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Sabry denies Withanage’s allegation that he bent law to allow Muslim COVID-19 victim to be buried

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By Saman Indrajith

Justice Minister Ali Sabry and Ratnapura District SJB MP Hesha Withanage had a heated argument on Tuesday over an allegation that one of Sabry’s relatives who had passed away from COVID-19 had been buried, while other Muslims victims of COVID-19 were cremated.

Participating in the third reading debate on Budget 2021, MP Withanage alleged that one of Sabry’s relatives in Ratmalana who had died from COVID-19 was buried in contravention of health regulations.

“This relative died on Nov 15. She is Ahmed Fathima Junaideen Naleefa of Borupanawatte Road, Ratmalana. A PCR test conducted revealed that she had been infected with COVID-19. It was reported that after a telephone call from a powerful person, a second PCR test was performed and then the result had been negative. So, her remains were buried. Why is that? Other Muslims who die due to COVID-19 were cremated. This is unfair.”

Minister Sabry vehemently rejected MP Withanage’s allegation.

Ali Sabry: “This is a barefaced lie. I would never bend the law like that. MP Withanage should be ashamed of himself. While it is true that I have explored the possibility of burying Muslims who had died from COVID-19, I have done it in a transparent manner. But this is a ludicrous statement”

MP Withanage: “Your statements regarding burials are in national newspapers and other media channels. I am not referring to that.”

Ali Sabry: “Even if I died tomorrow from COVID-19, final rites of my body would be performed according to the current health regulations. If you prove that I made a call and did something in violation of the law I will resign now, not only from the ministry but also from Parliament.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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