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Scandal-ridden PNB participates in major SLN-led operation involving int’l services

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‘ICE’, hashish worth Rs 600 mn seized

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), which has been under investigation for dealing in narcotics, took part in a combined operation that led to the capture of a multi-day trawler carrying 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine (ICE) and about 80 kilos of Hashish yesterday (4).

The Navy took four persons identified as residents of Thoduwawa in the Chilaw area into custody. The Navy headquarters estimated the street value of the contraband at Rs 600 mn. The narcotic substance had been concealed in nine sacks.

An authoritative military official told The Island the coordinated operation had been carried out with the assistance of intelligence services and PNB. The Air Force, too, backed the operation. The Air Force headquarters spokesman said that air assets had been deployed for surveillance of suspicious vessels.

According to the Navy official, the suspects had received the consignment in the Arabian Sea and they had been under constant surveillance till the interception in the seas off Negombo.

Following the disclosure that some PNB personnel were in league with drug barons, the police headquarters replaced both the DIG in charge of the specialised unit and its Director.

Responding to another query, the official said that investigators would certainly inquire into possible link between those arrested in the seas off Negombo and the persons arrested off Dodanduwa, Hikkaduwa on 31 Dec. 2020.

The trawler intercepted off Dodanduwa carried 5 kg and 945g of ICE, 2 kg and 47g of heroin and 03g of Kerala cannabis. The Navy took four persons into custody. The suspects, aged from 22 to 29 were identified as residents of Matara, Pottuvil, Negombo and Maskeliya areas.

The Navy headquarters said that anti-smuggling operations were being carried out adhering to Covid-19 preventive guidelines and the suspects, the consignment of drugs and multi-day fishing trawler held during the Negombo operation had been handed over to the PNB, Colombo for further action.

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, intervened after an attempt was made to suppress the alleged involvement of PNB personnel in a massive narcotics ring. The AG called the then Acting IGP C.D. Wickremaratne for a hurriedly-summoned meeting where in the presence of the Defence Secretary Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne and the then Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis instructions were issued to conduct a thorough investigation.

Subsequent investigations revealed how a section of the PNB sold heroin stocks in its custody and maintained direct links with the underworld here as well as international drug dealers. The PNB scam came to light following the arrest by Minuwangoda police of the brother of an aide to Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga in June 2020. The Minister later claimed that the arrest had been made by the police following his personal intervention.



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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