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FM meets Pakistan HC after protest against proposed ban on burqa

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JVP: SL in trouble as govt. bigwigs don’t speak with one voice

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena met Pakistan High Commissioner Major General (Retd.) Muhammad Saad Khattak after the latter expressed concern over Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd.) Sarath Weerasekera’s declaration that the burqa would be banned in keeping with the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry

(PCoI) on the Easter attacks. Pakistan HC warned such a ban would ‘injure’ the feelings of ordinary Muslims in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

The Foreign Ministry said that Minister Gunawardena and Major General Khattak had met at the Foreign Ministry to discuss how to expand the bilateral relationship pursuant to the recent visit to Sri Lanka by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Both sides agreed to implement the projects which were announced during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan, including the setting up of mobile libraries donated by Pakistan and the offer of additional hundred medical scholarships to Sri Lankan students.

Minister Gunawardena, while welcoming the offer by Pakistan to open Buddhist pilgrim sites for Sri Lankans, conveyed that the aviation sector, along with Sri Lanka tourism would announce Pakistan – Sri Lanka sector travel packages soon. The Pakistan High Commissioner invited Buddhist monks, journalists and academics to undertake familiarization visits to Pakistan to witness the diversity of well-preserved Buddhist heritage sites.

High Commissioner Khattak extended an invitation for Minister Gunawardena to attend the Pakistan National Day celebrations on 23 March 2021 in Colombo.

Sharing a news report on the proposed ban, Khattak said on Monday in a Twitter thread: “The likely ban on Niqab #SriLanka will only serve as injury to the feelings of ordinary Sri Lankan Muslims and Muslims across the globe. At today’s economically difficult time due to Pandemic and other image related challenges faced by the country at international fora, such divisive steps in the name of Security, besides accentuating economic difficulties, will only serve as a fillip to further strengthen wider apprehensions about fundamental human rights of minorities in the country.”

All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader and Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Rishad Bathiudeen appreciated the stand taken by Pakistan.

SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris on Monday told regular weekly briefing at Waters Edge that the burqa would be banned in terms of the (PCoI) recommendations. Prof. Peiris is on record as having said that the government would implement all PCoI recommendations except the banning of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS).

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that the government should be ashamed of the way it handled such a sensitive issue. “The Public Security Minister made an announcement. His declaration was dismissed by Foreign Secretary Admiral (Retd.) Jayanath Colombage and the Cabinet Spokesman.” Dissanayake said that the incumbent government had made policy U-turns on several occasions.

Well informed sources said that Pakistan’s response to the proposed ban on the burqa caused a lot of apprehension among government members. Pakistan represents the Asia Group in the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Sources said that Sri Lanka always received Pakistan’s backing at the UNHRC and unnecessary rift a week before a high profile vote on the UK-led Core Group sponsored resolution could further undermine Sri Lanka’s stand. (SF)



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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