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SL High Commission donates Ceylon Tea to Royal Hospital Chelsea war veterans

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By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

The Sri Lanka High Commission in London donated a consignment of Ceylon Tea to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a retirement facility cum nursing home for around 300 war veterans, last week.

On behalf of the Sri Lanka government, High Commissioner Saroja Sirisena and Deputy High Commissioner Samantha Pathirana presented the stock of tea to the British war veterans as a gesture of goodwill emblematic of Sri Lanka’s commitment to the longstanding bilateral relations with the UK.

The donation was received by the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, Gary Lashko, Professor Deborah Sturdy OBE, Major Philip Shannon and three Chelsea pensioners.

The Royal Hospital was founded by King Charles 11 in 1682. Veterans housed at the hospital served in Korea, the Falkland Islands, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and World War II.

Drinking tea is a long-established tradition in the British Army.

The Sri Lanka Tea Board and seven leading tea producers in Sri Lanka, Vintage Teas Ceylon Ltd., Tea Trends Export Ltd., (New English Teas), English Tea Shop, Dilmah Ceylon Tea, Mlesna Ceylon Ltd., Stassen International Pvt Ltd., and Akbar Brothers contributed towards this gesture.

Speaking at the event, the Chief Executive Officer of the hospital, Gary Lashko, said: “We have been looking after British Army veterans since 1682. Sri Lanka and Britain have been closely associated since the early 1800’s and tea has always been an important part of that association”.

Lashko further said, “Tea drinking was a long-established tradition in the British Army, with reports that tea was liberally distributed among the men on the morning of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. When the UK government bought all the tea on the market in 1942, they made the tradition official. The tea the British government bought for the Army was strong black tea from Ceylon, Assam, and Africa.”

“As our Governor is from a tank regiment, he has told us that tea-break culture used to pose a big problem for the generals in charge of Britain’s armoured formations. Tank crewmen had to stop and climb out of their vehicle in order to have a brew, making it difficult to safely sustain an armoured advance. The answer was the British Army boiling vessel — a built-in kettle for armoured vehicles. The Centurion tank was fitted with a boiler vessel, or bivvie — a cube-shaped kettle powered by the tank’s electrics, and today is apparently fitted to all the Army’s main fighting vehicles.

“Happily, the veterans living here can enjoy the tea you have donated in less stressful situations, and it will provide a healthy way of enjoying each others’ company and the comradeship that means so much to everyone especially in these difficult times of the global pandemic. They say a trouble shared is trouble halved, and perhaps when done over a cup of tea will even be enjoyable and enhance our well-being.”

Army Veteran Denis Bate, who had worked on the Monarch Building Construction project in Sri Lanka, said that it was a great honour to meet the High Commissioner and her officials. He said that he missed the sand, sea and sun in Sri Lanka, which he enjoyed for over 11 years and had fun.

Minister (Commercial) Lakmini Mendis and Minister Counsellor (Defence) Swarna Bothota were also associated with the event.



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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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