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Cabraal tells Sajith not to confuse loans with grants

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By Saman Indrajith

State Minister of Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal yesterday urged Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa to understand that there was a difference between loans and grants.

 Minister Cabraal told Opposition Leader Premadasa: “Make no mistake. Grants and loans are two different things. There are some who think that when a loan is a favour to us in the same way as a grant. It is not so.”

 “Opposition Leader asks whether we would reject Asian Development Bank grants to upgrade the Kelani Valley railway. First, he should learn that the ADB does not give grants, it gives loans. Even if we reject the ADB loan, we have decided to continue with the project because the country needs it. These are our country’s projects; we do them for the sake of the country. They will be completed whether we receive loans or not. This is our responsibility as a government we complete these projects.”

Minister Cabraal said so responding to a series of questions raised by Opposition Leader Premadasa who said that the government had stopped the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and that would be inimical to Lanka-Japan relations.

Minister Cabraal said that the LRT project was to be carried out with a loan from JICA to be settled in 52 years with a 12-year grace period under 0.1% interest. “The Opposition leader should understand that the stipulated period of 52 years is too risky for this country since we would not know the rate of the Japanese Yen in 52 years. A Japanese Yen was two cents then. Now it is Rs. 1.80. Making calculations on the basis of 0.1 percent interest rate does not give the complete picture.

“The Opposition Leader accuses the government of arbitrarily suspending the LRT project. Where was he when his government stopped the Port City project resulting in paying additional 125 million US dollars and adding several more acres to the project due to their ill-conceived action. They suspended a project by SriLankan airlines and had to pay USD 110 million as compensation.”

Minister Cabraal said that the Cabinet had decided on Sept 28. to obtain an ADB loan for the Kelani Valley project because accumulation of foreign loans would not be favourable to the national economy. “At the time they assumed office the amount of loans was 72 percent of the GDP and by the time they left office it had been increased up to 87 percent of the GDP. Foreign loans increased during their time. It is not healthy to the economy to add up more foreign loans. So, we had to suspend some projects they commenced under foreign loans to manage the economy.

“In managing an economy you should understand priorities. The LRT project was planned on a loan of USD 2,300 million. The Kelani Valley project was to be carried out with a loan of USD 1,400 million. If we had gone ahead with those projects, the country would have suffered a loss. Those two projects are centered on the Colombo city. That means their benefit is not directly felt by the low and middle income receiving population in other provinces.”



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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