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AI tells PM Imran to raise burial issue with Lankan govt.

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Amnesty International has written to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, urging him to take up the burial rights of Muslims during his scheduled visit to Sri Lanka on Feb 24. 

The AI, in its letter, says as Sri Lanka and Pakistan are long standing allies, and Pakistan is engaged in countering growing Islamophobia in non-Muslim states, it is a great opportunity for Pakistan to address the issue of forced cremation of bodies of Muslim Covid victims. 

The AI wants Pakistan to raise the issue of forced cremation at the highest level possible.  

It says forced cremation of Muslim victims of Covid-19 is in contravention of both domestic legislature and international human rights law and practice.

Julie Verhaar, Acting Secretary General of AI in the letter says: I write with reference to your official state visit to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, on 22 February 2021 and your address to the Parliament of Sri Lanka, scheduled for 24 February 2021. The Governments of Sri Lanka and Pakistan have been long standing allies and it is in consideration of this that I write to you, with great concern, on the plight of the minority Muslim community in Sri Lanka. We raise these issues with you especially in light of the letter you issued on 20 October 2020, calling for Muslim states to act to counter growing Islamophobia in non-Muslim states.

“We are particularly concerned that the Government has implemented a policy of mandatory cremations for people who have died or are suspected as having died from COVID-19. This is despite Ministry of Health guidelines originally permitting both burials and cremations, and guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO), Government-appointed expert groups, and other expert bodies, sanctioning both cremations and burials for COVID-19 victims. The Government of Sri Lanka has yet to provide credible reasoning behind this seemingly arbitrary policy which continues to cause the Muslim community immeasurable grief.

“Since burials are an essential part of a person’s last rites according to Islamic principles, forced cremations are an unjust and unnecessary infringement of the religious rights of Muslims. UN experts have referred to the forced cremation policy as a human rights violation that is “based on discrimination, aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism amounting to persecution of Muslims and other minorities in the country”.

“The forced cremation of Muslim victims of COVID-19 is in contravention of both domestic legislation and international human rights law and practice.

“The Constitution of Sri Lanka, particularly Articles 10 and 12, expressly protects the freedom of religion, and from discrimination based on religion. Furthermore, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sri Lanka has acceded, clearly sets out that every person has the freedom to follow religious practices.

“Honourable Prime Minister, we urge you to raise this issue of forced cremations at the highest levels possible during your visit to Sri Lanka, in solidarity with a minority community who has been stripped of any means of recourse. We urge you to call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to stop forced cremations and to bring to an end discrimination faced by the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.”

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SLFP: PCoI has exceeded its mandate and failed to address critical issues

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the PCoI on Easter Sunday Attacks to identify local and international forces behind the attacks, establish the motives of those groups and to punish those who were directly and indirectly responsible for the attacks, but those issues had not been addressed by the PCoI’s final report, the SLFP said yesterday.

 SLFP General Secretary, Dayasiri Jayasekera said that the party’s Executive Committee had discussed the report in depth on Thursday and decided that the Commission had not addressed the issues it had been appointed to probe.

On the other hand, some of its recommendations have gone beyond its mandate.

Issuing a press release, the SLFP said that while the PCoI observed that former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had been soft on Islamic extremism and his government had not taken active steps in combating extremism, however, the PCoI had treated Wickremesinghe with kid gloves while taking a tough stance on former President Maithripala Sirisena.

 “The former President took over the Ministry of Law and Order on 30 October 2018, i.e. only five months and twenty days before the attacks. None of those who held the post before have been accused of anything. The report also focuses little on those who planned the attacks, those who financed the attacks and those who protected the attackers. Moreover, although there is evidence to prove that the weapons found in Muslim mosques after the attacks had been brought in by ships; the report had not investigated it in-depth,” the SLFP said.

 The party also said Pulastini Rajendran alias Sara Jasmine, the wife of Mohommadu Hastun, a suicide bomber, had fled to India sometime after the attacks. However, the Commission had not only paid any attention to it but also had ignored what could have been found.

 “The mandate set by President Sirisena says to look at current or former state officials who are directly or indirectly linked to these incidents. There is no mandate for the Commission to look into whether the head of the state or ministers have fulfilled their constitutional duties. Thus, the recommendations on the former President are beyond the PCoI’s mandate. The pages 292 and 293 of the report state that President Sirisena had instructed the Police to arrest NTJ leader Zahran Hashim at the National Security Council. However, they also insist that the former President had not carried out its duties and responsibilities. Page 296 says that the former President not appointing an acting Defence Minister when he left for India and Singapore was a violation of the Constitution. However, in another place the Commissioners say that making such appointments is at the President’s discretion,” the SLFP said in a press release.

 The SLFP also states that the former President had carried out his duties and the report has ample evidence of it. Thus, there is no way that criminal proceedings can be instituted against him.

 “The concept that criminal proceedings can be instituted against a President for not carrying out some duty sets a bad precedent and is a slight to the power given to the President by the Constitution. The US and New Zealand security agencies had received information about 9/11 and the Christchurch shootings but the heads of the states were not charged. We vehemently refuse the allegations against the former President and reject many of the other recommendations too.”

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Organise State Vesak festival at Nagadeepa with those of other religions- PM 

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also the Minister of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs has instructed authorities to hold this year’s State Vesak Festival at the Nagadeepa Raja Maha Viharaya in Jaffna focusing on the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The Prime Minister at a meeting held at Temple Trees on Thursday evening had given instructions to the Secretary to the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Cultural and Religious Affairs Prof Kapila Gunawardena to organize the State Vesak Festival together with those following other religions.

Accordingly, the Departments of Hindu, Christian and Muslim Affairs under the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, will join in the efforts to organize the event.

Among those present were Sanghanayake of the Northern Province Chief Incumbent of the Nagadeepa Vihara Ven Dr. Dharmakeerthi Sri Navadagala Padaumakitthi Nayaka Thera, Sanghanayake of the Eastern and Thamankaduwa Ven Munhene Mettharama thera, Sanghanayake of the Matara-Hambantota districts Adrahere Kassapa Nayaka thera, State Minister Vidura Wickramanayake, MP Suren Raghawan and officials of the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs.

 

 

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Dubai haven for majority of Lankan fugitives with INTERPOL red notices

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By Pradeep Prasanna Samarakoon

Police had obtained INTERPOL Red Notices against 24 drug traffickers hiding overseas, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

In addition, DIG Rohana said INTERPOL blue notices had been issued for 87 wanted criminals who were currently residing overseas.

The DIG said a majority of the suspects were reported to be hiding in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, while some were in neighbouring India and European countries.

The country’s law enforcement agencies had seized over 1,610 kilos of heroin in 2020 alone, the DIG noted, adding that last year 33,125 suspects had been arrested for possessing heroin and 1,400 others for having in their possession synthetic drugs.

About 61,550 persons had been arrested for narcotic-related offences, in 2020, said the Police Spokesperson, noting that intelligence reports had suggested there was a shortage of heroin in the local drug market due to continuous raids carried out by law enforcement authorities. That had led to a rise in the use of synthetic drugs, such as ICE, he added.

INTERPOL assistance had been sought to extradite 129 Lankans wanted for various crimes, he said.

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