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  • Anti-terrorism Bill will be changed
    The highly controversial Antiterrorism Bill is subject to amendments and changes in Parliament and as such no one should have any fear or feeling of threat from the proposed Bill, Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said. The government is aware of concerns raised by the global and local community on certain provisions contained in the draft of the Anti-terrorism Bill and the Government is ready to alleviate them by discussion, compromise and flexibility, he added. Addressing a news conference at the Information Department auditorium, Minister Rajapakshe said the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) passed in 1979 under President J.R. Jayewardene’s rule as a temporary measure to counter the emerging separatist insurgency. The PTA has been misused and exploited by successive Governments since then for their personal and political...
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  • WhatsApp adds option to use the same account on multiple phones
    WhatsApp users are no longer restricted to using their account on just a single phone. Today, the Meta-owned messaging service is announcing that its multi-device feature — which previously allowed you to access and send messages from additional Android tablets, browsers, or computers alongside your primary phone — is expanding to support additional smartphones. “One WhatsApp account, now across multiple phones” is how the service describes the feature, which it says is rolling out to everyone in the coming weeks.
    Setting up a secondary phone to use with your WhatsApp account happens after doing a fresh install of the app. Except, rather than entering your phone number during setup and logging in as usual, you instead tap a new “link to existing account” option. This will generate a QR...
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  • CBK commends Dr. Shafi’s noble gesture of donating past salary to buy essential medicine
    Falsely accused by racist elements for alleged illegal sterilisation, Kurunegala Teaching Hospital doctor says racism will not take country or organisation forward except make poor people suffer more; calls on all to make Sri Lanka racism-free   Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has commended Dr. Mohamed Shafi Shihabdeen over his gesture of donating the past salaries amounting to Rs. 2.6 million during his suspension and imprisonment on false charges to buy essential medicines. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga

    Dr. Mohamed Shafi Shihabdeen



    Following...
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  • Dr. Shafi donates arrears of his salary to purchase medicines for hospitals
    Dr. Shihabdeen Mohamed Shafi, the doctor at the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital has decided to donate arrears of his salary amounting over Rs. 2.67 million for the purchase of essential medicines for hospitals.

    Dr. Shafi who was on compulsory leave on charges of performing infertility surgery, has received a cheque of over Rs. 2.67 million salary arrears from the Health Ministry last week.

    The salary arrears include the basic salary, interim allowance, cost of living, and allowance in lieu of pension for the period of compulsory leave imposed on Dr. Sihabdeen.

    Dr. Shafi who was employed at the Kurunegala teaching hospital was arrested on May 25th, 2019, on charges of performing infertility surgery.
    On July 25, 2019, the Kurunegala Magistrate’s Court ordered that the doctor be released on bail.
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  • Govt. used Sinhala-Buddhist shield to its maximum benefit Ven. Galkande Dhammananda Thera
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  • Health ministry to pay back-wages for Dr. Shafi before July 10
    The Ministry of Health today gave an undertaking before the Court of Appeal that the salary and allowances payable to Dr. Shafi  Shihabdeen will be paid before July 10 this year. The Ministry of Health gave this undertaking pursuant to a writ petition filed by Dr. Shafi  Shihabdeen, who was at the centre of the controversy surrounding the alleged sterilisation of female patients. The Director General of Establishment at the Ministry of Public Services had earlier informed the Court that the basic salary, interim allowance, cost of living and allowance in lieu of pension could be paid to Dr. Shafi Shihabdeen, for the compulsory leave period. Meanwhile, the petitioner expressed willingness to attend the preliminary inquiry before Director of Kurunegala Teaching Hospital Dr. Chandana Kendangamuwa. Taking into consideration the facts,...
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  • හිජාස් ගෙදර යයි

    (නිමන්ති රණසිංහ සහ හිරාන් ප්‍රියංකර ජයසිංහ) ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත සහ සිවිල් හා දේශපාලන අයිතීන් පිළිබද ජාත්‍යන්තර සම්මුති පනත ප්‍රකාරව චෝදනා ලැබ වසර දෙකකට ආසන්න කාලයක් රක්ෂිත බන්ධනාගාර ගත කර සිටි නිතීඥ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මහතා අභියාචනාධිකරණ නියෝගය ප්‍රකාරව ඇප මත මුදාහැරීමට පුත්තලම මහාධිකරණය අද (09)...
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Coronavirus funerals: Sri Lanka's Muslims decry forced cremation

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Sri Lankan ethnic Muslim women wait in a queue for the Covid-19 blood test in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 04 May 2020

Image copyrightEPA

Image captionSri Lankan Muslim women wait for a Covid-19 test. Some in the community are fighting cremation rules

Sri Lankan authorities are insisting on cremation for coronavirus victims - a practice forbidden by Islam. The nation's minority Muslim community says they are using the pandemic to discriminate, writes BBC Sinhala's Saroj Pathirana.

On 4 May, Fathima Rinoza, a 44-year-old mother of three from Sri Lanka's minority Muslim population, was admitted to hospital with a suspected case of Covid-19.

Fathima, who lived in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, had been suffering from respiratory problems and the authorities feared she had caught the virus.

On the day she was admitted to hospital, the family was "set upon" by the authorities, her husband Mohamed Shafeek said.

"The police and military along with officials arrived at our door," he said. "We were kicked out and they sprayed [disinfectant] everywhere. We were all scared but they didn't tell us anything. Even a three-month-old baby was tested and they took us like dogs to the quarantine centre."

The family was held for a night but released the next day and told to quarantine for two weeks, Mohamed said. By then, they had received news that Fathima had died, at the hospital, on her own.

Fathima's adult son was asked to go to the hospital to identify his mother's body. He was told that her body could not be returned to the family, he said, as her death was linked to Covid-19.

Instead he was forced to sign papers authorising her cremation, the family said - even though under Muslim law cremation is considered a violation of the human body.

"He was told that her body parts needed to be removed for further tests. Why would they need body parts if she had corona?" said his father Shafeek, who feels the family were not fully informed about what happened.

Fathima Rinoza and husband Mohamed Shafeek with their two daughtersImage copyrightMOHAMED SHAFEEKImage captionFathima and her husband Mohamed with their two daughters

Fathima's family and others in Sri Lanka's Muslim community say the authorities are violating their rights by forcing them to cremate victims even though coronavirus victims can be buried.

They argue it's the latest step in a pattern of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese population. A petition against the cremation rule has been accepted by the country's Supreme Court, which will begin hearing the case on 13 July.

Many Muslims in Sri Lanka feel they have been demonised since April 2019, when Islamists linked to little-known local groups targeted high-end hotels and churches in Colombo and in the east of the country, killing more than 250 people in a spate of devastating attacks.

Since the death of the first Sri Lankan Muslim from coronavirus on 31 March, some media outlets have openly blamed the Muslim community for spreading the disease, even though only 11 deaths have been officially recorded in the country.

All 11 bodies, including Muslims, were cremated.

A Muslim priest prays during Eid al-Fitr to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at Dewatagaha Mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 24 May 2020Image copyrightDINUKA LIYANAWATTEImage captionRituals associated with burial in Islam are designed to give the body dignity in death

Dr Sugath Samaraweera, the government's chief epidemiologist, told the BBC it was government policy that all those who die from Covid-19, as well as those suspected of dying from it, are cremated, as burials could contaminate ground drinking water.

Dr Samaraweera said the government was following expert medical advice, and applying the rule to anyone suspected of dying from coronavirus, regardless of religion.

"The WHO offers guidelines for the whole world. It is our responsibility to adopt or customise those guidelines suitable to our country," he said.

But Muslim activists, community leaders and politicians have asked the Sri Lankan government to reconsider the decision.

Ali Zahir Moulana, a former minister and senior leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress party, said the Muslim community was prepared to accept the rule "if there is evidence or scientific backing to prove that burial is dangerous to public health". But he questioned the science behind it, and accused the government of pursuing a "dark political agenda".

Interim guidance published by the WHO in March says victims of coronavirus "can be buried or cremated", and does not mention dangers to groundwater.

Sri Lankan lawyers walk past the Supreme Court complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 20 May 2020Image copyrightEPAImage captionA petition against the cremation rule has reached the country's Supreme Court

On the same day that Fathima died, 64-year-old Abdul Hameed Mohamed Rafaideen passed away at his sister's house in Colombo. The labourer and father of four had been suffering from breathing difficulties.

His youngest son, Naushad Rafaideen, told the BBC that a neighbour from the majority Sinhala community died the same day.

Because of lockdown travelling restrictions, local police asked the family to take the body of the neighbour, together with their father's body, to the hospital.

At the mortuary, the doctor told Naushad he was not allowed to touch his father's body because of the risks of Covid-19, even though it wasn't clear whether the virus was the cause of death.

A family photo of the Rafaideen familyImage copyrightNAUSHAD RAFAIDEENImage captionHappier times in the Rafaideen family. Naushad is in the middle, and his father on the right

Naushad, who cannot read, was asked to sign some papers which gave permission for his father's body to be cremated.

He said he wasn't sure what would happen to him if he didn't sign, but he feared a backlash against his family and community if he refused. He said the Sinhalese family was treated differently, and allowed to pay respects to their relative at a funeral parlour, though the BBC could not independently verify this. Only Naushad and a handful of relatives were allowed to attend the cremation of his father, he said.

Meanwhile, nearly six weeks after the death of his wife, Shafeek is unsure whether she ever tested positive for coronavirus, and he is struggling to come to terms with not being able to bury her body. One thing he was sure of, he said. "We Muslims do not cremate our dead."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-53295551?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.com/news/world/asia&link_location=live-reporting-story

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