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Professionals’ National Front urges AG to prosecute Rishad forthwith for forest destruction

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Section of the Kalluru Forest Reserve cleared by Bathiudeenax

The Attorney General should immediately take action against SJB MP Rishad Bathiudeen and others as the Court of Appeal, on Monday, determined that the clearing of part of the Kallaru Forest Reserve adjoining the Wilpattu National Park was illegal, Professionals’ National Front (PNF) yesterday said.

PNF General Secretary, Engineer Kapila Renuka Perera said that AG could initiate action under the Criminal Procedure Code and the Penal Code. “Legal action must be taken against everyone involved, including those who failed to carryout their duties. The government must also use this ruling as a precedent and take steps to deter others who desire to misuse natural resources, which belongs to all citizens, for their personal gain.”

About 2,500 acres of forest land had been cleared by Bathiudeen and his associates, Perera said, adding that the court had ordered Bathiudeen to pay for a forest replanting programme, which was to be carried out by the Forest Conservation Department.

The Conservator General of the Forest Department also had to calculate the cost of the tree planting programme and inform Bathiudeen of it within two months of the judgment. Bathiudeen will have to pay within one month.

Perera said: “The Conservator General must calculate the cost within the time given and they must not ask for more time for any reason. The government must also immediately remove the illegal settlers inside Kallaru Reserve and demolish the structures they are occupying. Steps must also be taken to ensure that the welfare of people is met.”

Senior lawyer Ravindranath Dabare, who filed the petition in 2015 on behalf of the Centre for Environmental Justice, challenging the destruction of the forest reserve, on Monday told The Island that the cost of replanting the large swath of forest land would be between Rs. 2 to 3 billion.



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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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