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Are NGO cooks spoiling the soup?



By Ifham Nizam

Newly appointed National Zoological Gardens Director General Shermila Rajapaksa last week assured top priority for animal welfare and if necessary, they would seek advice from international experts.

She told The Island that with regard to ailments of elephants, it was successfully handled by a native doctor -Wedamahattaya.

However, Rally for Animals Rights (RARE) Spokesperson Panchali Panapitiya claimed that elephant foot care, positive reinforcement, enrichment and modern elephant care were alien to Sri Lanka, a country that had no laws on animal welfare.

She said that in July 2021 RARE approached Steve Koyle, one of the world’s foremost captive elephant experts from the USA. He possessed 21 years of elephant care experience and underwent various training and obtained qualifications. He is known as “Steve the foot guy” in the captive elephant world community.

A zoologist qualified from Michigan State University. He is renowned for his unique elephant foot care, positive reinforcement and target training techniques. In the last six years he established the Elephant Care Unchained organization and started providing free services to elephant owners who cannot afford paid services.

He has rendered paid and voluntary foot care to elephants, training and advice to mahouts in ethical and non-ethical sanctuaries in many countries including India, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia etc.

RARE introduced him to the then Director General of Zoological Department Ishini Wickremesinghe who was delighted to receive his expert advice.

When the idea was conveyed to the mahouts and animal handling staff at Dehiwala Zoo, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and Ridiyagama they were also interested to receive training from this foreign expert in Sri Lanka. This was on a volunteer basis with no cost to the government at all.

“In September 2021, on his arrival in Sri Lanka, Ishini had resigned and there was a period with no director general and finally we introduced him to the new Director General of National Zoological Gardens Shermila Rajapaksa at a meeting at the Dehiwala Zoo in November. Disappointingly she has not yet taken any steps to receive his services to conduct foot care for the 100 elephants under her care

and provide training by him for her relevant staff,” Panapitiya said.

She added “There are many critical elephants that need foot care under her from which Elephant Devi at Dehiwala Zoo is in the worst condition. I think if the abscess on her feet is not treated immediately by the correct technique, it could result in a slow painful death to her in less than two years. Here we have brought the solution to the door step of the DG but she shows no interest.”

The American expert was also introduced to the Wildlife Minister C.B. Ratnayake in October 2021, who directed him to the President of Captive Elephant Owners Association, the Diyawadana Nilame of the Temple of the Tooth, Nilanga Dela Bandara and even he recognised the importance and Steve’s skills and expertise and was happy to receive his services to the temple of the tooth elephant herd and endorsed and recommended him to conduct foot care and advise on enrichment to the temples and private owners in his association.

Steve has since done foot care for around 30 of the country’s most famous Captive Tuskers and Elephants at temples, with private owners and in riding camps and most of them have been very welcoming to have foot care done for their elephants. They were amazed at the tools he used. Steve even introduced simple, cost-effective enrichment methods to improve the mental wellbeing of elephants. Two famous temples are already following these methods and a riding camp elephant too.

The mahouts and owners were grateful and gave him blessings and passed on merits. He travels door to door with a translator offering his services.

He expects to reach all 104 elephants of the industry and work with captive elephant groups.

“Although RARE clash with Mr. Dela Bandara in most issues and principles we found common ground in recognising the skills of this expert and the need for footcare for our elephants by this international expert. And we must thank Mr. Bandara for that,” said Panapitiya.

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Now, CEB plans to ‘rationalise’ tariff



By Ifham Nizam

Plans are afoot to ‘rationalise’ the electricity tariff shortly, Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said, adding that the 52-year-old system should be changed for the betterment of the electricity consumer.

CEB Chief told The Island the CEB tariffs need to be changed to better reflect the use and the income level of the consumer. Ferdinando added that he had already briefed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on it.

Ferdinanado said that right now waste and corruption on CEB’s part had also been added to the consumers’ bill.

He said the CEB had received 1500 MT of fuel yesterday and would receive another shipment soon. However, thort-term power interruptions would continue in several areas until the operations at the Kelanitissa Power Station returns to normal.

“The power interruptions are an annoyance and we are looking for solutions. We too want to provide an uninterrupted power supply to our customers. Our hydro-power generation capacity is low as water levels in reservoirs are receding,” he said.

CEB’s Systems Control Department officials said that power outages might be experienced for one and a half hours due to problems at the Kelanitissa thermal plant complex.

CEB Media Spokesman, Additional General Manager Andrew Navamani said that the national grid had lost 282 MW due to the issues at Kelanitissa thermal plant. He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had informed the CEB that necessary stocks of fuel for Kelanitissa power plant would be provided by yesterday night.

However, it would take several hours to start the generators, he said.

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Ranil calls on MPs to think anew to find solutions to problems engulfing country



By Saman Indrajith

Traditional politics did not have solutions to problems and the MPs should think anew to find solutions, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement, the UNP leader said: We have come to the end of politics. If we go by the words of Francis Fukuyama, it is a question of the end of politics. But that does not mean the end of parliament. We in parliament must think afresh. We must have the strength of finding a new way. We must discuss on bringing about long-term policies which could provide us with a new framework to find solutions for the problems of the people. Thereafter we can go for elections and ask people to decide who or which party could do better. Japan did so. Great Britain is doing so. India and Canada do the same. Why cannot we do it here? If we have common consensus here, we can plan to go for a new era. We must understand this reality.

“The President has commenced this new session at a time when the country is faced with the biggest economic and political crisis in 34 years. In his statement he mentioned only the foreign reserve crisis. The economic crisis we are facing is far more critical than that. We created a middle class with open economic policies. With the collapse of the open economy, the middle class too will collapse. There are a handful of companies and individuals who could earn profits while the entire economy is collapsing. We must decide whether we’ll perish or unite to work out a plan to survive,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We may shout at each other and go out to shout slogans. None of them will be able to help us find solutions. The problems at hand cannot be solved without a policy framework and strong middle-term plan. What we are facing today is the end of traditional politics,” he said.

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Chandrika says Sirisena should be thrown out of SLFP



Former President Maithripala Sirisena should be thrown out of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) for making it a junior partner of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Wednesday night after appearing before the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (SPCoI) appointed to implement the recommendations of the final report of the PCoI into alleged Political Victimisation.

Both Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had destroyed the SLFP, she alleged.

The former President said that she had urged Sirisena not to join the SLPP as that would mark the end of the SLFP.

“I repeatedly told him this and in response Sirisena removed me from the party’s Central Committee and stripped me of my organiser’s post.

Now, Sirisena is saying the same things I said about the SLPP. Even during the war, I managed to get the economy up and running. Look at it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Bandaranaike was also critical of the SPCoI, stating that she had not been summoned before the PCoI on Political Victimisation for her to respond to any allegations against her.

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