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Tourism Minister admits protocols violated, claims Opposition undermining bid to revive tourism industry

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Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga addressing the media. (R) Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Chairperson Kirmali Fernando.

 

BIA to reopen on Jan 21

By Harischandra Gunaratna

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday alleged that there were certain MPs in the Opposition who were hell bent on undermining the vital tourism sector while the government was doing everything possible to resurrect the pandemic-hit industry.

“The Opposition is trying to use the industry personnel as scapegoats to meet their political ends,” Ranatunga said, adding those politicians didn’t want the industry to flourish again.

Addressing the media at the Ceylon Hotel School, the Minister said the need of the hour was to explore the opportunities available and woo holidaymakers from every possible country to support the tourism industry which was in dire straits.

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Chairperson Kirmali Fernando was of the opinion that “We have to start somewhere as any delays would result in our losing what we are to gain.”

It was the responsibility of all stakeholders and each and every one had to cooperate and make concerted efforts to reach that goal, the SLTDA Chairman said.

Responding to queries about proper protocols and guidelines had not been followed where the Ukrainian holidaymakers currently visiting Sri Lanka were concerned, Ranatunga accepted that there were certain shortcomings and they would be rectified.

Asked whether Udayanga Weeratunga, Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to Russia and the person responsible for organising the Ukranian charter flights to SriLanka had flouted the health guidelines by not following protocols, Ranatunga said if so he too had to be tested.

Ranatunga denied claims that benefits reaped by the industry were not equally distributed among all, but only certain companies and individuals were favoured.

The SLTDA Chairperson defended Tourism Ministry’s decision to invite tourists from Ukraine claiming that only two were tested positive of those who arrived in the two flights from Ukraine so far.

She said the BIA would be reopened on January 21.



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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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