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Opinion

Forced Cremations and a Future Commission probe?

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Next to the last stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War, forced cremation of corpses of Covid victims in Sri Lanka has received much publicity, internationally. With the request of our government to the Maldives to accept the bodies of Muslims who succumbed to Covid-19 for burial there, the issue received much worldwide publicity. It has now reached as far as UNHRC, and now it is part of the core issue of the UNHRC resolution to be tabled against Sri Lanka.

Forced cremation of bodies of Muslim Covid victims has hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslims living here, and all over the world. Many human rights organisations, such as the Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and UN bodies, like the WHO and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, have appealed to the Sri Lankan government to allow burial. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the second most influential body next to UN General Assembly, also pleaded with the Sri Lankan government to allow the burial of bodies of Muslim Covid victims, as there was no scientific evidence to support burial-transmitted Covid-19; but the Sri Lankan government, to date, has not given two hoots about it.

The Sri Lankan government has taken this strong stance against burial-based on the recommendation of the Health Experts Committee (HEC) that burial transmits Covid-19. The President, the Prime Minister, Ministers have washed their hands of this matter saying it is purely an expert committee decision – in other words a scientific decision taken by an experts committee and they do not want to politicise it for the benefit of a particular community.

The fact that Covid-19 does not transmit through burial is a well established scientific truth. There are so many empirical research studies to prove it. I do not know what scientific evidence the HEC has to prove it to the contrary. Meanwhile, a second committee of members, with more expertise, appointed by the Health Ministry, has strongly recommended that Covid-19 does not transmit through burial, and burial can be allowed. State Minister of Health Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopullai, who is also a medical specialist, admitted in Parliament recently that Covid-19 does not transmit through water.

A few days after her statement, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa made a statement in Parliament that burial of Covid victims could be allowed. The US and the UK ambassadors praised the Prime Minister’s stance, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, too, praised it. Some politicians later said the Prime Minister, in his statement, had referred only to burial of normal deaths not Covid deaths, and the government’s position on forced cremation remained the same. Some others pooh-poohed the Prime Minister’s statement saying that it was his personal opinion, and that the HEC decision could not be changed.

The stance taken by the government not to bury the corpses of Covid victims is wholly based on the HEC recommendation. This decision has hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslim community here, and Muslims in other parts of the world. It has also affected the friendly relationship with Muslim countries. Many human rights organisations, and some western countries, have expressed their displeasure and asked the government to respect human rights, and the burial issue is also to be taken up in the coming UNHRC session. All in all, the burial issue has seriously damaged the image of Sri Lanka, internationally.

In my view, the accountability for not allowing burial of Covid victims squarely lies on the Health Experts Committee. As our country is popular for commissions with a change of regime, there is a strong possibility for many future commissions to come up. As the decision of forced cremation of Muslim Covid victims has seriously damaged the human rights record of this country, and it has also affected the religious sentiments of Muslims, here and abroad, a commission may be appointed in future to inquire into the conduct of the HEC. The members of the HEC may be called in to explain why they recommended only cremation of Covid victims, while well-established scientific research studies said burial did not transmit coronavirus. Most members of the committee have a basic medical degree and they know very well a scientific finding can only be disproved by another more reliable scientific finding. If an experts committee appointed conclude that dengue spreads through house flies not mosquitoes, then they have to scientifically prove it.

Therefore, in the best interest of this nation, I earnestly request state officials and members of committees and commissions to conduct themselves professionally, and maintain the professional ethics and standards while doing their duties.

 

M. A. KALEEL

Kalmunai



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Opinion

An island of Pain and Destruction?

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When there are several ‘tivus’ in the North, why was Iranativu selected for Muslim Covid burials? Why select an island with people living there, with Catholic priests, too? Why not an island with no humans at all: Is that so difficult for the Burial Experts in the Covid management?

Looks like the disposal of dead bodies, if they happen to be of Covid-infected Muslims, is the biggest problem Sri Lanka is facing  today. This is bigger than any economic issue, or any other aspects of development the country and people may be facing. It looks like there is no possibility for a “Saubhagye Dekma” or Vision of Prosperity & Splendour if any Covid Muslims are buried in this Sinhala Bauddha Dupatha.

We tried to send these bodies all the way to the Maldives, on an official request. But failed. This time it is Iranativu – and once again a failure.  So why not keep trying at Neduntivu, Sampaltivu, Vidataltivu or any other ‘tivu’ in the North or East; and till a suitable place is found, keep the dead bodies frozen at taxpayer expenditure? 

Now that the US has decided to take some un-Trump moves about Saudi Arabia, why does not the former and present US citizens  that rule Sri Lanka, think of sending all Covid Muslim corpses to Saudi Arabia, for sacred burials? With the Saudi leaders thinking of new plans for investment, Sri Lanka could become a new target of Saudi funds pouring in. But will this lead to the Sri Lankan Muslims getting any stronger than they are now?

Or, will we wait till we discover or develop a new “Gotativu or Nandasenativu” off Sri Lanka, an Isle of Saubhagya?

Are the Indian Aircraft flying in the special  70-year celebrations of the Sri Lanka Air Force an assurance of new Indian warmth  in Sri Lanka-India relations?  Did the power of the Indian Air Force, displayed over Galle Face Green, make the government take a quick pro-Indian decision on the West Container Terminal (WCT) in the Port of Colombo? 

Can President Gotabaya or PM Mahinda give any explanation why handing over the development of the WCT to the same Indian company, involved in the ECT, could be any better for Sri Lanka? Apart from the Port Trade Unions  that are likely to launch a new protest, will the Weerawansa-Gammanpila-Vasudeva team also carry out protests about the WCT? Or, will they be silenced by the realities of pro-Gotabaya Politics? 

Has Gotabaya Team’s new position that the Provincial Council elections will be held under the new Constitution, an assurance given to India  that the 13h Amendment will remain part of the structure of governance in Sri Lanka? What happened to all those voices of the Pohottuva political players who had virtually written off the 13A? Have they been silenced by the flight of Indian aircraft in the Air Force celebrations?

The Nandasena Gotabaya Team of the Rajavasala had better think of how the yellow robes of sections of the Maha Sangha would react to the WCT deal with India? 

The problems of Iranativu and the WCT or Muslim burials  and the Port of Colombo are certainly pushed back by the realities of Geneva. The Sri Lankan TV stations that have been very strong in their criticism of Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, about her handling of Human Rights, have given big coverage to her statements critical of the Myanmar coup and its military leaders. Will Michelle Bachelet have a big score against Sri Lanka? Keep guessing.

The issues facing Sri Lanka in Geneva are more about the policies of the present Gotabaya-Mahinda Rajavasala, than issues involving the defeat of the LTTE and matters of responsibility and accountability in the post-war period. 

The Easter Carnage that took place, long after the end of the war against LTTE terror, and under the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Yahapalana regime, is certainly at the height of the Rajavasala problems today. Having promised the people that the truth about this carnage will be found and revealed, and the planners and manipulators identified and punished, the Rajavasala is trying to escape its promises and responsibilities. 

This is certainly no easy task as it involves the hopes and expectations of many thousands who voted for the Gotabaya and the Pohottuva at the last Presidential and General Elections. Just look at the thousands in the Wattala-Negombo area who turned away from the UNP, did not support the Sajith Premadasa – Telephone, – and voted for the Pohottuva. It was the biggest Catholic turn away from the UNP, as took place in votes for the left in 1956.

We are now moving to a Black Sunday, when Catholics have been asked to wear black in protest at church services, seeking divine intervention to reveal and punish the Easter Sunday killers nearly two years ago. The response that divinity will provide remains to be seen, but with the voice of the Catholic Cardinal echoing the pain of hundreds who have suffered in this carnage, we are certainly moving to a period of much sorrow and even disaster.

Black Sunday may come and go, but by April this year, when black flags are to fly over houses, mainly Catholic, throughout the country, we certainly face a new rise of a major Majority/Minority conflict. Do we have to think of the possible revival of all the pains of the war against the LTTE terror, or think more in terms of peace and cooperation among people, with or without divine intervention.

This will certainly not be easy in the coming months, as we see so much of nature destroyed, forests cut down, sand mined and transported without permits, the greenery of the country rapidly vanishing and only hearing the call of a painful Saubhagya! 

Will the call for Divine Help bring us to be an Isle of Peace and Understanding, and not a large Isle of Pain and Destruction?

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Opinion

Go forth boldly against global enemies

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At the UNHRC meeting the true friends of Sri Lanka emerged to speak and defend the country battered mercilessly for defeating the world most brutal terrorist organization, i.e., Tamil Tiger terrorists in 2009, who held 20 million Sri Lankans to ransom for well over 25 years.

Leading the Sri Lanka bashing were the UK. Germany. Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands. Belgium and the USA, all of them having a chequered history in violating human rights at different times. India, our friendly neighbour, while thankfully taking a fair distance from the punitive stance of others, opted to emphasize on “the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils and their ‘aspirations’ insisting on the FULL implementation of the 13 A”. India should be requested to point out whether any Tamil person in Sri Lanka is deprived from enjoying a basic right because he or she is being purely a Tamil. On the 13th A, which was thrust on Sri Lanka along with the so-called Indo-Sri Lanka agreement, most Sri Lankans are of the view that it was a faulty restructuring effort of Sri Lanka’s government by India, and the Police and Land powers under the 13 A are a direct threat to the sovereign Sri Lanka. Further, the Provincial government system has not benefited Sri Lanka in any measurable manner, and has been an exercise in colossal wastage of hard-earned funds of the central government.

As regards aspirations, we are amazed how we can consider ONLY the aspirations of Tamils, as all other ethnic groups and the individuals too have aspirations, and it will be impossible to walk that talk. We need further training in the recognition of aspirations of different groups from India, and we pray for further comments from the HR specialists in India how they have reconciled the aspirations of other than Hindu religious groups — Sheiks, Kashmiris and other minority groups in Northernmost India.

But, many nations at UNHCR rejected the proposition of the Sri Lanka bashers who directly and indirectly were supportive of the LTTE armed insurrection and the separatism, threatening the unitary Sri Lanka. They also rejected the ‘the preventive prescription’ of the Secretary General Bachelet. The nations who supported Sri Lanka stood for the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a democratic country. Any weaknesses in Sri Lankan affairs should be allowed to be rectified domestically, in keeping with the constitutional provisions of the country, rather than to be dictated and decided upon by the holier than thou sloganeers. Most of the nations who attempt to foist their plan on Sri Lanka are from the Western bloc who killed and maimed millions of persons living in the colonized countries and subsequently destroyed other nations as pawns of the world power games. Their “adherence”to human rights are completely at variance with their practices on the ground.

Now, Sri Lanka should re-examine their directions and resolve to work with the friendly nations who supported her to extricate from the trap laid out by the countries who desire an unstable Sri Lanka. The Government and the people should resolve to reduce our dependence on Sri Lanka bashers, and re-design our imports to suit the geo-political reality and to avoid any plot to impose sanctions by the wounded nations. Time has arrived to consider the nation’s priorities by curtailing the luxuries even for a given period. We should try to get our requirements from the friendly nations, and try to improve our trading relationship with our friends.

This the ONLY way to extend our hand to REBUILD a new world order, to be less dependent on the predatory countries who always insist on their pound of flesh from the developing nations. While we thank the President, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Government for having rejected co-sponsorship of resolution 30/1 at UNHRC, we urge the Government to plan to reshape our trade and foreign relations, to play our role as an independent member of the international community.

 

RANJITH SOYSA

 

 

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Opinion

Gama Samaga Pilisandara  Round 2

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Gotabaya Rajapakse’s election manifesto “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” says on its page 4, “This policy document tilted ‘A Vision for a Resurgent, Prosperous Country’ is the result of a series of discourses, ‘interaction with the village’, conducted in 25,000 villages throughout our country during the past one year. We have identified the requirements of housing, electricity, drinking water, access roads, and irrigation facilities in every village”. That is about 65 villages per day and as we have only about 14,000 Grama Niladhari (GN) divisions, coverage would have been about 100 GN divisions in a day. Whatever it is, why did the President decide to repeat this discourse? Is it because he does not accept what was given in his Manifesto as true or is he trying to restore the trust people had in him which is fast dwindling? President may also be thinking that as most of the masses in urban areas who voted for him have become disillusioned with his government’s performance, it would be more prudent to resolve some minor issues in the villages and keep them still faithful to him.

 Rohana Wijayawardhana

 

 

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