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Ganja: Failed industry targets Sri Lanka

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Despite Billion Dollar losses in the West they are promising us Billions!

by Dr. Dineth Bandara

The Jackals are closing in. The bait is set. The ganja farce is hotting up. The drama we are watching makes one wonder if there already is a surreptitious agreement between a section of politicians and officials, and the ganja business. The business in suits and ties, not the sarong-clad ganja cultivators hauled regularly before courts.

Public pronouncements on ganja have been made by a few deluded “Honourable” Members of Parliament. These utterances seem to confirm that the government is seriously considering allowing multinational ganja corporations to cultivate ganja in thousands of acres in Sri Lanka. The deluded few have swallowed the bait. The bait that Sri Lanka can settle a substantial amount of her foreign debt easily by selling ganja (hemp) oil to the world.

This time around, ganja comes with a veneer of sophistication, ostensibly to supply posh markets in the West. This is supposed to bring billions to the national economy. Whichever way one washes it, ganja is ganja, be it grown by those in business suits or proletariats. The only difference is that the harmful chemicals being higher in the business variety. There is nothing “desheeya” about it.

The posh ganja pushers with impressive sounding qualifications and mesmerizing presentations will not tell that world prices of ganja oil has fallen down a precipice within a short period. The prices of ganja oil have collapsed by over seventy five percent since 2019. Their fancy looking and awe-inspiring forecasts totally hides this.

Many companies that got into the into the ganja business have taken a huge hit. The largest ganja traders in the world has reported a billion dollar losses this year. This is in addition to their share values collapsing by over 10 billion US dollars last year. They are not in a position to repay their own debts. The ganja peddlers in suits are hurt and desperate. So are the tobacco and alcohol industries that have heavily invested in these companies.

Therefore, there is no surprise that they are looking to expand the markets elsewhere, even working through trade sections of Embassies. Their immediate objective will be the relaxation of the laws and getting a foothold in as many countries as possible.

If ganja oil is liquid gold, why have the prices collapsed? It is because many countries (and businesses) fell in the same trap. It is like someone opening “bath (rice) kadey” and doing good business. Seeing this, two others will also open shop in the same area, collapsing all three businesses.

Ganja oil prices dropped drastically because there is a severe oversupply. Countries with larger areas of land and cheaper labour have got into the business, perhaps fooled by the same economic hit-men that are coming to Sri Lanka. Any mildly competent business analyst, economist or policy maker should spot this blind-folded.

So, in the end, we will end up with a pittance in dollars, after giving thousands of acres to foreign businesses that will exploit our labour. Along the line, they will keep lobbying in more than one way to open up the domestic market, in micro steps.

There is a range of ganja products in the line already to prime any population. Drinks, chocolates, toffees, cosmetics, hair conditioners, tea, butter and even pet products are among these. However, the real target and the most lucrative product that all such companies wish to market is ganja cigarettes, or smoking products. This is marketed in some countries already.

It seems that some very small sections of the Ayurvedic professionals, are being unknowingly used by the ganja trade. They too are asking for the same – relaxation of laws on ganja cultivation. If they look at this more carefully they too may lose after all. It is possible that the market for some Ayurvedic medications will disappear, if the laws on ganja cultivation is relaxed. Why should one pay for such medicine when one can grow it free of charge, at home?

Hopefully, the more perceptive politicians and government officials are aware that thousands of acres of “protected” ganja plantations is nothing but a mirage in Sri Lanka. We were all treated to the spectacle of heroin and other drugs being sold by none other than those linked to Sri Lanka Police, Department of Excise and even the Government Analysts Department.

It is also hoped that those governing us realize that the widespread social and economic misery caused to Sri Lanka even now by ganja will increase, even if a miniscule amount of the high-yielding varieties which will be grown in these thousands of acres will leak out.

In Sinhala, there is a colourful and insightful saying about petting stray snakes, which all of us are familiar with. In countries where ganja was made legal, ganja related road traffic accidents and deaths have increased significantly. Ganja also significantly increases severe mental illnesses in young people and also increases suicides.

We lose billions of rupees and thousands of lives each year due to road traffic accidents. More than 80,000 and Sri Lankans are admitted to hospitals each year due to self-harm. It is doubtful that any sane government will want adding such misery to thousands of more families.

The ganja pushers will not look for relaxation of laws on use of ganja right now. This industry, primed by shrewd and ruthless strategies and the killer instinct of the tobacco industry, will first look for a foothold in Sri Lanka through a slight relaxation of laws and the control of large tracts of land.

They will then work relentlessly over the years until their objective of opening the domestic market for ganja products is achieved. This may even be 10 years down the line. It would be a walk in the park for these traders in countries like ours, considering the huge amount of resources that is available to them.

This is why Sri Lanka should be wary of Greeks bearing gifts. They will promise billions of dollars to the country, which they cannot and will not deliver. Those pretending to be the guardians of Sri Lanka, sitting in the middle of Diyawanna should use their brain cells on this one.

We should not let lighting strike the beggar’s bowl. Unless all of us are alert, we will be in the same position that China ended up after the Opium Wars. All Sri Lankans should hope and pray that “The Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” will not be seen through a haze of ganja smoke.

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Opinion

Amend Cabinet decision on new Rajagiriya – Nawala Canal bridge

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The Cabinet, at its meeting held on 09.11.2020 granted approval for the construction of a new bridge across the Rajagiriya-Nawala Canal (Kolonnawa Canal), connecting Angampitiya Road, at Ethul kotte, and School Lane, at Nawala.

As a resident of Nawala, I would like to make two proposals in this regard. One is to reconsider the suitability of the proposed link between School Lane and Angampitiya Road to connect Nawala with Ethul Kotte. The second is to make an additional link between Narahenpita and Nawala, by constructing a new bridge across the Kinda Canal, which flows past the Wall-Tile Showroom on the Nawala-Narahenpita Road and the McDonald’s outlet at Rajagiriya. This will provide a direct access from Narahenpita to Ethul Kotte, and at the same time avoiding congestion on Kirimandala Mawatha and Parliament Road, during peak hours.

The decision to construct a bridge, linking Nawala and Ethul Kotte, is commendable, but the selection of the site for the bridge needs reconsideration. Once Ethul Kotte is linked with Nawala, through Angampitiya Road, and School Lane, one would expect a substantial increase in the volume of traffic on these two roads. Located on School Lane is the Janadhipathi Balika Vidyalaya, a popular girls’ school in the area. Even at present, the area around School Lane has heavy traffic comprising mostly school vans and other vehicles bringing children to and from this school, in the mornings and afternoons. Linking School Lane with Ethul Kotte will make this traffic situation worse, causing congestion.

A better option is to connect Ethul Kotte with Nawala, by constructing a bridge, linking New Jayaweera Mawatha in Ethul Kotte, with Koswatta Road, in Nawala. A by-lane, branching off from the Koswatta Road leading up to the canal, at an appropriate location, could be used for this purpose. On this link, only a short distance of roadway about 250 m, needs to be developed, whereas the School Lane extension needs development of at least 700 m of roadway. Earlier, motorists used Koswatta Road as a shortcut to access Parliament Road. Now, turning right, at the Parliament Road junction, is not permitted, and hence, there isn’t much traffic on this road at present.

One advantage of extending the Koswatta Road, to Ethul Kotte is that it could be linked in the other direction, with Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, on the Narahenpita side, providing a direct route for motorists coming along Thimbirigasyaya Road to go to Ethul Kotte. With this link, it will be possible for traffic to avoid both Parliament Road and Chandra de Silva Mawatha, Nugegoda, the only two access roads to Kotte, from Colombo, available at present.

To complete this access, it is necessary to construct a bridge across Kinda Canal, linking Galpotta Road with Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, after extending both roadways up to the canal. This area is still not developed, except for a reservation made for a playground on the Nawala side. A new roadway, which is only about half a km distance, is necessary, and this could be built without any problem linking these two roadways. Galpotta Road could be linked with Koswatta Road via Ratanajothi Mawatha, which crosses the Rajagiriya–Nawala Road, at Koswatta Junction.

The construction of these two new bridges, one across Kolonnawa Canal and the other across Kinda Canal, will provide a direct route from Colombo to Ethul Kotte, via Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, Galpotta Road, Koswatta Road and New Jayaweera Mawatha. This link will reduce congestion, at present experienced on Kirimandala Road and Parliament Road.

 

Dr JANAKA RATNASIRI

Nawala

 

 

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Opinion

A tribute to my mother-in-law

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Appreciation

My mother-in-law, Mandrani Gunasekera, nee Malwatta, passed away peacefully in our home a few weeks ago. The funeral arrangements were complicated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic situation, and the resultant weekend curfew in Colombo.

It is a privilege for me to reflect on my mother-in-law and her role in our lives. Vocationally, she was a practitioner of one of the noblest professions on earth, that of being a teacher, with the responsibility of educating and molding young lives. First in the public-school system, then overseas, and finally in Colombo’s leading international schools. As someone who topped her batch at the Peradeniya University, teaching was an unusual and perhaps unglamourous choice, but it demonstrated her commitment to the service of others.

In private life, she, was a mother to two daughters, one of whom is my wife, and their strength of character are a tribute to her. Her four grandchildren, including my two sons, are, I am sure, left in no doubt, that their mothers were raised in the home of a teacher, with a strong commitment to both education and discipline. I saw first-hand, that my mum-in- law, was an enabler and facilitator, guiding and molding her family. Her eldest grand-daughter, Thisuni Welihinde’s wedding late last year, was a milestone for her and we were never sure who was more excited, the bride or her grandmother.

To me, she was always “Ammi” and having lost my own mother when I was very young, I was determined to treat my wife’s mother, as I would my own. After my father- in- law’s death, a decade ago, it was a joy to care for my mother-in- law, in our home. Ammi was retired and lived a life of leisure. Which was a good counter balance to our own lives, which always seemed to be so hectic and rushed. I also learned from my mother -in-law, that being effective did not come from being prominent.

Ammi was also regular at Church, every Sunday, and was also an active member of a mid-week ladies Bible study, and prayer group, who were also her group of friends. They always ended their meetings, with brunch if not lunch. It was special joy that we were able to celebrate her 80th birthday with a “surprise party” at home, with her friends, about six weeks before her passing.

Ammi enjoyed the simple joys of life, and of our home, whether it was meal times, the constant chatter and boisterous behaviour of her two teenage grandsons, our weekend activities or family vacations to most of which she accompanied us. She was also an avid rugby fan, especially of Royal College rugby, since her brother had captained Royal and now her grandson was playing. In fact, she used to attend many matches and the 75th Bradby encounter last year, held in the shadow of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks, was her last, to witness her brother honoured on the field with other past captains and her grandson take the field, as a junior player.

This strange Covid-19 pandemic year, and its unprecedented lockdown ,enabled us to spend lots of time together, as family. Our lockdown daily routine, which included lots of sleep and rest, was centered on the daily family lunch, either preceded, or followed by family prayer. Ammi became the most committed and enthusiastic participant in our family mid-day gatherings. It was a great blessing, in disguise, that enabled us to spend the last few months, with noting much else to do, but enjoy each other’s company. While we miss her, we have the hope that she is with our Lord Jesus Christ. Her favourite Bible scripture in Psalm 91, states “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High abides under the shadow of the Almighty …. and with long life I will satisfy him and show him, My salvation”.

 

By Harim Peiris

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Opinion

The Benefits of Homeschooling

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COVID-19 has changed our normal activities. What we were used to doing in 2019, is no longer a routine in 2020. In the midst of this pandemic the schools were closed down, and the decision to reopen schools by the Sri Lankan government and the trade unions speaking against it, made me ponder on an alternative.

Education in developing countries have often been a sensitive topic, Parents would leave no stone unturned to put their child to a ‘Big School’. How many of the classrooms in ‘Big Schools’ are capable of making seating arrangements by keeping a distance of one meter in accordance with the COVID-19 regulations?

Online Teaching has been introduced as an alternative, but isn’t there something better than that?

This would be the best time to introduce Homeschooling.

Homeschooling is where parents and guardians teach and groom their children. There are many parents capable of handling children and providing a comfortable atmosphere at home for a child to grow up and learn; there are parents who are skilled in particular trades and crafts, and teaching these to their children at a younger age gives the child an opportunity to be a skilled individual.

Several decades back the role of a Governess played an important role in upbringing children in Sri Lankan households. Many would have read about Helen Keller, a deaf and blind student who went on to be a graduate; she was groomed and taught by her governess Anne Sullivan, who taught her at home, this is a successful example of Homeschooling.

It is an arrogant attitude to scoff that parents groom their children into good citizens without sending them to school. Inferior Schooling and Teaching Methods have been a bane to a child’s psychology and mentally handicapping the confidence of a child. The truth is, schools no longer groom students, they have become Examination Centres, that judge the performance of their students through results.

It will be interesting to look into some of the criticisms made by sceptics on homeschooling. One is the subject knowledge of the parents; let’s be honest, how many of us use Titration in Chemistry in our daily lives, do we even want to try it? How many of us want to know the Chronology of the Kings that ruled the Country, has it ever disturbed us?

On the other hand, Homeschooling does not mean that teachers would no longer be needed, the teacher can play a broader role as a governess or a trainer to fill in the subject gaps that the parents are unable to provide for their child.

Another criticism is that children will not learn to socialise without schools. Isn’t Covid-19 regulations discouraging socialising by asking us to avoid public gatherings and maintaining a distance of 1 meter, isn’t socialising with a bad friend as disastrous as a deadly disease?

It will be interesting to see how the trade unions are going to respond to this if homeschooling becomes successful, as they will be the worst affected. But they could always become good Governesses or Subject Experts and play a guiding role in the homeschooling venture. This country now needs more Florence Nightingales to treat the sick and more Anne Sullivans to groom the kids.

 

HASALA PERERA

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