By Dr. Anula Wijesundere
Vice President, Temperance Association of Sri Lanka
During the past few months, various views have been expressed in the electronic, print and social media regarding legalization of the growth of cannabis in Sri Lanka. Some who promote cannabis growth indicate that it promotes nationalism, being a vital ingredient for ayurvedic medicinal preparations
In the recent past, before the second COVID-19 pandemic occurred in Sri Lanka, daily raids were conducted by our security forces to apprehend drug traffickers and addicts to minimize the use of heroin in Sri Lanka. These daily detections were greatly appreciated by the people.
When we consider the massive haul of heroin confiscated in mid seas in the recent months and the daily detections of large quantities of heroin, it seems that Sri Lanka is the central point of the major heroin network in South East Asia. When the government is thus engaged in a massive anti-narcotic drive, the expressions of certain prominent politicians, promoting cannabis, is in stark contrast to the government policy on narcotic control.
Health hazards of cannabis
The use of cannabis is indeed detrimental to public health. The harmful effect of cannabis is related to the chemical THC (Tetra Hydro Carbinol), which is a psycho stimulant. The regular use of cannabis leads to the development of psychological and physical dependence and addiction.
Cannabis also aggravates psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, panic attacks, self-harm and depression and leads to impairment of memory and dementia. There is a greater incidence of suicide among cannabis users.
Apart from involvement of the nervous system, cannabis also affects the heart, causing rapid heart rate and shortness of breath. Recurrent lung infections are also common among cannabis users due to the presence of carcinogens and irritants in cannabis smoke.
Effects of cannabis on the newborn
Use of cannabis during pregnancy results in the birth of low birth weight babies with abnormalities in the brain and genital organs. Thus, the use of cannabis is extremely harmful to the baby throughout the pregnancy. Cannabis can be considered as a gateway drug which leads to the use of more potent and dangerous drugs subsequently.
Restrictions to the use of cannabis
The use of cannabis containing drugs is prohibited by the Federal Drug Agency (FDA) of the USA. The International Narcotic Control Board (INCB) has warned that the use of cannabis is likely to increase globally, unless the growth for medicinal use is not controlled adequately. The British National Formulary (BNF), which indicates all drugs used in the UK, does not include any cannabis related drugs. In Sri Lanka, cannabis is prohibited by law, namely by the Poisons, Opium and Dangerous Drugs Ordinances of Sri Lanka.
Global restrictions on the use of cannabis
Only a few countries in the world have legalized the use of cannabis. These include Uruguay, Canada, Georgia, South Africa and the city of Amsterdam. Studies done in Uruguay have shown that the incidence of road traffic accidents, crime, mass murder and violence against women have increased after the legalizing of cannabis in that country.
Use of cannabis by Sri Lankan bus drivers and road traffic
The traffic police of Sri Lanka have confirmed that many long distance bus drivers use cannabis, break road rules, overtake and speed, leading to the death of innocent civilians. In other instances, excessive intake of cannabis may lead to drowsiness, resulting in drivers falling asleep at the wheel, with drastic consequences.
At present the Sri Lankan highways have indeed become bloody with around 3000 deaths annually with about eight deaths per day. The deaths affect mainly the breadwinners in most families, thus leaving families in dire poverty. Furthermore, about 25000 persons become disabled partly or totally annually. Sadly, the care of the disabled becomes the responsibility of the affected unfortunate families. The promotion of cannabis growth will certainly lead to more accidents with their dire consequences.
Use of cannabis for medicinal purposes
The requirement of cannabis for the ayurvedic drug manufacturers is supplied by the police via confiscation of illegally grown cannabis. The aryuvedic doctors have also been granted permission to grow limited amounts of cannabis for their own drug requirements.
However, we are not aware of any disease for which cannabis is absolutely essential in the ayurvedic stream. In allopathic medicine, the only requirement of cannabis is in the treatment of two very rare types of complex seizure disorders, eg: Dravet Syndrome and Lannox Gastaut Syndrome. However, a recent article in the British Medical Journal has raised doubts about the usefulness of cannabis based anticonvulsant in treatment of these conditions.
The current state in the anti-narcotics drive
The Secretary of Defence recently expressed that over 6000 persons have been arrested in possession or peddling illicit drugs, in the recent past. However, he mentioned that the actual number of illicit drug users in Sri Lanka is likely to exceed 600,000, approximately 2.5% of our population. He also stated that a large extent of land is already under illegal cannabis cultivation. If such large numbers of Sri Lankan’s use dangerous drugs when it is illegal, it is inevitable that the legalizing of cannabis will certainly increase the supply and demand.
Consequences of promoting the growth of cannabis
If the growth of cannabis is legalized for medical purposes, despite strong assurances that the growth would be done with all security measures, it is very likely that the cannabis grown would reach the public at large. The people of Sri Lanka have lost confidence in all security measures pertaining to narcotics with the discovery of some officials of the Police Narcotic Bureau, selling the cannabis confiscated, back to drug lords.
The National Alcohol and Tobacco Authority (NATA), prohibits the advertising of the said products in the electronic and print media. Similarly, promoting the growth of cannabis, especially through the social media claiming to improve the economy of the country, should be prohibited. With the deterioration of physical, mental and social health of the nation with cannabis use, there can be no economic development.
Legalizing the use of cannabis would therefore impede the development of the nation. The Temperance Association of Sri Lanka earnestly requests the government not to legalize the growth of cannabis, which would definitely obstruct the vision of “vistas of prosperity and splendour”, projected by the present government and the expectations of all.
VIOLENT NIGHT —Santa Claus goes Die-Hard this Christmas
By Tharishi Hewavithanagamage.
Tis’ the season to be jolly and binge watch Christmas movie classics like ‘Home Alone’, but in a twisted turn of events Director Tommy Wirkola has other plans for audiences. With a screenplay by Pat Casey and Josh Miller, Director Wirkola and his team flips the table on the Christmas movie stereotype and gives audiences a scintillating and gut-churning tale starring the beloved Santa Claus. The movie stars, David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Leah Brady, Beverly D’Angelo and Alex Hassell among others.
The film starts with a boozy opening featuring a not-so-jolly, drunk, self-loathing Santa Claus complaining about how children these days are greedy and are ungrateful. The story then shifts it focus on to the über-wealthy but awfully dysfunctional Lightstone family, who have gathered to celebrate Christmas. Siblings Alva and Jason have brought their families to spend time with their mother Gertrude. Alva, her son Bertrude and actor boyfriend Morgan Steele, plan to gain financial benefits from Gertrude, while Jason his ex-wife Linda attempt to fix their marriage for the sake of their daughter Trudy. The ‘holy night’ becomes a more ‘gory night’ as the Lightstone family are taken hostage by a group of mercenaries led by ‘Mr. Scrooge’, who are looking to steal $300 million locked away in a massive vault within the compound. Santa who had arrived to deliver his gifts is unwillingly caught up in the unfolding mayhem, having fallen asleep mid-cookie/booze binge. Santa Claus is soon forced to pull himself together for young Trudy, and deliver more than just ‘lumps of coal’ to the bad guys.
As the title itself suggests, the highlight of the movie is the violence and it lives up to its name. Wirkola and the team go all in with the violence, plenty of blood and gore and crude language to top it all off. Blood and guts are the last thing one would expect from Christmas flicks. The movie is packed with very graphic action sequences given to audiences from every camera angle possible, so it may not be for the faint hearted.
The film borrows greatly from the quintessential holiday movies of all time— ‘Home Alone’ and ‘Die-Hard’. Both franchises have always resonated well with audiences over different generations and the two titles, in a similar vein, combine action and violence set during Christmas time. The deadly booby traps that Trudy sets up bring back memories of Kevin McCallister’s assault on the Wet Bandits— Marv and Harry and David Harbour’s Santa is basically the new John McClane. Both Die-Hard and Home Alone have done well with striking a balance between the violence and themes about family, love and bringing people together for the holidays. For Wirkola who is amplifying the violence a thousand times over, it is important to not lose the festive vibes amidst the unbridled carnage. The movie manages to balance the scales just enough that it does not hamper the thrill. Wildly entertaining as it may be, the short and rather simple storyline affects the pace of the film. The storyline does not ponder too much over who lives and dies and barely goes into detail about the characters, and fails to give the film solid ground.
The star that truly shines is David Harbour, who is known best for his work as Jim Hopper on the Stranger Things series. He delivers a very natural performance, almost as if he was destined to play the role of a not-so-Saint Nick. He brings his A-game into the violent aspects of the role, while simultaneously delivering heart-warming scenes. Adding his own input into developing the character in the early stages of production, Harbour surely enjoyed this new rendition of Santa Claus. Adding more layers and elements to the character, the movie refers to and expands on the many cultural iterations of Saint Nicholas. ‘Violent Night’ gives audiences a glimpse into Santa’s history with a Viking-style backstory. Going by Nicomund the Red, he topped the naughty list as a warrior who pillaged and killed with his reliable hammer, Skullcrusher. Obviously in this scenario his former lifestyle gives him a greater advantage over the bad guys. Harbour brings great energy and inventively switches with ease between the hard and soft elements that complete the character.
Leah Brady’s character Trudy plays a key role alongside Harbour’s Santa, as it’s their relationship that keeps the story running. Trudy depicts the essence of Christmas and is the epitome of everything that is good in the world. She is the emotional core of the tale— a little girl who needs something to believe in. A classic Christmas trope but one that is necessary to push the story forward. Trudy’s character reminds Santa that goodness and kindness is still there, in a world driven by greed and selfishness. The character dynamic helps strike an important balance between the violence and sentimental aspects of the holiday season. The rest of the cast are given ample screen time to work with their characters but don’t necessarily stand out, due to the lack of a solid storyline.
‘Violent Night’ is a simple tale that puts a fresh spin (and brutal murders) on the usual holiday flicks. Home Alone and Die-Hard were violent in their own way, but Wirkola is intensifying the bloodbath and catering to largely adult audiences. It’s not every day that audiences get to see a foul-mouthed, drunk Santa Claus who surprisingly turns out to be very good at crushing skulls and delivering nut-cracking blows with a sledgehammer, save the day. David Harbour’s rendition of Santa can sit at the top with the likes of Deadpool and John Wick based solely off the gruesome and highly graphic action sequences it offers. For audiences looking to catch the film Wirkola’s magic guarantees a bloody good time.
‘Violent Night’ is currently screening at Scope Cinemas.
South likely to be hit most by West’s price cap on Russian crude oil
Months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is becoming increasingly clear that the latter’s traumas would not end any time soon. Nor is the invader registering any notable gains from its fatal decision to annex Ukraine by armed means and might. However, it’s abundantly clear that the destabilizing economic consequences for the world from the invasion are likely to increase exponentially.
The recent decision by the G7, EU and Australia to place a price cap of US $ 60 on a barrel of Russian crude oil is further proof of the West’s intention of weakening Russia relentlessly on the economic plane, but as matters stand, it is the global South that is likely to suffer most from this decision.
Observers of the global oil industry were quoted as saying that the world would need to brace for further oil price hikes as a result of the Western decision and that OPEC would likely reduce its oil output in the days to come with the aim of propping-up prices. Needless to say, these developments translate into graver economic hardships for the more vulnerable economies of the South, although destabilizing ripple effects from stepped-up oil prices would be felt worldwide as well.
At the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, hunger and famine were already taking hold of parts of Africa. Some African countries with the worst food crises are; Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia. Their condition was further aggravated as a result of food and energy prices escalating, close on the heels of the invasion.
It was only a matter of time before these economic aftershocks made themselves felt in even the West. Right now, the West is very much into a ‘Winter of Discontent’, with rising food and energy prices proving to be doubly distressing. Inflation in the UK, for instance, is said to be notably high.
In the Asian theatre, countries such as Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are virtually begging for survival. If not for the largesse of the international community, it could be truly said that Sri Lanka ‘would not live to see another day’. If its multi-dimensional crisis is not resolved expeditiously, Sri Lanka is likely to be categorized by the world community as one of those countries with the highest levels of hunger in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Some other countries in this category from the regions concerned are: Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and North Korea.
Accordingly, the mentioned economically-distressed countries and more are unlikely to survive another series of energy and food price shocks and also remain intact, so to speak. However, with the prospects remaining bleak for a negotiated settlement of the Ukraine crisis, the possibility of the international community alleviating the economic hardships of the South in the foreseeable future is remote. The conclusion is inescapable that the South would need to brace for aggravating material hardships and economic disempowerment.
Wise counsel would need to be brought to bear on the Russian political leadership to enable it to see the no-win situation into which it has brought itself in the Ukrainian theatre. President Putin is unlikely to take the path of negotiations in Ukraine if the latter course would incur for him a loss of face and prestige. The negotiated settlement while ensuring Ukraine’s independence and geographical integrity should guard against the possibility of a drastic loss of prestige and credibility for the Russian President in the eyes of his public at home.
However, the world community is quite a distance away from such a win-win outcome, considering the polarities in thinking and the persisting hostile relations between the main sides to the Ukraine crisis. The solution calls for deft diplomacy of the highest order.
It is left to powers, such as China and India, to take up the challenge of bringing about a negotiated political settlement in Ukraine. China has not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine but is not endorsing it either. Since the Chinese political leadership has entered into what may be called a détente process of sorts with the US, it emerges as a suitable candidate to bring the antagonists in Ukraine to the negotiating table.
President Xi could use the measure of cordiality he established with President Biden before the recent G-20 summit in Indonesia to narrow the differences between the conflicting sides in Ukraine, considering that the West’s staunch support for Ukraine is a vital factor in perpetuating the conflict.
Likewise, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could use his offices as the head of the G-20 to help to bring the crisis in Ukraine to an end. As is the case with China, India enjoys cordial ties with Russia and being a major democracy, India is likely to see the wisdom of ending the Ukraine conflict by peaceful means, in consideration of the need to serve the best interests of the Ukrainian and Russian publics without further delay.
A moral duty is cast on the world’s foremost democracies, such as India, to attach primacy to the wellbeing of people everywhere and in the current world economic crunch, it is the people who are affected negatively most. It stands to reason if the Ukraine invasion is ended through negotiations, there would be considerable relief for people worldwide.
The fact that there is considerable popular unrest against the political leadership of China and Russia at present should further prompt the respective Presidents of these countries to lose no time in doing their best to end the Ukraine crisis by peaceful means. It ought to be clear that their tenures at the helm of their countries would no longer be peaceful, since their policies, domestic and foreign, have only served to trigger internal dissent and unrest. They may deploy state coercion to get such unrest under control but the possibility is that the people’s animosity towards their regimes will explode time and again.
If Xi and Putin would permit wise counsel to prevail they would redress the grievances of their publics by peaceful means rather than court chronic and continuing dissent against their regimes by seeking to quell their popular uprisings through the use of coercion. Next, they should use the expertise they have acquired locally to heal a ‘running wound’ that is bringing distress to people the world over, such as the Ukraine crisis.
Christmas with the Calibre Team
The festive season is certainly brightening up and, going by what I see on social media, there will be plenty of festive activities for everyone, and that’s a good sign, indeed, as we missed out on those Christmassy celebrations, the past two years, mainly due to the pandemic.
Choro Calibre and X-Calibre, two unique bands, with energetic musicians, who are focused and passionate to create choral and acoustic music, in their own style, have released their new Christmas cover song…the ever popular Jose Feliciano festive hit, ‘Feliz Navidad.’
This much loved Christmas pop song has been given an electronic colour, and twist, by the Calibre Team.
For the record, ‘Feliz Navidad’ was written, in 1970, by Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano.
With its simple, heartfelt lyrics—the traditional Spanish Christmas and New Year greeting “Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad” means Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness”.
The song has been heard, on the radio, by an estimated 3.8 billion people, according to Billboard, where it remains as one of the top 10 best-performing songs on its Holiday 100 chart.
You can check out the new music video, by the Calibre Team, on YouTube, and download the song on Apple Music and Spotify.
Choro Calibre and X-Calibre became a reality, in 2009, when Shamal De Silva, driven by the passion for music, teamed up with a few of his friends and started a choir, and a band.
Shamal began his music career at the age of just eight, probably the youngest church organist at the time, when he started playing at St. Paul’s Church, in Waragoda. Later, he took over the leadership of the College Choir, in 2008, at his Alma-Mater, St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, and went on to win “The Musician of the Year” award, in 2009, for his multi-disciplined musical contributions. He also excelled in his studies and graduated from the University of Colombo.
Explaining the meaning of ‘Calibre,’ Shamal says Excalibur is the legendary sword of King Arthur and it is believed to be the strongest sword – unbreakable, and powerful. And so, the band is named as X-Calibre, and the choral group as Choro Calibre.
Elaborating further, Shamal indicated that the choral group, Choro Calibre, is an international award-winning commercial choir (won three awards at the Asia Cantate Choir Games, held in Thailand), and they perform at weddings, events, and Christmas carols, while X-Calibre is an acoustic band, also doing weddings, events and private functions.
“With our new outlook, new sound, re-arranged music and melodious harmonies, we’ve got some exciting events and productions lined up. We perform different genres and musical eras, ranging from the sounds of golden oldies to the top club hits of today”, said Shamal.
You could check them out, during the festive season, at the following venues:
• 14th December: 7.00pm – Cafe Ivy
• 16th to 25th December: 4.00pm – Cinnamon Grand
• 17th December: 5.00pm – Gold FM 70s show at Taj North Lawn
• 20th December: 7.00pm – Christmas party at Cinnamon Lakeside
• 21st to 25th December: 7.00pm – Cinnamon Lakeside
• 22nd and 23rd December: 8.00pm – Taj Samudra
• 24th and 25th December: 8.00pm – Hilton Colombo
• 22nd to 24th December: 9.00pm – Galadari Hotel
• 25th December 2022: Galadari Hotel
Colombo Stars defeat Dambulla Aura by 9 runs at Sooriyawewa
VIOLENT NIGHT —Santa Claus goes Die-Hard this Christmas
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