Matara, Mirissa, Galle, Hikkaduwa, Beruwala, Kalutara, Panadura, Dehiwela, Mt Lavinia, Wellawatta, Galle Face Green, Negombo and Nilaveli. "300 people drown in the Western Province (WP) each year, compared with 52 in the Northern Province. Males consistently had a higher drowning rate than females, ranging from 5.5% in WP to 3.5% in Uva Province," he said. Most of these deaths are preventable, yet, public awareness and prevention strategies are lacking, said Dr. Harsha Perera of Kalubowila Hospital. "Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training. If the person has stopped breathing, immediate first aid by bystanders in the form of mouth-to-mouth respiration ('kiss of life') is critically important." "Even skilled swimmers can drown, supervision at all levels is important. Parents who take children to swimming pools and other open bodies of water should supervise them very closely," he said. (Sunday Times 25.9.2016)

Chief Government Whip and Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella, on Saturday sent show cause letters to 25 UNP MPs on the instructions of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, for travelling overseas without informing the party hierarchy. MPs leaving the country are required to obtain prior approval from the Prime Minister and Chairman of the party. Of the 30 MPs who had travelled overseas during the same period only five had obtained approval. The Prime Minister was concerned about the absence of those party members when two important Bills on Finance were scheduled to be taken up for debate, sources said. (Daily Island 26.9.2016)
Police have commenced an investigation to trace the owner of a drone which hovered above the grave of slain Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge while his remains were being exhumed yesterday amidst tight security as part of a fresh investigation into his killing ordered by court. The drone fitted with a camera had disturbed the exhumation process, police said. As they tried to bring it down, it had disappeared, the police said, adding that they would seek technical and expert assistance to trace it and its owner. Most probably the video footage of the drone's camera and the drone would be confiscated as it disturbed the execution of the court order, police said. Remains of Wickrematunga were exhumed in the presence of Hulftsdorp Magistrate Mohamed Mihail and handed over to doctors Ajith Tennakoon, Jean Perera and Siva Subrmaniyam of the Judicial Medical Officer's office in Colombo for a second post-mortem. A large number of family members of Wickrematunge were present at the grave site at the Borella Kanatte when the exhumation took place. The police prevented media personnel coming inside the cemetery following a request from family members not to give media publicity for the event. Wickrematunge's grave in Colombo has been under armed guard since the new autopsy was ordered earlier in September, two months after a military intelligence officer was arrested in connection with the killing of the former editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper. On Sept. 08, the Mount Lavinia Magistrate Mohamed Sahabdeen ordered the exhumation of the remains of slain journalist following a request made by the CID based on certain contradictions which existed between the autopsy report on the murder victim, the report on the surgery performed at the hospital and the Government analyst report on the crime scene. (Daily Island 28.9.201

Sri Lanka's tea crop has plunged to a 10-year low in August, further worsening the first eight months' production.

Asia Siyaka Commodities, quoting Tea Board data, said that the crop in August was 23 million kilograms, down by 13% from a year earlier. "This year's figure is the lowest since 2006 when 21.5 million kilograms was recorded," the produce broker said.

However, the August crop was an improvement from July's take of 1.32 million kilograms.

Tea production from January to August 2016 is down 27 million kilograms or 12% to 198.6 million kilograms. "During the eight-month period the country has lost the equivalent of one month's production," Low Growns crop was down 12.6% and High Growns were down by 16%. In the first eight months, production of Low Growns was down by 11% to 123 million kilograms, High Grown was down 14% to 45 million kilograms and Medium Grown lower by 14% to 30.6 million kilograms. (Daily Financial Times 28.9.2016)

According to a National Survey conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka's computer literacy of Sri Lanka has increased from 16.1 percent in 2006/07 to 27.1 percent in 2015. The urban sector shows the highest computer literacy rate (39.2%) among residential sectors as opposed to 25.5 percent and 9.0 percent respectively in the rural and estate sectors. According to the findings of the survey, the computer literacy among male is 29.1 percent which is higher than that of female (25.3 percent). In analysing all age groups, those between 15-19 years reported the highest computer literacy rate (58-7%). Among educational levels, the highest computer literacy rate 70.0 percent is reported for the group of G.C.E. (A/L) or above that level of education. The survey results further reveal that the computer literacy is very high (69.5%) along those who are literate in English language. Issuing a news release, Dr. Amara Satharasinghe Director General of the DCS, has said that one out of every four households in Sri Lanka has a computer not only in urban areas but also in rural areas. The availability of computers in estate area is 4.5 percent. The highest computer availability is reported from the Western province (38.5%), and the lowest availability from Uva province (12.5%). Colombo District shows the highest percentage (28.1%) of population using Internet and Badulla the lowest percentage. Every 12 out of 100 persons in the age group of 5-69 years have used Internet facility and 9 out of 100 persons have used email facility at least once during the 12 months period of 2015. Computer literacy among the employed population in Sri Lanka is 52.0 percent in 2015. Computer literacy among unemployed youth is very high. According to the survey results, computer literacy rate of unemployed youths in age groups 20-24 years and 25-29 years is 80.7 and 78.9 percent respectively. (Daily Island 29.9.2016)