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MP Pathirana alleges bid to promote ganja as substitute for tobacco



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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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released



… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine



Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL



By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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