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Unprecedented lull in business as festive buying takes a battering



by Suresh Perera

The raging Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to trade and business across the board with industry players describing the lull as “unprecedented” this festive season.

The crux of the matter was that people dreaded to venture out in fear of the lurking virus, which translated into shopping for Christmas and the forthcoming New Year taking a back seat, they said.

If there was any shopping to do at all, mostly to give gifts to near and dear ones in this season of good cheer, only one member of a family would opt to do a hasty run to pick up what they considered could not be done without, they noted.

Gone were the days when whole families went on a shopping spree to buy gifts for their friends and relatives. With the health authorities cautioning the public to observe social distancing and avoid crowded places in keeping with Covid-19 preventive measures, many people preferred to give shopping a miss in the backdrop of the raging virus, particularly in the volatile Western province, industry officials said.

Clothing stores, supermarkets and shops selling gift items were among businesses badly hit by the pandemic, with families reluctant to celebrate with friends and relatives or make a beeline to their home towns over the Christmas and New Year holidays in fear of the virulent infection, which has killed 185 persons in Sri Lanka by Thursday, they explained.

The continuing lockdown in many densely populated areas of the Western province also contributed to the slide in business all around as thousands of people remained confined to their homes under a distressing scenario, the officials said.

Supermarket officials said customers visiting their outlets have dipped significantly as many people don’t want to risk the possibility of being caught at the “wrong place at the wrong time”.

A customer who visited a supermarket on Christmas eve said there were just a handful of people around with most of them purchasing food items, more so in fear of a sudden lockdown than to celebrate the festive season.

“There were enough and more cakes and sweets available on the shelves, which was rather unusual at Christmas time”, he said, and added that there was more interest in buying bread and buns than goodies for Yuletide.

This shows that people live in constant fear of a lockdown anywhere at any time, he added.

With customers to supermarkets and other business establishments asked to write their contact details in a book maintained for the specific purpose under health regulations, there’s fear amongst visitors that in the event of finding an infected person within the premises, all others would be placed under mandatory quarantine, industry players said.

Who will feed their families if that happens?, was the questioned asked. Some were also of the view that they could even lose their jobs under such circumstances, they added.

Another critical factor is that the pandemic has ripped apart personal incomes with hardly anything left in hand to survive, let alone enjoy Christmas or the impending dawn of a new year, they stressed.

Meanwhile, Army Commander, Shavendra Silva said that inter-provincial travel has not been banned during the festive season but it’s left to the people to take necessary precautions.

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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’



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



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



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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