By Rathindra Kuruwita
Farmers of Hambantota would continue with their fast until a gazette notification declaring the Wild Elephant Management Reserve in Hambantota was published, environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara said yesterday.
The farmers of Hambantota have been protesting for over 35 days, demanding the gazetting of the reserve, Chamikara said.
“A plan to create this reserve was prepared in 2010 and approval granted in 2011. However, powerful ministers of both the Rajapaksa and yahapalana governments prevented the implementation of the plan. There are behind a large number of soil and granite extraction sites in the area earmarked for the reserve. A powerful Minister in this government too is opposed to the proposed reserve.”
Chamikara added that there was no need for Cabinet approval for the declaration of a protected area. According to the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, the Minister of Environment could declare a protected area. “Given this, the government’s move is a clear diversionary strategy,” the senior environmentalist said.
Chamikara said that the government had not obtained Cabinet approval for expanding a road to Lankagama or parcelling out land in Kandakadu, Dahaiyagala and Somawathiya.
“Farmers know this and that’s why they will go on with their fast until the gazette is printed. 156 farmer organisations and a number of trade unions have joined the struggle of the Hambantota farmers. At a time when some claiming to be farmers are clearing forest land when the President visits villages, these people are trying to protect the forests and ecology,” Chamikara said.
The Cabinet on Monday approved a proposal by the Minister of Environment to declare a 23,746 hectare elephant reserve subsequent to obtaining the agreement of legal draughtsman for publishing the gazette.
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.
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.”
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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