by SURESH PERERA
As decommissioned naval vessels are considered a country’s “national assets”, it is an age-old tradition to sink unserviceable warships in the ocean irrespective of their commercial value, a senior Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) official said.
Nowhere in the world are old naval ships sold even for their scrap metal value as these vessels have dutifully served the nation with honor and pride, says Captain Indika de Silva, SLN’s official spokesman.
Warships are commissioned on a special presidential warrant, he outlined. “Hence, they are a part of our national wealth”.
He was responding to questions on the Navy’s move to sink two old warships, ‘Weeraya’ and ‘Jagatha’, which were decommissioned at Tuesday’s ceremonial farewell under the auspices of Navy Commander, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne at the Naval Dockyard in Trincomalee.
The two ships were part of the Third Fast Gun Boat Squadron, which rendered an invaluable service to the Navy for more than four decades to ensure the security of Sri Lankan waters.
Of course, decommissioned warships can be given to a friendly country for their use after refurbishment, Capt. de Silva elaborated. “However, in the case of the two Sri Lankan vessels, they are now too old to sail as they were built in 1961”.
“The vessels were given to Sri Lanka by China in 1972 and 1980, respectively, and it was an engineering marvel that they were kept operational for 40 plus years despite the inbuilt old technology in them”, he explained.
Sinking decommissioned warships in the ocean is not considered a “waste” as they create new habitats for marine species. In fact, they serve as an artificial reef for marine life, he noted.
“Even old, unusable armoured carriers are sunk in the sea”, he continued.
Referring to the Indian Navy’s Centaur-class aircraft carrier INS Viraat, which was the world’s longest-serving warship, Capt. de Silva said moves to convert the 1940s-built ship into a museum at a cost of 400-500 crore were abandoned and now the 27,800 ton vessel has been lined up for dismantling.
India’s Union Shipping Minister regretted that efforts to convert the warship into a museum could not succeed. He said several consultations were done but the plan could not materialize as an expert committee reported that the vessel would not last for more than a decade, according to reports.
Interestingly, Alang, which is the last resting place for ships, INS Viraat is the first warship to be dismantled, where annually around 280 ships from across the world are brought to be dismantled.
Earlier, French aircraft carrier Clemenceau was supposed to sail to Alang for dismantling but a massive controversy thwarted the efforts to bring the aircraft carrier, reports further said.
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
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.
PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners
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.”
Thilo Hoffman remembered
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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