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‘We formed a new political party because the UNP was not listening to us’  – SJB MP Mayantha Dissanayake



By Saman Indrajith

The main opposition SJB, which marks its first anniversary tomorrow (15) expressed optimism of forming the next government within three and half years as the trust people placed on the incumbent government is eroding fast.

In an interview with The Sunday Island, parliamentarian Mayantha Dissanayake, the leader of SJB’s youth wing ‘Samagi Tharuna Balawegaya’, said the primary reason for forming the SJB was because “we felt that as a country we have to unite. There are political forces in the country that came into existence — some came to power by dividing the nation, while others were either very nationalistic or racist”.

He further said: “They wanted to get what could be termed the ‘populist vote’ and come to power. We felt that we have to be a uniting force in the country. We felt that we have to create a political force as Sri Lankans to be Sri Lankans. What is the Sri Lankan dream, what are the aspirations of young Sri Lankans in this country?”.

“We must be able to attract expatriate Sri Lankans to come back to the country. We felt there has to be a political party, a political force that is able to unite us as Sri Lankans without racism”, the MP stressed.

He added: “In those ideals, we felt that we have to have a political party that would do that. We wanted to create a party with the true ideals of the UNP. “We also felt that the UNP had drifted away from its true ideals and original vision. We wanted a political party. We also felt that UNP sitting MPs needed a young and dynamic leadership. We felt that leader is Sajith Premadasa, a true Sri Lankan, who loves the country, loves the nature and who wanted to something for Sri Lanka.

“We thought it was high time as the Grand Old Party was not listening to us in that light. So we felt we must create a new political party. That was the birth of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya”.

Dissanayake said the government has been in power for almost one and half years. The promises given and the aspirations of 6.9 million people who had voted for the government have not been fulfilled. It is really sad and pathetic situation politically where this country is heading. This government has fallen short of expectations. In fact they sold a nationalistic dream. They sold a fable, a myth, that this country was in danger and for national security Gotabaya Rajapaksa should come to power and has to be the President. That was the myth and the dream that was sold.

However, unfortunately the government has not fulfilled any of the pledges given economically. As a country, we are far worse than where he had been one and half years ago. Internationally, we are far worse than we were then. Forests are being cleared on an unprecedented scale. The President has given powers to District Secretaries through a circular on clearing forests. The original circular to preserve the forests was issued by former President Ranasinghe Premadasa, he noted.

Earlier, Mahinda Rajapaksa asked the people to tighten their belts. The cost of living is skyrocketing. The rupee value against the dollar is depreciating on a daily basis. Where is this country heading? In spite of the people’s aspirations, the promises and pledges, the government has failed, the MP said.

“It’s not just one leader or leadership of the party that make all the decisions. We make collective decisions so we are looking at how can build the economy and how we will be addressing the aspirations of people”, he continued.

He said economically, the country is in a bad way. The government is printing money, saying there’s a cash flow problem. Actually it is a much worse than a cash flow problem. We are unable to borrow money from foreign sources that we have been borrowing.

There is no government to government development taking place now. The government is borrowing commercial loans which they cannot repay. So the economic situation is really dire, he warned.

“In terms of international relations, we are alone and highly dependent on China. We promise China many things at the cost of angering our biggest neighbor India. Then we have made many promises to India to balance China. By that we have angered other neighbouring countries. The government cannot really balance. Sri Lanka has been always balanced with regard to regional countries and super powers. I think the decisions are made in an ad hoc manner. In international relations, one cannot ad hoc in foreign policy. There should be a strong foreign policy on how we are going to deal with India, with China and with the Americans, Russians etc”, Dissanayake continued.

“We are also in a bad situation with regard to human rights charges against us in Geneva. The government has not sent anyone to Geneva. What I had heard is that the Sri Lankan delegation was to leave for Geneva but one of the prominent members of the delegation was denied a visa because of his human rights record. Therefore the entire delegation could not go. Therefore there is not anybody from the government in Geneva right now apart from our ambassador there to handle and negotiate. This situation could have been handled in a more professional manner if we had a better foreign policy”, the MP said.

All that Geneva is asking for is to be truthful about allegations on human rights violations. The easiest and the quickest solution for that was the LLRC report completed during the time of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. If we implement the recommendations of the report and take steps in the right direction, this problem would have been solved in a rather efficient and quicker manner. You must give the devil his due, he added.

“The previous government, the yahapalana government handled the international relations far better than this government. I am not saying that they were perfect. But they were far better than what this government is doing. And I think in a future government headed by our party we would with our experiences and our knowledge our contacts and our history we would do a much better job in our international relations than this government”, he noted.

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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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