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If tourists can be allowed into the country knowing risks, why aren’t burials permitted?



The Sri Lankan medical authorities had permited planeloads of Ukranian tourists to land in Sri Lanka and visit multiple places in the country, knowing very well that the risk of spreading Covid-19 is very high, and, therefore, there is no acceptable reason to deny Sri Lankans the choice of a person’s right to a dignified burial for their loved ones, who die due to Covid 19, former PA National List MP M. M. Zuhair said in a statement issued yesterday.

 Against the backdrop of established scientific knowledge, that there is no provable risk in burials,  permitted and practised, for close upon one year now, in 190 countries world- wide, the former Ambassador in Iran said.

The former State Counsel said: “Without in any manner belittling the government’s efforts to revive the much affected tourist and hospitality industries, by restoring to a semblance of normalcy, notwithstanding the dangerous risk of a foreign Covid cluster emerging, we need to raise certain questions. Is it not true that at least five of these tourists were Covid-19 infected? Is not the ‘bubble’ concept of exclusivity an explodable bubble?  What is it that prevents the Sri Lankan health authorities restoring their credibility as a scientific community by permitting what the large majority amongst them had clearly declared that burial poses no threat of coronavirus spreading?

Schools must reopen notwithstanding the foreseeable risk of Covid 19 spreading! Offices must function notwithstanding the risks! Airports must reopen, ports must function, buses and trains must operate, even though the virus may spread. But why then sit only on burials with not even 1% of the above risks, unless some persons want to showcase to the world that in Sri Lanka majoritarian extremism controls science. In the process, why strengthen extremists amongst minorities?

In the case of Covid-19 vaccines and other health issues we follow the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO). But not in the case of burials, thereby giving the impression that tribalism holds sway. The government appointed expert committee headed by Senior Professor in Microbiology Prof. Jennifer Perera and comprising virologists, immunologists and microbiologists has recommended that both cremation and burials can be allowed. Following their report the expert committee is being discredited as a sub-committee! The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) has announced that burials can also be accepted as a mode of disposal of the bodies of Covid-19 victims. The College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka (CCPSL) has also supported burial as an acceptable option for Covid-19 victims.

The Committee chaired by Consultant JMO, Dr Channa Perera, Forensic Pathologist, needs to take a fresh look at the reports of the other experts and pave the way for permitting burials under the recommended guidelines. A large number of experts, political leaders, religious heads, journalists, civil activists and others have spoken loudly enough to provide for both options.

Sri Lankan laws allow both options. The Health Ministry regulations are in contravention of provisions permitting both options. It has exposed the widely appreciated work by Sri Lanka’s medical and health personnel to international criticism. They can be exposed to claims of damages both here and abroad by the kith and kin of Covid- 19 victims who have refused to consent to cremation.

Meanwhile certain British lawyers are reportedly examining legal remedies in this regard. The matter is also due to be raised in the Canadian Parliament. Internationalising this matter is the last thing that Sri Lanka needs at this point of time.”

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GL sounds far-reaching educational reforms  



Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (21) acknowledged that for want of tangible measures on the part of successive governments, there was a critical mismatch between the education provided and the availability of job opportunities.

The academic, in quarantine as a result being identified as potential Covid-19 contact, emphasised the need for far reaching changes to address the issue as part of their efforts to restructure the entire system.

Prof. Peiris said so in his short remarks at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the University of Colombo.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said: “It is a great pleasure for me to felicitate the University of Colombo, my alma mater on this happy occasion. It is a significant milestone because we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the faculty of arts, faculty of science and the library of the University of Colombo. As we look back on that span of a full century, the characteristics of the University which comes to mind is its resilience. During that period the University has had to face and indeed overcome many challenges. The society of our country has undergone a fundamental transformation during that period.

The University had the strength to cope with rapidly changing circumstances. I would identify that as a principal accomplishment of the University of Colombo.

The University proved its capacity for development, change and refinement and adaptation in order to keep pace with dramatically changing circumstances. The University proud as its history is I am sure will have an even more magnificent future. It has an important role to play in the far reaching changes we are contemplating in the educational system of our country. It is our intention in the course of this year 2021 to restructure the entire system in order to address the fundamental problem of a rather critical mismatch between the education we provide in our Universities and other educational institutions on the one hand and the availability of employment, livelihoods on the other. There is regrettably gap in this regard and it should be our collective endeavor to address this problem. We are also revisiting the curricular. The substance of our curricular  the methods of teaching in such a way  as to serve better the public in a  better way   In all these efforts I have no doubt the expertise of the University of Colombo by any standards  will be of enormous assistance to us in achieving goals we have set ourselves (SF)

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China slaps sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including Pompeo



China has imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agency reports said yesterday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.”

The list of names features former Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar; former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Matthew Pottinger, who recently resigned as deputy national security adviser. Former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were also included.

The sanctions prohibit those individuals and their immediate family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They are also restricted from doing business with China, as are any companies or institutions associated with them.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the ministry said.

The move comes just one day after Pompeo issued a forceful statement accusing China of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups in its Xinjiang region, for which the U.S. sanctioned several Chinese officials in July. That was one of numerous instances of sanctions, visa bans and trade restrictions imposed on Chinese politicians and Communist Party officials in the Trump administration’s final year.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated considerably under the previous administration, which took an unusually confrontational approach. Pompeo and other officials referred to China as constituting America’s greatest threat, as NPR’s John Ruwitch has reported.

In fact, Bolton appeared to celebrate the sanction against him, calling it “great news” in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon.

“I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom,” he wrote.

It is unclear what changes Biden plans, but Ruwitch noted, “Even if the Biden team moves swiftly to put the U.S.-China relationship back on a less antagonistic track, Beijing will be wary after the dramatic changes of the past four years.”

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Expert Committee appointed to report on gold, copper and iron ore deposits



By Ifham Nizam

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweeera yesterday appointed an expert committee to conduct a scientific study on the Seruwawila gold, copper and iron ore deposits.

With iron ore prices skyrocketing worldwide and both neighbouring giant India and China having huge demands, Sri Lanka was keen on tapping natural resources, an official said.  

The committee will be coordinated by an Additional Secretary to the Ministry and will be chaired by Prof. Athula Senaratne of the University of Peradeniya and its other members are H W. Navaratne, Dr. Stalin Fernando, Dr. Bernard Perera, Dr. C.H.K.R. Siriwardena and Dr. O.K. Dissanayake.

Amaraweera, addressing the media, at his Ministry yesterday said the mineral deposit had been explored in the 1970s with the help of technology available at that time, and it had been found that there was iron, copper as well as a certain amount of gold in the Seruwawila deposit.

As today’s excavation technology was very advanced, it was possible to dig up to 250-300 metres, the Minister said.

The Minister also said that all possible steps would be taken to increase the value of the mineral resources through value addition locally to ensure higher prices.



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