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Hakeem, SJB appeal for burial of Muslims dying of COVID-19

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By Saman Indrajith

Muslim COVID-19 victims were being cremated to appease some extremist elements, SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem told parliament yesterday.

“The issue of cremating the Muslims who die of COVID-19 will have far reaching implications which are detrimental not only to the government, but to the country as a whole. I am pleading on the floor of this House, for God’s sake, please revise this draconian policy without further delay.”

Hakeem said: Some 20 bodies of Muslims who have died of COVID-19 and not been claimed by their families are to be cremated. These bodies have not been claimed as an act of civic resistance against the government’s reluctance to change its decision to cremate COVID-19 killed persons. The civic resistance has been started by the Muslim community after pleading for months in vain. The government has not changed its policy and keeps on burning those bodies despite the fact that families of victims are suffering from severe trauma because of their action of not accepting the bodies of their loved ones.

“This policy has no scientific basis. The government could check it with scientists and epidemiologists. The government has many experts including Prof. Tissa Vitarana, who is a virologist. You can ask them. Already leading virologists have said this is unfair. “

Anuradhapura SJB MP Ishak Rahuman said that a 20-day-old child who died recently is also to be cremated and asked the government what sort of reaction they expected from the parents of the child.

All Ceylon Tamil Congress Leader Ganjendrakumar Ponnambalam, making a special statement, said that the WHO in its advice dated March 24 on infection prevention and control for the safe management of dead bodies in the context of COVID-19, had noted that people who died from COVID-19 could be buried or cremated. Dignity of the dead and their cultural and religious traditions should be respected. The Health Ministry issued guidelines on March 31, instructing that the bodies be cremated within 24 hours, preferably within 12 hours. Four UN rapporteurs have asked the government to revise that policy. UN Resident Coordinator in Colombo too has asked the government to change its policy.

 The ACTC leader said: “The Constitution does not recognise the right to life explicitly but it has been held in Ratnayake Tharanga Lakmali versus Niroshan Abeykoon by the Supreme Court that Article 11 which ensuring Freedom from Torture to be read with Article 13 (4) on Freedom from Arbitrary Punishment recognized by necessary implications the right to life. The court advances this argument on the basis that the Constitution is a living document and should not be construed in a narrow and pedantic manner. The court referred to the values embodied in the constitution- one such is the dignity of the people as well as Sri Lanka’s obligations under various international treaties in reinforcing the right to life.

“In Islam fire is equal to hell. So cremating is equal to punishment in hell. There are 190 countries in the world who have allowed burying their Muslim COVID-19 victims. We request the government to revise its policy and allow the Muslims to bury their own.”

 Kurunegala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara said that the government was making use of COVID-19 regulations to cremate the inmates killed at the Mahara Prison riots. “There were 11 inmates killed in the Mahara prison riots. It has been found the 10 of them were COVID-19 infected. Now the government is going to cremate them without holding a post-mortem and inquests. That is against the procedure. There should be investigations before their cremation.”

 Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said that the government should not dispose of the bodies of the Mahara victims without proper investigations and it should follow the legal procedures.



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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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