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Dinesh says pandemic impact is worse than what was experienced in the great depression

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By Saman Indrajith

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was worse than that of the global depression nearly 100 years back, but the government is confident that it would be able to steer the country amidst the crisis to deliver its promises to the people, Leader of the House Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament on Saturday.

“We will deliver. We deliver what we promised. Do not have any doubts about that. It is for that purpose this budget has been presented. We have a team capable of facing any situation, Minister Gunawardena said participating in the second reading debate on the Budget 2021 proposals.

He said that the global slowdown was around 5.2 percent but Sri Lanka still had positive figures. “The huge mandates President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received at the Presidential election in November last year and at the General Election earlier this year for his Vision for Prosperity and Splendour have enabled us to face challenges. We identified 14 main needs of the country and have put forward a plan to address them including drinking water for all, a three-year plan, to develop 50,000 km of rural roads, and bridges connecting 12,000 villages, increasing the number of national schools to 1000. Our friend Harsha de Silva parrots all economic theories imported from the West and recites the sayings of economists starting from Adam Smith but the problem of poverty affects the US, too. In our case we have a progressive plan to address poverty. These proposals in the budget could realise those plans.

“The unprecedented consequences arising from the current health crisis have spilt over to economies as evident from the problems experienced worldwide in sectors such trade, tourism, investment, and employment.

“The challenges the country is facing are basically related to the foreign currency reserves due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We must protect the environment so that we can counter the economic problems caused by the pandemic. We are planning to eliminate post-harvest losses so that we could boost the amount of produce by 38 per cent. I admit that the Opposition should criticise the government but there should be constructive criticism. I am an MP of the Colombo District and very happy that this year’s budget proposals have plans to improve the Kelani Valley rail track; I know how many people would benefit from that. I call on all MPs to support this progressive budget so that they could be partners in the process of developing our country.”



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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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