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Ex-President Sirisena blames open economic policies introduced in late 1970s for present ills

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By Saman Indrajith

Polonnaruwa District MP and former President Maithripala Sirisena told Parliament yesterday the national economy had been adversely affected by open-economic policies introduced in the late 1970s.

 Participating in the second reading debate on budget 2021, the former President said: “Local industries that had received a boost under the then Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Finance Minister Dr N. M. Perera collapsed after the introduction of open economic policies that depended on goods from overseas. The opening-up of the economy led to the country being flooded with imports, overwhelming local industries, local agriculture and some infrastructural mechanisms such as Regional Development Boards. As a result of those policies we have a sluggish economy today. The situation has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “We have chosen to promote local production as far as possible. I have faith in the incumbent President, who has understood the need of promoting the local industries, agriculture and national economy. I appreciate his policy of promoting local over international. I am sure that we can produce 99 percent of our food here. Therefore, I approve the limitations the president has imposed on some food imports to promote the local products. This government upholds the concept that we must solve our problem ourselves.

“I view these budget proposals as an attempt to reduce poverty by implementing as many programmes as possible to achieve self-sufficiency. The budget contains many progressive proposals. We should welcome the proposal to allocate funds for drinking water projects of rural areas.  We must appreciate the decision to allocate Rs. 7,000 million to for improving rural road network because rural economy cannot be uplifted without access roads enabling connectivity between the farm and the market. We should be thankful to the Prime Minister, who has, in his capacity as the Minister of Finance, included a proposal to allocate Rs 5000 million for developing rural dispensaries and maternity homes. In addition to the allocations made to the health sector, Rs 7,000 million is to be allotted to for the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.”



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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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