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



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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Heat Index at Caution level in Northern, North-Central, North-western and Eastern provinces and Monaragala and Hambanthota districts




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Heat index, the temperature felt on the human body is expected to increase up to ‘Caution’ level at some places in Northern, North-Central, North-western and Eastern provinces and Monaragala and Hambanthota districts.

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472,553 candidates have applied to to sit this years examination which will be held at 3568 examination centers

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Personal income tax shock dims economic activities



ECONOMYNEXTSri Lanka’s personal income tax hikes have hit economic activity in the first quarter though despite currency stability helped businesses cut prices, Hemas Holdings, a top consumer goods group has said.As the currency stabilized, as central bank ended contradictory money and exchange policy conflicts, businesses had cut prices. Mainstream economists generally claim that price falls lead to delayed transactions and try to generate positive inflation through money printing, though businesses believe otherwise.

“The market witnessed price reductions and promotional trade schemes to stimulate consumption,” Hemas Holding told shareholders in the March quarterly statement.

“However, changes made to the personal income tax structure severely impacted modern trade sales volumes as consumers rationalised their purchases under reduced disposable income levels.”

Sri Lanka hiked personal income tax rates in 2023. Value added taxes were raised to 15 percent from 8 percent last year. Another 2.5 percent cascading tax was imposed on top of VAT, the effect of which was estimated to be around 4.5 or more through the cascading effect.

While value added tax allows the government to get tax revenues after citizens make transactions and getting the economy to work, based on best decisions needed to drive the economy to satisfy real needs, income tax kills economic decisions and transfers money to state actors, analysts say.

Net gains on income tax therefore comes at a cost of lost value added tax as well as killed real economic activities which would otherwise have been based on decisions of those who earned the money.

UK also almost doubled VAT in 1979, also to 15 percent, cut the base income tax rate and widened thresholds above inflation to give choice to individuals, amid criticism from Keynesian style or mainstream economists to recover the economy, after two back-to-back IMF programs failed to deliver concrete results, analysts point out.At Hemas Holdings, group revenues went up 52.6 percent to 32 billion rupees in the March 2023 quarter from year earlier amid price inflation as the rupee fell, and cost of sales went up 45.1 percent to 22.2 billion rupees, allowing the group to boost gross profits 72 percent to 9.8 billion rupees, interim accounts showed.

However, administration costs went up 54 percent, selling and distribution costs went up 36 percent, and finance costs went up to 1.3 billion rupees. Profit after tax was flat at 1.06 billion rupees.Sri Lanka’s central bank stabilized the rupee in the second half of 2022 after the rupee collapsed from 200 to 360 to from two years of money printing and also removed a surrender rule in March allowing the exchange rate appreciate.

The US Fed also tightened policy from March 2022 helping bring down global commodity prices after triggering inflation not seen for 40 years through Coronavirus linked money printing or accommodating a real shock through monetary expansion.

“While the modern trade channels witnessed a slow down due to the adverse impact of the tax reforms and high cost of credit on the middle-class urban population, the general trade channels experienced significant growth and increased foot fall,” Hemas told shareholders.

“The decline in global commodity prices in the second half of the year, enabled the business to make price reductions across the portfolio.

“However, the benefit of appreciation of the Sri Lankan Rupee in March 2023 was not seen during the quarter due to the lag effect but is expected to realise in the quarters to come, provided the current economic conditions prevail.”

Hemas is also has operations in Bangladesh where the central bank is also buying up government securities with tenors as long at 20 years to mis-target the interest rate, triggering forex shortages and depreciating the Taka, according to analysts who study the country.

Inflation had hit 9.3 percent in Bangladesh by March.

“In the face of numerous challenges including slowdown in the global economy, depreciation in Taka, heightened inflation and depleting foreign currency reserves, the country entered an IMF programme in January 2023,” the firm said.

“The value-added hair oil market witnessed a degrowth, as consumers curbed consumption in many non-essential items and switched to value-for-money alternatives.”

Mainstream economists mis-target rates to boost growth known as either monetary stimulus or bridging an output gap, though the effort result in instability and economic contractions.

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