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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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There’s nothing prescribed as Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court — Sumanthiran



TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran, in an intervention in Parliament, said he was privileged to appear for Ranjan Ramanayake, a clean, honest politician in the Supreme Court and he was proud of that.

Nevertheless, Ranjan Ramanayake was convicted and sentenced. The sentence of four years’ rigorous imprisonment was unprecedented and exceptionally severe, and Parliament has a responsibility in this regard because we have not enacted a law for contempt of court, the MP noted.

At the outset, he said, “I want to flag one or two issues concerning the responsibility of the Parliament in this regard. But before I do that I am bound by law and tradition to disclose my interest in the matter. I am the counsel who appeared for Hon. Ranjan Ramanayake in the Supreme Court”.

This has an implication to the article in the constitution that the Hon. Leader of the Opposition just mentioned because it says for an offense for which the prescribed punishment is two years or more. But there’s nothing prescribed, nothing prescribed in the law because for long Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court, the TNA MP said.

Although there had been in the public as well, a lot of instances where drafts have been made, we have not done that – that is one. And by failing to do that, it has been like the freedom of the wild ass; anything can be given as a sentence and that is not a good thing.  I don’t want to go into the merits of the case or anything like that, but in this case Parliament has to take steps, to enact a law, he further said.

English law is supposed to be the substantive law because we don’t have a statute law now, and in English law itself scandalizing the court is no longer an offence of contempt of court. But unfortunately the court disregarded that, and has misdirected itself – that’s my position, Sumanthiran continued.

“But I want to bring to your notice a serious lacuna in the law with regard to a statue for contempt of court that has resulted in this unprecedented injustice to an honest Member of Parliament”, he added.

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Colombo share market gallops to all time highs



The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) galloped last week with the benchmark All Share Price Index (ASPI) hitting an all time high on Monday and improving on that performance on subsequent trading days to close the week at 8,463 points on Friday. The more liquid S&P Index that normally trails the ASPI also gained sharply though less so than the benchmark index.

Brokers and analysts attributed the surge to prevailing low interest rates and said that people holding funds in fixed interest instruments have seen greater potential in the stock market and have so far not been proved wrong.

“Take the case of vehicle importers,” said one businessman. “With imports disallowed, cash that would have been once used to replenish inventory becomes available for investment elsewhere. The stock market is a magnet for such funds.”

Also, many companies have resorted to a share split strategy to make their shares both more liquid and more affordable on the market.

“Take the example of a fifty-rupee share split into two. Theoretically, it should then trade at Rs. 25 a share after the split. But often it does better than that at no cost to the company that had split the share because its stated capital remains what it was,” explained and analyst.

“It’s different in the case of bonus shares or scrip issues as they are called where reserves are capitalized to pay for the new shares priced at realistic values.”

Last week the Hayleys conglomerate announced share splits in over a dozen group companies. These ranged from each share being split into ten in the parent company (Hayleys) and thriving subsidiaries like Haycarb and Dipped Products while other companies like Kingsbury split a share into two.

Brokers and analysts said that the current market surge was largely driven by the Dhammika Perera controlled Hayleys and the Ishara Nanayakkara controlled LOLC groups.

Last week Hayleys announced over a dozen share splits including in its recently acquired Singer Group companies. The majority of these involved dividing each share into two though at Singer Sri Lanka each share will be split into three.

The biggest share split ever proposed is one that is pending at EB Creasy (EBC) where each share is to be split into 100. The seldom traded EBC share is quoted at the top end of the CSE sharelist. Analysts said the massive split is intended to pump liquidity into the share and make it more affordable.

“There’s a lot of retail play in the market right now with new investors who recently took some risk doing very nicely in this bull run,” a broker said.

The CSE hit rock bottom after a seven-week closure in March last year.



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Covid-19 has now spread geographically across SL



In small numbers to an extensive region

Pandemic situation in Western Province improves

by Suresh Perera

Though there are no big Covid-19 clusters at present, the dreaded virus has spread geographically across the country due to the unrestricted movement of people, a senior medical official said.

“The transmission of the contagion in small numbers to an extensive region was inevitable in a society which remains ‘open’ with inter-provincial travel happening on a daily basis”, says Dr. Hemantha Herath, Deputy Director of Public Health Services.

He said the spillover from the Western province was expected as there was an outflow of people to other districts particularly during the festive season.

“I am not blaming anybody, but a lockdown was not viable when taking into account the economic consequences and the livelihoods of the people. We could have imposed a curfew to restrict travel during the New Year, but we have to consider the fallout of such a measure”, he noted.

It true that geographically numbers have increased within a wide area, but the numbers are small and there are no big clusters as seen at Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda, the senior medical official explained.

Asked whether the pandemic has translated into a community spread as considerable positive cases continue to emerge on a daily basis, Dr. Herath replied, “no, that has not happened. If the Covid-19 situation was beyond control, we would have made a social and community transmission declaration”.

He said the pandemic situation in the Western province has improved with a dip in positive cases. However, the spillover is evident by the jump in figures at provincial level.

“We knew there was a risk, but we had to take it as locking down the country was not the solution

For example, if a Covid-19 patient infects two persons per day, there will be 200 positive cases within 100 days and one can imagine the critical situation that will emerge if the trend is allowed to continue, Dr. Herath continued.

“We are now managing under 1,000 cases per day”, he said, while assuring that the right mechanism is in place to identify positive cases through PCR and rapid antigen screening and place them under medical treatment, isolate and quarantine first contacts of patients”, he further said.

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