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Law students raise concerns over resuming exams amidst unresolved issues

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The Law Students’ Union has raised concerns against the decision by the administration of Sri Lanka Law College to resume examinations without paying attention to a number of issues detrimental to students.

The LSU in a letter addressed to the Principal of the Law College, Shehan C. Perera, points out that holding examinations while inter provincial travel restrictions were in place would leave out large number of students from other provinces since no public transport was allowed and they would have no way to come to the examination centres in Colombo. In addition the administration has not yet explained what redress would be provided to the students who are unable to attend examinations due to contracting Covid-19 or those referred for self-quarantine at their homes. In case an area was isolated or locked down the student candidates would have no means to attend the examination.

Full text of the letter signed by LSU President Samadhi Gamalath and Secretary Vimukthi Karunaratne: “The Law Students’ Union of Sri Lanka (LSU) would like to reiterate certain concerns that have been already pointed out in our previous correspondences, pertaining to the decision made by the Incorporated Council of Legal Education to resume the Attorneys-at-Law Intermediate and Final examinations which were postponed due to the outbreak of the third wave of Covid-19.

“In the letter dated 10.06.2021, we emphasised the importance of having necessary arrangements for all the segments of students that would emerge at the time of resumption of the examinations. We mentioned these concerns on numerous previous occasions. The following is an excerpt from our letter dated 10.06.2021:

“It is of utmost importance to provide such arrangements, given the prevailing circumstances, for a couple of reasons:

1. Students shouldn’t be discriminated or penalised for no fault of their own, during this pandemic, by not allowing them to sit for examinations because of their health conditions. However, as we have suggested, if it is impossible or impracticable, we state that these students should be allowed to take only the subjects that they miss, in the subsequent examination sitting.

2. Students fear that if this issue is not addressed, it is probable that certain students would come to the examination centre and do the exam regardless of their health conditions, which would ultimately expose the lives of all the other candidates and invigilators to risk and danger.

“We believe that this concern has to be redressed to ensure that the examinations are held in a just and fair manner for all students. Moreover, we believe that every possible risk and threat to the health and safety of students must be eliminated.

“Furthermore, we would like to mention that our letter dated 25.06.2021 had a comprehensive discussion on the atrocities the students may have to endure if examinations are held amidst the prevailing situation of the country. We brought to the attention of your good self in a detailed manner the ways in which the exam candidates will have to suffer as a result of the existing travel restrictions and inter-provincial public transport suspension. Nevertheless, since the erudite members of the Council have decided to proceed with the examinations even after considering our letter, we would like to kindly request you to inform the relevant authorities to consider the Identity Card of Sri Lanka Law College (SLLC) to be regarded as a pass to travel during the period of examinations. It would indeed make the lives of the students convenient in the circumstances where travel and inter-provincial public transport restrictions are in existence.

“Last but not least, as we have informed the administration of SLLC on prior occasions, the students have raised concerns pertaining to the possibility of getting the Covid-19 vaccine to ensure that the potential health risk their lives are exposed to, is reduced.

“We urge your esteemed self to be considerate about these matters since if these go unanswered, it might even lead to jeopardising the entire examination, and then all the efforts of the students and administration would be in vain. LSU represents the entire Law student fraternity and even if only one student is affected or prejudiced, it becomes our concern. We are advocates of a just and fair examination which provides equal opportunity to all the candidates without causing any prejudice. Further, we value the health and safety of our students and invigilators to ensure that the examination runs smoothly.”

 

 



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Prelates launch legal battle against New Fortress

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by A. J. A. Abeynayake

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Ven. Elle Gunawansa Thera yesterday filed a fundamental rights petition before the Supreme Court against the transfer of shares of the Yugadanavi LNG Power Plant in Kerawalapitiya to a US energy firm.

The petition seeks an order preventing the US firm New Fortress Inc. from obtaining the LNG supply contract.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, other members of the Cabinet, West Coast Power Limited, the owner of the 310 MW Yugadanavi Power Plant, the US-based company New Fortress Energy and the Attorney General are among the 54 respondents named in the FR petition.

The petition requests the court to issue an order to nullify the Cabinet decision on transferring state-owned shares of the Yugadanavi power plant to the US company.

The petition states that the decision taken by the Cabinet of Ministers to transfer 40% stake in the company owning the Yugadanavi Power Plant to the US firm in question was not justified. It also says the Cabinet failed to focus on issues such as the national economy and national security before taking the relevant decisions.

The petitioners have requested the Court to declare that their fundamental rights as well as the rights of the entire citizenry and their future generations guaranteed to them under Article 12(1) of the Constitution have been infringed and/or are continuing to be infringed and/or are in imminent danger of being infringed by the actions of the Respondents with regard to the Yugadanavi deal.

They have requested the Court to quash the decision of the Cabinet authorising the procurement of LNG from the 53rd respondent – the New Fortress Energy.

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Financial crisis so acute teachers’ demands cannot be met – SLPP Chairman

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300,000 entering schools for first time this year among those victimised

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (18) emphasised that the worsening financial crisis experienced by the country was so acute the government wasn’t in a position to grant the salary increase sought by school principals and teachers.

Prof. Peiris, who served as the Education Minister till August this year said that the public realised the government lacked the wherewithal to meet the striking teachers’ demands. The academic said so at the weekly SLPP media briefing at the party office in Battaramulla.

Responding to media queries, Prof. Peiris stressed that the government expected the striking teachers to facilitate re-opening of schools on a staggered basis beginning Oct 21 (Thursday). The Minister indicated that striking unions shouldn’t expect to settle the salary issue on their terms as the government lacked the means even if it wanted to do so.

Referring to the rapid deterioration of public finances in the wake of Covid-19 eruption in early 2020, Prof. Peiris said that Budget 2022 was presented amidst an extremely difficult time.

The top SLPP spokesperson reiterated the government’s commitment to grant strikers’ demand in two stages as announced by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at a meeting with striking unions at Temple Trees. Premier Rajapaksa on Oct 12 told a delegation of striking unions that the government would pay one third of the increase through the Budget 2022 and the remaining two in the following year’s budget.

The Premier’s Office quoted him as having told the delegates that the sharp drop in government income deprived the administration of an opportunity to grant the increase. Striking unions want the government to settle the issues immediately in one go.

Prof. Peiris appealed to those who have been on strike for 100 days to resume teaching. The student community really suffered due to the Covid 19 eruption and further delay in resuming studies would be catastrophic, Prof. Peiris said, underscoring the importance of restoring normalcy as about 300,000 would go to schools for the first time in their life.

Prof. Peiris said that schools that conduct classes from Grade 1 to 5 and those with less than 200 students would be re-opened on Oct 21. According to the minister, approximately 3,800 schools would be re-opened as scheduled.

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Lankan authorities must end violence and discrimination against Muslims, says AI

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Kyle Ward, AI’s Deputy Secretary General

The Lankan Muslim community has suffered consistent discrimination, harassment and violence, since 2013, culminating in the adoption of government policies explicitly targeting the minority group, said Amnesty International, in a new report published yesterday.

The report titled From Burning Houses to Burning Bodies: Anti-Muslim Harassment, Discrimination and Violence in Sri Lanka, traces the development of anti-Muslim sentiment in Sri Lanka since 2013 amid surging Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. This discrimination has evolved from a rising series of mob attacks committed with impunity, into government policies explicitly discriminating against Muslims, including the forced cremation of Muslim Covid-19 victims and current proposals to ban both the niqab (face veil) and madrasas (religious schools).

“While anti-Muslim sentiment in Sri Lanka is nothing new, the situation has regressed sharply in recent years. Incidents of violence against Muslims, committed with the tacit approval of the authorities, have occurred with alarming frequency. This has been accompanied by the adoption by the current government of rhetoric and policies that have been openly hostile to Muslims,” said Kyle Ward, Amnesty International’s Deputy Secretary General.

“The Sri Lankan authorities must break this alarming trend and uphold their duty to protect Muslims from further attacks, hold perpetrators accountable and end the use of government policies to target, harass and discriminate against the Muslim community.”

Incidents of violence towards Muslims have risen in frequency and intensity since 2013, with a series of flashpoints in which attackers and those responsible for hate speech have enjoyed impunity for their actions.

This escalating hostility began with the anti-halal campaign of that year, when Sinhala Buddhist nationalist groups successfully lobbied to end the halal certification of food, which demarks food permissible for consumption by Muslims, in accordance with Islamic scripture and customs. The campaign gave rise to a number of attacks on mosques and Muslim businesses, with the lack of accountability for those responsible acting as a signal to others that acts of violence against Muslims could be committed with impunity.

The following year, anti-Muslim riots in the southern coastal town of Aluthgama began after a Sinhala Buddhist nationalist group held a rally in the town. Here too, perpetrators of violence enjoyed impunity and authorities failed to deliver justice to victims.

Despite a new government in 2015, which promised justice and accountability for ethnic and religious minorities, attacks against Muslims continued to occur. Shortly after the election, anti-Muslim mob violence flared in the southern coastal town of Ginthota in 2017, while similar violence was seen in 2018 in Digana and Ampara, towns in the central and eastern provinces respectively. Not only did the perpetrators escape accountability, victims and witnesses alleged the police and armed forces did not offer sufficient protection or act to prevent the violence.

Hostility towards Muslims increased markedly after more than 250 people were killed in coordinated suicide attacks committed by a local Islamist group and claimed by the Islamic State on Easter Sunday 2019.

Following these attacks, on 13 May 2019, Muslims in several towns in the North-Western Province of Sri Lanka came under attack during Ramadan, one of the holiest months in the Muslim calendar. Mosques across the country were also attacked and a spate of ‘hate speech’ posts and anti-Muslim vitriol was seen on social media. Emergency regulations rushed through by the authorities were also used to arbitrarily arrest hundreds of Muslims in the wake of the attacks.

Since taking office, the current government has continued to target and scapegoat the Muslim population to distract from political and economic issues.

This was evident in the mandatory cremation policy on the disposal of the bodies of Covid-19 victims, which was implemented despite cremation being expressly forbidden in Islam, and a lack of scientific evidence to substantiate the claims that burying victims would further the spread of the disease.

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