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Passara tragedy: Highways Ministry probes road contractor for alleged negligence

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By Norman Palihawadane

The Highways Ministry is trying to ascertain whether there was negligence on the part of a private company, contracted to renovate the Lunugala-Passara road, for not removing a boulder that was partially obstructing the road and contributed to Saturday’s bus tragedy that claimed the lives of 14 passengers.

Secretary to the Ministry of Highways R.W.R. Premasiri told The Island that an investigation had been launched to find out whether the company had shirked responsibility. If found guilty the company would be made to compensate the victims, Premasiri said.

Meanwhile, the 14 victims from Saturday’s passenger bus accident in Passara had been identified, Police spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

Investigations have revealed a tipper-truck had moved from the opposite direction moments before the accident took place, and the driver of the tipper truck was arrested for fleeing the scene.

Thirty one people injured in the accident remain in hospital, said the DIG adding that the Badulla Judicial Medical Officer had obtained blood and urine samples from the bus driver to determine if he was intoxicated at the time.

Police will continue to investigate the accident which claimed 14 lives, he added.

On Saturday SLPP MP Chamara Sampath said he had informed the respective contractors involved in road development to remove the rock but no action had been taken.

Army troops of the 112 Brigade of the 11 Division rushed to the 13th Mile Post on the Passara-Lunungala road and engaged in rescue operations, together with police and residents.

Reports suggest that salvage teams were not be able to raise the bus out of the precipice on Saturday and that operation would require more time.

 

 



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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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