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Ganjanomics: Depriving the Deprived

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By Dr. Dineth Bandara

The Ganja Lobby seems to have resorted to guerrilla marketing, as it were. This lobby came into being, pretending to be the saviour of the deprived, and accosted the President at a forum that was meant to be an open discussion with the people of Thanamalwila, of their real problems. Ganja, as one would imagine, would be the least of the problems of these hapless people who are deprived of water, access to finance, housing as well as protection from all manner of wildlife.

This area also has a high rate of suicides. Promoting a substance that has proven to increase serious mental illnesses and social issues that promote suicide in this particular area, shows nothing but the ruthlessly manipulative nature of this lobby. It will be laughing all the way to the bank, trampling over the disadvantaged populations, in the event their guliya, is swallowed by the government.

It seems that the depths into which the ganja lobby would lower itself into, to obtain its nefarious goals, have no end. It uses fictitious economic arguments, fictitious religious arguments (even dragging in the Buddha as one of its endorsers) as well fictitious socio-cultural arguments. This is a reflection of their belief that one can fool some people for some time. They are after the policy-makers. All they need is to fool some of them, for a very short period of time, to get what they want.

We can rest assured that the President will not be one of those who will fall for such mumbo-jumbo. After all, such a dependence-causing substance cannot be given any freedom in the middle of a well-publicized and well-received battle against the social and economic harms of drug use, launched by him, to the relief of many.

It is clear as daylight what they are spending time, effort, energy and presumably other resources is for. This vicious lobby is seeking to get this psychoactive substance, which is proven to cause widespread health, social and economic harms including substantial increases in road accidents, and reductions in IQ of adolescents, legalized for use. This substance then would be unleashed on a population that is already battered by the effects of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, accidents, domestic violence and suicide, which is simply unconscionable.

A lot of hot and malodorous air has been blown on the purported economic benefits of growing ganja for exports. Such is the false hype that some believe that it can bring more income than the export of tea!

One only has to glance through the basic facts about the international ganja trade to see that all the large multinational ganja companies in the world has suffered billion-dollar losses in 2020. It is simply because of an excess supply of ganja and the lack of demand for ganja products around the world. Lured by the propaganda, many countries have already fallen into the trap of allowing ganja cultivation. This has quadrupled supplies since 2018 which has resulted in the collapse of prices and caused enormous losses to the ganja growers.

They are now simply eyeing new markets for their products to recoup the losses. Countries such as ours, with chronic cash problems and gullible policy-makers and officials, that are also replete with uninformed groups that are easily manipulated to promote ganja, are fertile grounds for such predators.

The fake sales projections of billions of dollars in sales for ganja products in 2020s has been proven to be what it actually is – fake. These projections were used to pump up the share prices of ganja companies, that have also collapsed. These projections are still touted to uninformed policy makers and officials in countries such as ours.

It is also pertinent that the tobacco and alcohol industries have billion-dollar shareholdings in these companies. Therefore, what will happen in the future if these companies are allowed to gain a foothold in Sri Lanka is clear. Initially it will be in the form of “export for foreign exchange”.

They will then gradually work to get concessions in small steps, and before long we will have a five-star market for ganja products in Sri Lanka. These companies will have no option but to do so by hook or by crook, as the ganja market is already saturated in the West. Ganja cigarettes, drinks, chocolates and toffees are already marketed in some countries and are waiting to come to Sri Lanka.

Much fanfare is made by the uninformed or unscrupulous ganja promoters about the recent reclassification of the ganja by the United Nations. This reclassification was nothing but allowing countries to consider allowing medicinal use of ganja products. This is not legalization of ganja for all humanity. This is anyway a moot point in Sri Lanka, as medicinal use of this substance has been allowed in this country for a long time. Therefore, it makes no difference here.

The ganja lobby should not be allowed to misrepresent this technical decision by the United Nations. This reclassification almost did not happen as the voting went 27 in favour with 25 against and one abstention. The reclassification requires that the chemicals in ganja, if used for medicinal purposes, should be as strictly controlled as opioid drugs such as morphine and pethidine. This, by no stretch of imagination, can be touted as a “legalization” of ganja.

If these ganja companies are given even the slightest chance, they will start growing the high yielding varieties in Sri Lanka which can have more than 20 times the addictive chemicals compared to local varieties. There will be nothing desheeya or sanskruthika about it. Just imagine what can happen if just 5% of such a harvest leaks to the population.

The current problems we face in trying to enforce the laws on ganja and other illegal drugs does not bode well in a scenario where ganja is legally grown for “export”. Sri Lanka being Sri Lanka, ganja containing high levels psychoactive chemicals will almost certainly leak to the local market. The people of Thanamalwila will not only become labourers in their own lands, but will also be made to become ganja junkies with those in other parts of the country.

The Prime Minister, in his wisdom, made an unequivocal statement in Parliament last year that he will not let this to happen to Sri Lanka. It was hoped that it would put to end the relentless push of the ganja lobby.

It now appears that this cynical lobby is trying to leverage the single-minded determination of the President to improve the lives of the downtrodden and deprived, but deserving people who live in this country, to its advantage. This should not be allowed, and the hyaenas must be chased away. There should be no leeway given to cold blooded lobbies to obtain legal concessions and thousands of acres of land, to suck the economy of Sri Lanka and the well-being of its people dry.



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Opinion

Alan Henricus- A Stalwart Sportsman Of Yesteryear Passes Away

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Alan Henricus (10-Feb 1933 – 26 Nov 2022)

by Hugh Karunanayake

Alan Henricus the youngest of five outstanding sporting brothers who represented their school Royal College, and their country then known as Ceylon, passed away a few days ago. He would have been 90 years of age if he survived up to his birthday in February next year.

The Henricus brothers grew up in Kohuwela where their father a former Feather Weight Boxing Champion of Ceylon lived. He served as an administrator of the sport first as Hony Secretary of the Amateur Boxing Association of Ceylon and later as its President. He helped build the Baptist Church in Nugegoda and was its Treasurer for 25 years. The road leading to their property was named Henricus Mawatha in honour of this outstanding family.

Alan represented Royal in Boxing, Athletics and Rugby, and won school colours in all three sports. He was also a school prefect, highly respected and regarded by both his schoolmates and staff. The family consisting of five brothers and two sisters were all nurtured in the best sporting traditions of colonial Ceylon. Eldest brother Barney represented Ceylon in boxing at the Empire Games and won a gold medal winning the feather weight title. The next, Basil, held the national record for 100 yards sprint and I believe his record still stands. He also represented the Havelocks Sports Club and All Ceylon at Rugby. The next brother George, for many years the Master Attendant in the Colombo Port was also a champion boxer, as was Derrick the fourth in line.

Remarkable sportsmen such as Alan reached their great heights from a base of raw innate talent fostered by regular training and a disciplined approach to life. When I was a 10-year old schoolboy I used to watch with awe and admiration Alan doing his training run at 6 a.m in the morning, jogging all the way from his home in Kohuwela to the Havelock Park and back on most weekends. Alan was senior to me in school by about three years and in those days that was an age gap filled with respect and admiration for a senior student. To us younger kids the high achieving Alan was a hero.

I recall in one Public Schools Athletics meet for the Tarbat Cup, either in 1950 or 1951,Royal College was able to obtain a total of 15 points only, and were never serious contenders for the trophy. However the 15 points that Royal earned was almost single handedly collected through Alan’s efforts. He won the pole vault event, was first in the 120 metres hurdles, and was a member of the 4 X 400 metre relay team which won the event. Although the Tarbat Cup was won by another school, the assembled gathering of Royalists carried Alan shoulder high around the grounds!

From school he was selected for training as a Naval officer cadet in Dartmouth in Devonshire in England. Fellow Royalists the late Norman Gunawardena, and Humphrey Wijesinghe were among the cadets who were selected for Dartmouth together with Alan. On returning to Ceylon after his naval training at Dartmouth, he served the Royal Ceylon Navy and its successor Sri Lanka Navy for several years until retirement. On retirement from the Navy he served for a short period as an Executive in a Mercantile firm in Colombo, before migrating with his family to Australia.

The stint at Dartmouth would carry many precious memories for him, as that was where he met Maureen the love of his life. On migrating to Australia in the 1970s Alan joined the Royal Australian Navy which he served with distinction as Lieut Commander. On my migrating to Australia in 1984 I met Alan and Maureen at a Sunday luncheon hosted by the late Brendon Goonratne. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and Alan and Maureen remained very close friends of ours.

Over the years we used to meet every three months at lunch at the Rosehill Bowling Club organized for old Royalist Seniors through the initiative of Chandra Senaratne. Other social engagements over the years have strengthened our friendship, and it is with deep distress that I heard of his terminal illness about two months ago. I rang him immediately and he was stoic as ever, the brave naval officer that he was. He said in no uncertain terms that he was not seeking to extend his life on this earth, and that he would wait in his home until the final call.

Alan’s departure marks another severance with the old Ceylon we knew, and its traditions and honorable ways. The Last Post will be played at his funeral at the Baptist Church, Epping on Friday December 2 at 3pm. He is survived by his dear wife Maureen, sons Andrew and Richard,, daughter in law Caroline, and grandson Ryan.

“The song is ended but the melody lingers on “

Farewell dear Alan.

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Opinion

Controversy Over Female Teachers’ Dress To School

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Our country and its people always get involved with unnecessary things which is of no interest to the majority of people. The latest debate in this never -a -dull -moment country (as always for the wrong reason) is the dress the female teachers are expected to wear to school. This is something that should be decided by the Ministry of Education in respect of the teachers of government schools.

I recollect when we were students the majority of female teachers wore saree to school. Then there were several teachers who wore frocks. These were the Burgher ladies. And there was no problem at all. I am not indicating this to show support that the teachers should be left to decide on their dress.

Now the strange thing about this controversy is that Buddhist monks have got involved in the debate and they are trying to determine the dress that teachers should wear. They do not seem to realize that the teachers must pay for the sarees. And they need to possess several sarees as they cannot wear the same saree over and over again. Given the monks get their robes free from the dayakayas, they should never get involved in matters of this nature, even though the female nurses may be happy to have one as the president of their union!

This controversy, if settled in favour of the teachers being given the option to decide on the dress and if they wear various types of dresses, the students too might get a bright idea to wear anything they want rather than the uniform that they have to wear at present.

It might be a good thing if the Ministry of Education could decide on a uniform for female teachers in Government schools. Some private hospitals, private firms and Sri Lankan Airlines have uniforms of their own and one could identify them easily. If there is such a uniform in saree and blouse for teachers in government schools, everybody outside too would be able to identify them as teachers and give the respect due to them.

However, this is not the time to worry about dress for teachers when there are children who do not get a proper education and suffer from malnutrition. It seems our rulers always get their priorities wrong, and this always affects the country and the people adversely. First, the teachers must do their job properly so that the schoolchildren do not have to attend tuition classes. We hear that sometimes only one teacher is available, and as a result the children keep away from attending school.

HM NISSANKA WARAKAULLE

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Opinion

Dr Shafi’s daughter

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Just read on WhatsApp about the daughter of  famous Dr. Shihabdeen Mohamed Shafi. I do not like to even mention why he became famous or infamous. His daughter after several years of rejection and trauma has passed GCE (OL) examination with Eight As.

The persons who generated disaster to an innocent family used it to gain positions as President, Ministers and MPs. Teachers and student friends of Dr Shafi’s children too insulted and rejected them as dirt. Has anyone of  these people apologized to this family for their suffering?

B Perera

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