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



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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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for



By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time



State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.



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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30



The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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