…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.
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.”
BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”
“Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.
“We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”
The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.
The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.
Full text of the BASL letter to the President:
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.
Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.
The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.
We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.
The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.
We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.
The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.
SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution
By A.J.A. Abeynayake
A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.
The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.
The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.
The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.
A/L may be delayed by one month
Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.
Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.
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