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Burial of corona victims: Sabry denies giving assurance to CTJ



…guidelines pertaining to final rites intact

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, yesterday (11) denied having given any assurance to the Ceylon Thowheed Jamaat (CTJ) as regards resumption of burial of Muslim corona victims.

Asked whether Sabry, in his capacity as the Justice Minister gave an assurance to the CTJ, the National List MP said: “Not at all. I never gave such an assurance.”

The Island sought a clarification from Minister Sabry against the backdrop of a fresh controversy over the push to have health guidelines pertaining to final rites of corona victims amended.

General Secretary of the CTJ R. Abdul Razik on Monday (9) on its FB page thanked President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Justice Minister Sabry for having allowed the Muslim community to bury its members dying of COVID-19.

Razik said that the Sri Lankan Muslim community really appreciated the government taking into consideration the feelings of minorities.

Responding to The Island query, Minister Sabry said he had made it clear to all concerned, both in and out of parliament, that there were many who sought permission to bury Muslim corona victims in terms of WHO regulations. Minister Sabry said that he urged all parties to the issue to be patient and not to politicize the issue. “Protests and bids to attract international attention will make it worse,” the President’s Counsel said, revealing those who requested for burials to resume were planning to launch a protest campaign. Minister Sabry explained the rationale at a recent state sponsored religious event at Kollupitiya.

The Island

also raised the issue with Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, State Minister of Prisons Reforms and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation, who emphasised thatall communities should fully comply with the Sri Lankan law. State Minister Fernandopulle pointed out that only those who died of corona were cremated in line with specific health guidelines. The State Minister said that when cremation of Muslims was raised recently in parliament by SJB lawmaker Mujibur Rahman, she explained only corona victims were cremated. “We (Catholics) also have an issue with cremation. But, the Church never expressed concerns. Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith assured the Catholics would obey the law during pandemic.

State Minister Fernandopulle asserted that deviation from the current health strategy could sharply increase the threat posed by the epidemic.

Health Ministry spokesperson Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara told The Island yesterday that the final decision as regards health guidelines pertaining to corona would be taken by Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena. Dr. Bandara said that as far as he was concerned there hadn’t been any change in that regard.

DGHS Dr. Asela Gunawardena yesterday afternoon told The Island that health guidelines that dealt with final rites of corona victims remained intact. He said decisions were taken based on expert advice and relevant data.

Ven. Jamburewela Chandraratna thera of Mahajana Yuthukam Kendraya, in a letter dated Nov 11, 2020 addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa urged the government not to give in to political pressure. The Ven thera said that the SLPP received two overwhelming mandates in Nov 2019 and August 2020 to thwart extremism, terrorism and fundamentalism. The thera questioned the basis for a section of the community to demand special status whereas the Sinhala Buddhists, Sinhala Catholics and the Tamil community accepted government health directives without causing any issue. The civil society group also questioned the role played by Justice Minister Ali Sabry in the ongoing project.

When The Island raised the issue with Dr. Deepika Udugama, who was the Chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) during the first corona eruption she said the government should have consulted the Muslim community as regards its decision to cremate covid-19 victims. HRCSL sent us the following statement in response to The Island query on the HRCSL position on the government policy on disposal of bodies of Covid-19 victims: “The Commission is of the view that if the government wished to move away from the WHO regulation as well as its own previous regulation which permitted both cremation and burials for Covid-19 victims, the government should have consulted leaders of the Muslim community including medical professionals and scientists of the faith. This would have dealt with religious sensitivities in a participatory manner.

“The commission recognizes that at a moment of unprecedented health crisis like that at present, views of the public health specialists and other relevant scientists must prevail in the interest of all. However, when cultural or religious sensitivities are involved, the proper path is to dialogue with the particular community concerned so that a final decision is taken in a consultative manner. It is also important to communicate the final decision to the public explaining reasons for it so as to win public confidence and minimize tensions.”

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Foreign force behind Easter Sunday attacks – Sirisena



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A powerful foreign country or an agency was behind the Easter Sunday bombings and the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zaharan Hashim, former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

“I also do not believe that Zaharan was the leader of that organisation. Because a leader would never have initiated a suicide attack and died during the first wave,” Sirisena said.

The former President also said that Islamic extremism had spread rapidly in the country due to the support extremists received from Muslim politicians.

Sirisena also said that the military and intelligence officials had been demoralised by harassment they suffered during the yahaalanaya administration. This was the reason why local institutions failed to uncover NTJ’s plans. “But this incident is a conspiracy because it appeared that Zaharan was being manipulated by some foreign hand,” the former President said.

The President further said that during the previous administration, UNPers had headed the Ministry of Law and Order for several years that they had significantly weakened the intelligence services. Although he had taken the Ministry of law and Order in the last stages of the yahapalana government, he had not been able to undo the damage the UNP had done in four years, the witness said.

Commissioner: “Did you know that during your tenure as President, Muslim MPs and ministers were forcible acquiring land in Vanni and Batticaloa and they were constructing Muslim villages and mosques there?”

Sirisena: “Some ministers used their political power to clear forests and cultivate lands. Some ministers were angry with me when I tried to stop them. I tried hard to control those actions. But it was difficult for me to deal with that situation. Fundamentalism rose due to the protection given by Muslim political leaders. Certain political parties are based on religion, race and language. This is disastrous. I tried to stop these people but my decisions were not implemented.”



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Bathiudeen granted bail



Former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was released on bail by the Fort Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage released Bathiudeen on cash bail of Rs. 100,000 with two sureties of one million rupees each.

The Magistrate also imposed a travel ban on Bathiudeen and said that the guarantors should be his close relatives.

The Magistrate granted bail to the MP considering the risk of him contracting COVID-19 as two inmates in cells next to his had recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Bathiudeen was remanded in connection with alleged misappropriation of public funds during the last presidential election to transport voters.

The former minister has been accused of misusing 222 buses owned by the SLTB for transporting internally displaced persons from Puttalam to polling stations in Silavathurai, Mannar during the 2019 Presidential Election. Two others, Mohamed Yaseen Samsudeen and Alagarathnam Manoranjan face the same charges.

They have allegedly violated Article 82(1) of Presidential Elections Act, No. 15 of 1981 by misappropriating public funds amounting to Rs. 9.5 million.

Bathiudeen was arrested at an apartment complex at Ebenezer Place in Dehiwala in the early hours of October 19. He was then produced before the court and placed under remand custody. His bail application was also rejected by the magistrate’s court on several occasions



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Zahran supported Sirisena and SLMC at 2015 elections, Hizbullah tells PCoI



By Rathindra Kuruwita

National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim supported Former President Maithripala Sirisena and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) at the 2015 elections, former Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M Hizbullah, on Tuesday night, told the PCoI probing the Easter Sunday attacks.

Hizbullah was giving evidence before the PCoI for the second day.

“Zahran supported the SLMC at the 2015 general election. After the UNP-led coalition won the election, NTJ members fought with our supporters. Several people were injured during the clash, including Zahran’s brother. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem visited Zahran’s brother at the hospital.”

The witness also submitted a footage of a demonstration opposite NTJ Headquarters in Kattankudy. It contained a speech by Zahran, who expressed his dismay after Sirisena appointed Hizbullah as a national list MP.

“In this video, Zahran clearly says he supported Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential election. Zahran also says he sent a fax to the former President, urging him not to appoint me to Parliament.”

However, it was earlier revealed that in 2015, representatives of five recognised political parties, including the UPFA and the UNP, had signed agreements with Zahran in the run-up to the 2015 general election. Representatives of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG), too, had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for NTJ support, the Commission was told.

Hizbullah, on Monday, admitted that his party had also signed an agreement with the NTJ.

“Zahran told social media that he would support any politician who agreed to his proposals. All the parties joined him. I also went along.”

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