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Stop blaming extremism on religions, but stopping invasions of countries can wipe out extremism – Zuhair



Sri Lankans must welcome President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s assurance to the UN Chief Antonio Guterres on Sunday that the Tamil diaspora would be invited for talks with his government, former UPFA MP M.M. Zuhair, PC said, adding equally welcome is the UN Chief’s assurance of ‘full support to Sri Lanka in moving forward to promote unity among different communities’, as highlighted by a media statement issued by the President’s office.

The following is the full text of the statement issued by the former National List MP: “The multi- faceted problems and serious economic woes the country is facing, in addition to the Covid-19 complications, can never be overcome without promoting ‘genuine unity’ among the communities. The underlying issues that prevent unity and reconciliation need to be addressed and resolved. Sri Lanka’s President and government must talk not only to the Tamil Diaspora but also the elected representatives of the North and the East and the country’s religious cum civil society leaders.

Criminals, violent extremists and terrorists must not be allowed to change the course of the future or the history of the country. Repeated attempts to equate ISIS ideology with Islam need to be condemned. Such attempts will only multiply Sri Lanka’s problems. ISIS is an anti-Islamic ideology, whose handlers are widely believed to work for the Western arms industry.

The Sri Lankan President’s UN General Assembly ‘speech-script writers’ have dragged ‘religious extremism’ into the picture. The reports of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Easter Sunday Attacks and the Presidential Commission of Inquiry have blamed ‘Buddhist extremism’ nourishing ‘Islamic extremism’. What has Buddhism, Islam or other religions got to do with extremism or terrorism? Were those who massacred 33 Buddhist monks at Arantalawa in June 1987 and murdered 147 Muslims at worship in Mosques in Kattankudy in August 1990,‘religious extremists? Why blindly follow Western conversations on the matter? Who gave terrorists and criminals a religious face?

Buddhists in the Far East, Vietnam in particular and believers in Islam in the Middle-East and West Asia, Afghanistan in particular, have been the victims of US-NATO sponsored wars. Post 9/11 wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have resulted in nearly 3 million deaths and over 20 million rendered refugees cum internally displaced. Why was no appeal made to the US-NATO to stop unceasing invasions of third world countries, with the next theater of war said to be in South Asia, our region? Sponsors of wars manufacture weapons, so they need wars. Struggling nations like Sri Lanka need peace for their economic survival. We need to stop blaming extremism on religions but must declare that stopping invasions of third world countries by powerful countries rendering millions into refugees, can stop extremism.

The President’s initiative and the UN Secretary Generals support for promoting unity among communities could succeed substantially if we take the cue from New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden’s carefully crafted speech of September 3rd 2021 and desist from blaming extremism on any religion. There is no ‘Islamic Face of Terror’! There is no ‘Buddhist Face of Terror’ either as Time magazine years ago wrongfully but hysterically accused.”

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GL explains to UN Special Rapporteur Lanka’s progress related to labour welfare



Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has explained to UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, including its causes and consequences, Tomoya Obokata, Sri Lanka’s progress related to labour welfare and the constructive steps taken by the government to eradicate child labour.

The Minister also elaborated on steps taken to bring our labour laws in line with international standards in a number of areas, including child labour, migrant workers and debt bondage. The Special Rapporteur commended Sri Lanka on the progress made with regard to making Sri Lanka a ‘child labour free zone’.

The UN official called on Prof. Peiris on Friday, 26 November, at the Foreign Ministry.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur includes but is not limited to issues such as: traditional slavery, debt bondage, forced labour, children in slavery and slavery-like conditions, sexual slavery, forced and early marriages as well as issues faced by migrant workers and foreign labour.

The Foreign Minister outlined that Sri Lanka was conscious of protecting vulnerable labour groups and emphasized that Sri Lanka will continue to cooperate with the United Nations system. He stated that visits by Special Procedures Mandate Holders have been helpful in enhancing understanding of the specificities of Sri Lanka’s experiences in related fields as well as in improving domestic processes to be in line with our international commitments.

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More gas explosions



Two women injured

By Rathindra Kuruwita

There were 11 new explosions related to domestic gas cylinders in the 24 hours that ended at 12 noon yesterday. Among the areas these explosions were reported are Agama, Karana, Hungnam, Walasmulla, Kundasale, Katugastota, Dimbula and Giriulla.

Two women have been injured in these latest explosions. In some instances, the gas cooker wasn’t even on when the explosions happened.

Meanwhile, Litro has introduced the hotline, 1311, for the public to make any complaints with regard to their gas cylinders. Once a complaint is received, a team of technicians will arrive and check the cylinder, the company said.

Litro also urged the public not to try any experiments to see if the cylinders are safe.

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Countries tighten travel rules to slow Omicron spread



Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Norway, Ghana confirm first cases of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant as countries tighten travel rules.

The United States, Japan and Malaysia have announced tighter travel restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant as more countries confirmed their first cases.

Japan and Hong Kong said on Wednesday they would expand travel curbs, and Malaysia temporarily banned travellers from countries deemed at risk, news agencies reported.

Hong Kong added Japan, Portugal and Sweden to its travel restrictions while Uzbekistan said it would suspend flights with Hong Kong as well as South Africa. Japan, which had already barred all new foreign entrants, reported its second case of the new variant and said it would expand its entry ban to foreigners with resident status from 10 African countries.

Malaysia temporarily barred travellers from eight African countries and said Britain and the Netherlands could join the list.

In North America, air travellers to the US were set to face tougher COVID-19 testing rules.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late on Tuesday that the US would require all air travellers entering the country to show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure.

Currently, vaccinated international travellers can present a negative result obtained within three days from their point of departure. The new one-day testing requirement would apply to US citizens as well as foreign nationals.

Global spread

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry said it recorded the Gulf’s first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in a citizen returning from North Africa.

Nigeria said it had confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant among travellers who had arrived from South Africa in the past week. Ghana and Norway also reported their first cases of the new variant on Wednesday.

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa said late on Tuesday that two Brazilians had tested positive for the Omicron strain, the first reported cases in Latin America. A traveller arriving in Sao Paulo from South Africa and his wife, who had not travelled, had tested positive.

Germany, which is battling a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths, reported that four fully vaccinated people had tested positive for Omicron in the south of the country but had moderate symptoms.

It also reported the highest number of deaths from coronavirus since mid-February on Wednesday, as hospitals warned that the country could have 6,000 people in intensive care by Christmas, above the peak of last winter.

Other countries braced for more cases: Australia said at least two people visited several locations in Sydney while likely infectious and Denmark said an infected person had taken part in a large concert.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said “blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”, while advising those unwell, vulnerable or 60 years or over and unvaccinated to postpone travel.

Global health officials have offered reassurances and reiterated calls for people to get vaccinated.

BioNTech’s CEO said the vaccine it makes in a partnership with Pfizer would likely offer strong protection against severe disease from Omicron.

European Medicines Agency Executive Director Emer Cooke earlier said that laboratory analyses should indicate over the next couple of weeks whether the blood of vaccinated people has sufficient antibodies to neutralise the new variant.

The European Union brought forward the start of its vaccine distribution programme for five-to-11-year-old children by a week to December 13.

Britain, the US and European countries have expanded their booster programmes in response to the new variant.

First reported in South Africa a week ago, Omicron has highlighted the disparity between substantial vaccination pushes in rich nations and sparse inoculation in the developing world.

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