by Saman Indrajith
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa was told in Parliament yesterday not to play the race card with the sensitive issue of cremating Muslim COVID-19 victims to score political points by rousing communal disharmony.
Justice Minister Ali Sabry said that the issue had been very sensitive to Muslims as cremation was in violation of Islamic burial rights, and asked the Opposition Leader not to play politics with such issues.
Minister Sabry said so after Opposition Leader Premadasa raised the issue of cremating Muslims, during the debate on two new regulations under the Medical Ordinance.
Opposition Leader Premadasa: “While other countries united in their battle against COVID-19, we got divided. The World Health Organisation permitted both cremation and burial of COVID-19 victims. The Health Minister has repeatedly stated that she followed WHO guidelines. Muslims were cremated here. That is a sin. Not only that there was a rumour being circulated that COVID-19 was spread by the Muslims,”
Health Minister Pavithra Wannirachchi:
That is a technical term in health science. We are ready to change some practices within the guidelines.
Opposition Leader Premadasa:
Minister Ali Sabry should know that there was a committee of three experts Profs Vajira Dissanayake, N. Sherif and Ravindra Fernando. They were asked to give an impartial decision on the matter. It is not there yet. The issue had been used to create a communal and racist wave. That is the truth.
NFF MP Mohamed Muzammil:
You should not raise communal issues. There is no such statement by any.
SLPP Kurunegala District MP Shantha Bandara:
People have faith in this Parliament. You should not raise communal issues here. That is ugly.
Minister Ali Sabry: COVID-19 is a challenge not only to this country but to the entire world. We are facing the challenge. There is anguish among the Muslims about cremations. Yet, it is not good to politicise the issue. A group of very senior doctors was sent by the government to the WHO and made a request to amend their guideline on cremations. That was six months back. They did not go there for political reasons and the WHO pointed out that there was nothing political but they viewed the issue from scientific perspective only. They identified it as ‘fear of unknown’ and told our delegation that the matters related to COVID-19 were actually an evolving science. They promised us to consider the amending of guidelines in six months. We are working towards that purpose. Please look at this issue in a humanitarian perspective and have patience.
SJB Colombo District MP Mujubur Rahman: Six months have lapsed since the call to appoint that committee. It is not appointed yet. Please appoint that committee and allow the Muslims to bury their kith and kin. Already nine Muslims have been cremated. This number will increase in the coming days. This is a sin. Minister Sabry if you die from COVID-19 you would be cremated; if I died of COVID-19, I would be cremated. This is a serious issue. We should change this without further delay.
We conducted several rounds of discussions with experts. As Minister Sabry pointed out we were asked to wait for six months. That waiting time is now over. The committee is scheduled to meet this week again. We adhered to scientific guidelines and gave priority to them over cultural norms. But as soon as there is no danger we are ready to amend those guidelines if the experts tell us so.
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
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.
PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners
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.”
Thilo Hoffman remembered
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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