Fernando wants ‘to utilise every available plot for the cultivation of coconuts’

In a move apparently aimed at showing a greater connect with his portfolio, a Sri Lankan Minister chose an unconventional venue to make a media statement — he was climbing a coconut tree.

Arundika Fernando, ‘State Minister of Coconut, Kithul [palm treacle], Palmyrah and Rubber Cultivation Promotion and Related Industrial Product Manufacturing & Export Diversification’, on Friday tried climbing a coconut tree, as locals and camera persons watched and filmed his slow ascent with a gadget made of large metal clips and bands around the tree’s bark.

Local media said the video clip, which subsequently went viral online, was filmed at Dankotuwa town in Puttalam district, the Minister’s constituency, located 140 km north of Colombo, in Sri Lanka’s North Western Province.

“We hope to utilise every available plot of land for the cultivation of coconuts and boost the industry to one which would generate foreign exchange to the country,” the Minister was quoting as saying, as he pointed to a shortage of “700 million coconuts” due to high demand and consumption locally.

As Sri Lanka faces a huge economic challenge in the wake of the global pandemic, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has vowed to boost local production, while restricting import of several products.

Following the August general election, his government created separate covering a range of local products such as batik, vegetables, cane and brass.

Minister Fernando is the second to make headlines with his Ministry-related move, following State Minister of Batik, Handloom, and Local Apparel Products Dayasiri Jayasekara wore a batik shirt to Parliament for the inaugural session last month.

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