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SJB irked by football tournament held in contravention of Covid-19 guidelines



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Mujibur Rahuman says the Director General Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena owed an explanation as to how Football Sri Lanka (FSL) recently conducted the inaugural quadrangular invitation soccer tournament, at the Race Course grounds with the participation of over 2,000 spectators, in violation of Covid-19 guidelines.

Colombo District MP Rahuman asked whether the DGHS felt that mega events, organised by the government, wouldn’t pose a threat, though the Opposition was repeatedly advised against public gatherings. Congratulating the Seychelles team for winning the four-nation tournament, 3 to 1, in penalties, lawmaker Rahuman quoted Dr. Gunawardena as having told him when inquired that his Office was not asked for permission nor informed of the tournament.

MP Rahuman said: “We understand the DGHS’s dilemma as Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attended the final along with Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa. If the Health Ministry is unable to properly implement guidelines, it should stop blaming the public for irresponsible conduct.”

MP Rahuman said that it would be interesting to see whether spectators would be allowed at the Sri Lanka vs West Indies cricket matches. Did FSL receive special status due to the direct involvement of Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa in this endeavor, MP Rahuman asked.

Responding to another query, MP Rahuman pointed out the recent unveiling of Sandahiru Seya built to invoke blessings on the armed forces, that took place amidst a large gathering in Anuradhapura.

The top SJB spokesperson said that the much touted ‘One Country, One Law’ concept was nothing but a joke when the government flouted its own guidelines. The MP alleged that after the unveiling of Sanda Hiru Seya, several hundred persons were invited to the President’s House, Anuradhapura for Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa’s birthday celebration.

MP Rahuman emphasized that there couldn’t be a different set of guidelines for the SLPP and another for the rest of the country. The former UNP said that police headquarters issued daily statements of preventive measures taken by law enforcement authorities to curb the epidemic. However, the police provided security to the inaugural quadrangular invitation soccer tournament and facilitated the gathering of VIPs.

The Covid-19 Task Force, too, should look into this matter, the MP said, urging the government to set an example. Asked whether the SJB protests undermined current health guidelines, MP Rahuman said that the SLPP could not exploit the epidemic to suppress political dissent. The government and the Opposition could agree on a moratorium on major public activity, the MP said, alleging that the SLPP seemed only interested in curbing the Opposition whereas it continued with public events.

Health authorities have repeatedly warned of a fresh outbreak of the epidemic unless the people followed health guidelines. They point out that the daily average of about 500-600 new cases indicate a possible major threat.

MP Rahuman said that recently State Minister Dr. Jayasumana declared that the December could be quite dangerous against the backdrop of expert reports that weakening of efficiency of some of the vaccines administered here.

MP Rahuman said that those above 60 received a booster dose as all realized Covid-19 posed. The MP said that the government also considered making vaccination mandatory for all those entering public places. If the government was aware of the danger of another wave, it shouldn’t have allowed gathering of crowds at the Race Course for soccer matches, MP Rahuman said.

The SJB MP recalled how the government ordered inoculation of a selected group of Hambantota voters (20-30 years) with Pfizer much to the dismay of youth in other districts. The government went ahead with its plans regardless of GMOA’s opposition, the MP said.

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Pope Francis to evict Cardinal Raymond Burke from Vatican




US Cardinal Raymond Burke has been a leader in the Catholic Church for decades (BBC)

Pope Francis is evicting US Cardinal Raymond Burke, an outspoken critic, from his Vatican apartment and revoking his salary.

Cardinal Burke is part of a group of American conservatives who have long opposed the Pope’s plans for reforming the Catholic Church.

A Vatican source told the BBC that Pope Francis has not yet carried out his intention to evict the 75-year-old and the decision is not meant as a personal punishment, the source added. Instead, it comes from the belief that a person should not enjoy cardinal privileges while criticising the head of the church.

Still, the move is “unprecedented in the Francis era”, Christopher White, a Vatican observer who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, told the BBC. “Typically, retired cardinals continue to reside in Rome after stepping down from their positions, often remaining active in papal liturgies and ceremonial duties,” he said. “Evicting someone from their Vatican apartment sets a new precedent.”

White warned that the decision could “provoke significant backlash” and deepen divides between the Vatican and the US church, where there is already “fragmentation”.

Cardinal Burke has yet to respond to the news and the BBC has reached out to his office for comment.

The Pope revealed his plan to act against the cardinal at a meeting with heads of Vatican offices last week. His frustration with US detractors who take a more traditional or conservative view on several issues appears to be coming to a boil.

Earlier this month, he fired Joseph Strickland, a conservative Texas bishop who had blasted his attempts to move the church to more liberal positions on abortion, transgender rights and same-sex marriage. The removal followed a church investigation into governance of the diocese.

A few months before, the Pope told members of the Jesuit religious order in Portugal that there was “a very strong, organised, reactionary attitude in the US church”, which he called “backward”, according to the Guardian.

Tensions with Cardinal Burke, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, have been simmering for nearly a decade, with the American prelate openly criticising Pope Francis over both social and liturgical issues.

“Cardinal Burke’s situation seems to stem from his gradual alienation from the Pope,” said  White. “It appears the Pope perceives Burke as fostering a cult of personality, centred around traditionalism or regressive ideals. This action seems aimed at limiting Burke’s influence by severing his ties to Rome.”

Pope Francis with hand up in front of Vatican building
Pope Francis waves to crowds while leaving St Peter’s Square (pic BBC)

Most recently, the cardinal held a conference called The Synodal Babel in Rome on the eve of the Pope’s synod, or meeting of bishops, last month.

He also joined fellow conservatives in publishing a “declaration of truths” in 2019 that described the Catholic church as disoriented and confused under Pope Francis, saying that it had moved away from core teachings on divorce, contraception, homosexuality and gender. Notably, he disagreed with the Pope promoting Covid vaccines.

Within church politics, he and Pope Francis were at odds over the firing of the head of the Knights of Malta after the order’s charity branch was found to have distributed condoms in Myanmar.

The Pope, in turn, has demoted Cardinal Burke within the church hierarchy or moved him to posts with less influence over the years.

Michael Matt, a columnist for the right-wing Catholic newspaper The Remnant, wrote that the most recent action taken against Cardinal Burke showed that Pope Francis was “cancelling faithful prelates who offer hierarchical cover to pro-life, pro-family, pro-tradition hardliners”. He accused the Pope of putting critics into “forced isolation”.


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Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dies aged 100




Henry Kissinger at the State Department's 230th anniversary celebrations in 2019

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died at the age 100.

He served as America’s top diplomat and national security adviser during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

In a statement, Kissinger Associates, a political consulting firm he founded, said the German-born former diplomat died at his home in Connecticut but did not give a cause of death.

During his decades long career, Mr Kissinger played a key, and sometimes controversial, role in US foreign and security policy.

Born in Germany in 1973, Kissinger first came to the US in 1938 when his family fled Nazi Germany. He became a US citizen in 1943 and went on to serve three years in the US Army and later in the Counter Intelligence Corps. After earning bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees, he taught international relations at Harvard.

In 1969, then-President Richard Nixon appointed him National Security Adviser, a position which gave him enormous influence over US foreign policy in two administrations.


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