With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many restrictions have been placed on the sale, consumption and serving of alcohol. The restrictions have been extended to the national airline as well and weddings by now. Recently, a passenger on the national airline who was travelling from London to Colombo requested the third shot of whisky [...]


Gone are those days of getting high while flying high


With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many restrictions have been placed on the sale, consumption and serving of alcohol. The restrictions have been extended to the national airline as well and weddings by now.

Recently, a passenger on the national airline who was travelling from London to Colombo requested the third shot of whisky during the flight only to be told politely but firmly that due to COVID-19 regulations, alcohol had been restricted to two drinks during the flight. Those were the days when some passengers particularly on shorter flights tried to cover up the cost of their ticket by guzzling shot after shot during the flight. When they got down they could hardly make it to the Immigration desk.

Similarly, in the latest regulations relating to weddings, it has been specially mentioned that no liquor is to be served at weddings. Such restrictions come amidst the recent disclosure by the Commissioner-General of Excise at the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts that the Government has lost Rs. 27 billion in excise revenue so far this year and would fall short of its projected revenue for 2021 of Rs. 160 billion.

Move to build multi-religious shrine close to Naga Vihara creates ripples in Jaffna MC

The Jaffna Municipal Council turned down a proposal put forward by the Chief Monk of Naga Vihara temple in Jaffna to construct a multi-religious shrine in the middle of Ariya Kulam pond located near the temple. The pond is a protected site under the Department of Archaeology.

The proposed building was similar to the floating shrine located at Gangarama temple in Colombo.

Jaffna Mayor V. Manivannan wrote to the Chief Monk of the temple saying that the Council decided not to allow the construction of this complex. The council was divided on the matter when taken up for debate in recent weeks with many alleging the move was to impose Buddhist symbols in the North.


A frustrated cardinal gets stony silence from Catholic Govt. MP

The government is coming under increasing criticism from the Catholic Church for its failure to find the’ real masterminds’ behind the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks that left over 300 persons, many of them churchgoers killed and maimed two years ago.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has expressed his frustration in recent times and openly expressed his disappointment with the government about the failure to keep to their promises.

On Friday, the Bishops’ Conference was convened and along with 13 Bishops across the country, all Catholic parliamentarians were also invited to the meeting. Among the total of five MPs taking part in the meeting, only two represented the government while the other three were from Opposition parties. One of them from the government side was State Minister of Rural Roads and other Infrastructure
Nimal Lanza.

The meeting came a day after Father Cyril Gamini was summoned to the Criminal Investigation Department (on Thursday) to record a statement on a complaint filed against him by the Director of the State Intelligence Service.

The Bishops Conference focused on three key issues: the appointment of Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera as Chair to the “One Country, One Law” Presidential Task Force; implementation of the recommendations compiled by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that probed the Easter Sunday attacks; and the recent gazette notification bringing Negombo wetlands from the Department of Wildlife to the Urban Development Authority (UDA) that comes under the President’s purview.

It was unanimously decided that the appointment of the monk as the Chair of “One Country, One Law” cannot be accepted and all recommendations of PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks should be implemented rather than the selective implementation of certain recommendations. One of the PCoI recommendations is to initiate criminal proceedings against Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera for instigating communal tensions that played a significant role in radicalising Muslim youths.

On the Negombo wetland issue, it was decided to request the government
to bring it back under the Department of Wildlife.

When questions arose what would be the next course of action in this regard, one suggested writing a letter to the President; the usual method of protest, but the Cardinal intervened to say that he is tired of writing letters to the President as in some instances, they hadn’t even received an acknowledgement to the letters from the Presidential Secretariat. He further noted a book can be compiled by collecting all those letters he had written to Presidents in the past. One of the Opposition MPs seconded that observation of the Cardinal saying “it’s like writing a letter to a dictator”. After listening to all these concerns, State Minister Lanza told the conference that while he understands the concerns of the clergy community he “cannot oppose the HE’s (His Excellency’s) stand or directives,” indicating his inability to raise these concerns with the President.

Cardinal Ranjith then asked Mr Lanza whether he is not willing to raise those concerns with the government even if it as at the expense of failing the people of his electorate who elected him to the Parliament in the first place. There was stony silence from the State Minister.

‘‘One Country, One Law’’ task force: Some decline invitations from third parties to serve

The government’s announcement this week of appointing a 13-member Presidential Task Force headed by Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera to study the implementation of the concept “One Country, One Law” and to draft law came
as a severe blow locally
and internationally.

International dailies and broadcasters ran stories and panel discussions on this topic as the government is becoming increasingly unpopular with widespread protests and internal conflicts. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith went public questioning the sanity of government leaders apart from other accusations he made against key VVIPs.

The fact that this all-men- Task Force does not consist of individuals from the Tamil community came as a complaint from government Ministers during a meeting chaired by the President with the participation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday at Temple Trees.

President of Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) Senthil Thondaman raised the issue at the meeting for which President responded affirmatively and agreed to appoint Tamil speaking individuals. The current dilemma also seemed to be that government Ministers who have been tasked with nominating persons for this Task Force have reported that no one wants to serve in such a Task Force. This included an individual from the North with an academic background who was approached by an intermediary to a Minister, but he politely declined.

Will Sampanthan see the closure of 13A as he did its inception?

The constituent parties within the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are facing difficulties to come to a common stand on another fresh issue – the fate of the 13th Amendment and the future of Provincial Councils (PCs) that were direct outcomes of the Indo- Lanka pact signed some 34 years ago.

The main constituent Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) led by R. Sampanthan always maintained that the 13th Amendment cannot be the final solution for the ethnic conflict in the country, but suggested “it could be a starting point on power devolution.”

Mr Sampanthan is one of the last surviving Tamil leaders who wrote to Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi explaining the flaws in the amendment and why the Tamil people of Sri Lanka cannot accept it as a whole solution.

In 1987, three Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leaders M. Sivasithamparam, President, A. Amirthalingum, Secretary-General and R. Sampanthan, Vice-President, wrote to the Indian Premier expressing their disappointment soon after the two bills on the 13th Amendment were published by the government.

With certain influential elements within the government arguing the repeal of the 13th Amendment by introducing a new Constitution next year, other parties in the TNA are pushing for the idea to unite all Tamil parties under the 13A banner.

One senior Tamil politico questioned as to whose interests these Tamil parties are trying to protect while asking what seemed a pertinent question- will Mr Sampathan who saw the inception of 13th Amendment also witness the closure of it as the last Tamil leader?

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