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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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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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