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MP Pathirana alleges bid to promote ganja as substitute for tobacco

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By Saman Indrajith

The tobacco mafia had commenced a campaign to promote ganja as a substitute and hired intellectuals and professionals to recommend the use of psychoactive narcotic, Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana told Parliament on Wednesday (7).

“Professors, doctors, professionals including health experts are now on the payroll of tobacco companies and are writing articles, books and speaking the values of ganja.

Their campaign is to get the narcotic plant legalised here and this should be stopped immediately,” the MP said during the Questions to Prime Minister Session.

The MP said the cigarette sales had dropped drastically in recent times and the tobacco mafia had resorted to promoting ganja instead as a substitute. “Just like the milk powder mafia, flour importers mafia there is a tobacco mafia. The tobacco mafia has got hold of several key persons and got them to promote ganja here. The articles are talking of the possibilities of earning huge sums of foreign exchange by growing them in this country. We demand to know from the Prime Minister what action his government would take to save the nation from this imminent threat.”

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that tobacco sales had decreased owing to high prices resulting from prohibitive taxes and increased awareness among the public of the ill-effects of cigarettes. “There is no evidence and reports about a campaign promoting ganja, but there are posts on social media platforms to that effect. Some individuals and companies have sought the government’s permission to import the plant to be used as raw material for various products including medicine. However the government would not legalise the narcotic substances.”

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that a committee had been appointed in terms of provisions of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board Act No 11 of 1980 to study the threats from the cannabis plant. “The government authorities have been continuously conducting programmes to raise awareness of the dangers of the psychotropic effects of cannabis. In addition to such awareness programmes in schools, universities and vocational training institutes, teachers and teacher trainees are being informed of the measures to be taken to curb the drug menace.”

MP Pathirana:

Dr Nimal Karunasiri conducted a thorough study on the uses of cannabis. He published a book too. The chief guest at the launch of the book was the Prime Minister. Recently Dr Karunasiri mentioned that at the launching ceremony the prime minister in no uncertain terms stated that ganja was a dangerous narcotic and should not be promoted in our society. Dr Karunasiri engaged in a campaign against ganja. While being thankful and appreciative of that act of the Prime Minister I would like to know whether he could take the lead from Parliament to fight against the narcotic plant in addition to the expert committee.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa:

No need to worry about parliament. None of the MPs are using ganja.

MP Pathirana:

Are you sure?

Prime Minister Rajapaksa:

To the best of my knowledge none of the MPs smoke ganja. If you know any you can bring that to our notice so that we could take action.

MP Pathirana said that during the shortage of narcotics, the drug addicts resorted to use cough syrup and some painkillers. “Now, after the abuses had been pointed out those medicines are available only at state pharmaceutical outlets and sold under strict procedures. This is a country where medicines are used as narcotic drugs. If a narcotic was given a label of medicine what would be the result?

MP Premnath C Dolawatte raising a point of order: It is one of their MPs who once said that there are cocaine users in parliament. Now this MP is querying whether we are sure that there are no ganja smokers in parliament. This is another attempt to bring this House into disrepute. This could be a privilege issue.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena:

That is not a point of order

MP Pathirana said that the Sri Lanka Medical Council, the College of Psychiatrists and the College of Community Medicine Physicians had issued statements on the danger of cannabis. “We hope that government ministers would refrain from making statements in favour of ganja.”

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that he would look into the matter.



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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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