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Govt. won’t reverse decision to re-open schools on Jan 11 – GL



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Education Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (28) said that the government was going ahead with plans to re-open schools on January 11 in areas not isolated due to the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing the media at the Waters Edge, Battaramulla, Prof. Peiris, flanked by SLPP National List MPs, Sagara Kariyawasam and Charitha Herath emphasized schools couldn’t be kept closed indefinitely though the pandemic posed a quite a threat.

Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the ruling SLPP said that the decision to re-open schools wasn’t political. The veteran law academic turned politician said that the government in spite of difficulties was making every effort to gradually restore normalcy.

The Education Ministry in consultation with health authorities took the

decision as the government couldn’t allow the epidemic to disrupt countrywide schools, he said.

Based on representations received from various interested parties, Prof. Peiris said that the vast majority of parents wanted schools to re-open. Therefore, the government felt the need to go ahead with planned re-opening of schools.

 Minister Peiris said that Central Province Governor Lalith U. Gamage recently accommodated some students studying in schools situated in areas isolated due to the corona epidemic at the Manikdiwela Madya Maha Vidyalaya.

 The renowned academic here and abroad, while appreciating the Governor’s move said that the ministry, too, could explore the possibility of adopting the same approach in other affected areas.

 Prof. Peiris said that he along with Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera held consultations with medical experts over the last weekend as regards schools re-opening. One-time External Affairs Minister however said that the government wouldn’t be hasty in its decisions not only in respect of education but other sectors as well. But, the government wouldn’t hesitate to take decisions for the wider wellbeing of the population, the minister said, assuring the student population of a cohesive plan to resume schooling.

The minister said that the government was ready to make modifications, if necessary, in case shortcomings were brought to the notice of the Education Ministry.

Assuring that the public would be informed of the schools reopening plan within the next couple of days, Prof. Peiris said altogether the government allocated Rs 105 mn to provide disinfectants and other required items to schools.

 The minister also appreciated the support provided by UNICEF and the WHO for the reopening plan. The international community provided equipment required to test temperature in addition to other items, he said.

 Acknowledging that the vast majority of schools were under Provincial Councils, Prof. Peiris said that the Governors had a critically important role to play in the absence of the Provincial Councils.

 Prof. Peiris assured parents that everything possible would be done to protect the student community. Contrary to criticism, schools re-opening plan was feasible and could be implemented with the support of all stakeholders.

 He also pointed out how the government conducted Year 5 Scholarship examination and the GCE Advanced Level examination in Nov-Dec though many expressed doubts about the Education Ministry’s efforts. The ministry with the support of the health and security authorities made arrangements even for several hundred Covid-19 affected students to sit for the GCE AL examination, the minister said.

The minister urged parents and authorities of respective schools to meet during the January 4-11 period to make the required arrangements.

Underscoring the importance of reopening primary sections of schools, Prof. Peiris said that the student population could be divided into two and one allowed to attend classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the rest on Tuesday and Thursday.

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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’



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



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



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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