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  • Lawyer says teachers were forced to implicate Hejaaz
    Two Fundamental Rights petitions filed on behalf of two teachers of the Al- Zuhriya Arabic College said that two teachers were forced by the Criminal Investigations Department to implicate Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah.

    The two petitions were filed by lawyer Erik Balasooriya was supported before the Supreme Court yesterday.

    M.A. Sumanthiran PC told the court that the two teachers had told their lawyer Balasooriya during a consultation held in the presence of two CID officers who had an audio recording device, that the officers had promised “leniency” if they implicate Hizbullah.

    “They were forced to implicate...
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  • හිජාස්ට විරුද්ධව සාක්කි දෙන්නැයි ගුරුවරුන් දෙදෙනකුට බල කරලා?
    June 1, 2021 මදුරංකුලියේ මද්‍රසා පාසලක ගුරුවරුන් දෙදෙනකු බව කියමින් අත්අඩංගුවට ගත් දෙදෙනා මූලික අයිතිවාසිකම් පෙත්සම් දෙකක් ගොනු කර ඇති බවත්, නීතීඥ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මහතාට එරෙහිව සාක්කි ලබා දෙන ලෙසට විමර්ශන නිලධාරීන් ඔවුන්ට...
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  • Detained Maulavis claim under pressure to frame Hejaaz
    Two Maulavis who have been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), have informed court through their lawyer that they are under pressure to frame human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah. Attorney-at-law Erick Balasooriya had filed a Fundamental Rights petition alleging that the two Maulavis are being coerced to frame Hizbullah. In the Petition, Balasooriya said the Moulavis do not know Hizbullah nor did they conduct any extremist teaching at the Al-Zuhriya madrasa. When the Moulavis were first produced before the Colombo Magistrates court yesterday, Balsooriya informed court that the Moulavis intend making a statements to him. The matter was thereafter transferred to the Fort Magistrates court. Meanwhile, President’s Counsel M.A. Sumanthiran who appeared before the Fort Magistrate on behalf of the two Maulavis today (Tuesday)...
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  • A country obsessed with racial and religious conflicts
    Sri Lanka, as a nation has been wasting time debating sensitive racial and religious issues for the past several years, without gaining anything. Only thing the country has been witnessing as a result is communities distancing themselves from each other, while portraying a false unity among them. 
    The situation seems to have come to a head with people of various communities being emotionally charged over these issues subsequent to the attacks on three Christian churches and three major tourist hotels by the Islamic terrorists on April 21, 2019, which was also the Easter Sunday.
    The terrorist attacks which caught the nation off-guard demanded united action by all communities and political parties to handle the immediate situation and to prevent future recurrence of...
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  • Burqa ban: Security, human rights and male chauvinism
    A few years ago, on a Turkish beach exclusively for women, a bikini-clad woman offered her prayers. The video clip of the woman going through the postures of the Muslim prayer went viral and created a major debate among the Muslims.  Some censured her for not adhering to the dress code for prayers, but others said what mattered was her piety and not the dress.
    Following the release of the Easter Sunday terror attack commission report, Sri Lanka is mulling whether to ban burqa – the Muslim dress that covers a female body from head to toe – and niqab, which only shows the eyes of the wearer, but the issue needs to be looked at from human rights, security and spiritual angles to come to a right decision.
    If at the one end of the spectrum is public nudity, burqa will...
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  • South African Muslim bodies seek intervention over burqa ban in Sri Lanka Foreign Minister of South Africa urged to intervene
    South African Muslim organisations have called on the country’s foreign minister to intervene in the proposed Sri Lankan ban on the burqa and closure of hundreds of Islamic schools. This followed the announcement by Sri Lanka''s minister for public security, Sarath Weerasekera, during the weekend that his country would ban the traditional full-face covering worn by some Muslim women because it posed a threat to national security. This was quickly followed by a statement from the Sri Lankan foreign ministry, which said a decision would only be taken on the proposal after consultations and further discussion. The United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA) has now asked South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor to intervene in the matter. UUCSA had earlier also called for such intervention when...
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  • Banning Burqas and Madrasas illegal: Fmr MP
    Former MP M.M .Zuhair said yesterday it would be unlawful to ban Burqas and Madrasas. Issuing a statement, he said some observations and recommendations of the Commission on Easter Sunday attacks are invasive of the absolute protection given to every person under Article 10 of the Sri Lanka Constitution. He said the Commission’s report though good in parts, can be seen as an attempted assault on Islam for the heinous crimes of a dozen suicide bombers. The right to the freedom stated in Article 10 is ‘assured to all religions’ under Article 9. No one, not even Presidential Commissions can invite or promote the State or any limb of the Executive or Judiciary to violate the freedom guaranteed under Article 10.This protection is guaranteed notwithstanding any national security concerns, as the law stands today. In this constitutionally...
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  • Pakistan says likely ban on Niqab in SL to serve as injury on Muslims
    The Ambassador of Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Saad Khattak today said the likely ban on Niqab in Sri Lanka will only serve as an injury to the feelings of ordinary Sri Lankan Muslims and Muslims across the globe. In a tweet, the Ambassador said that at today’s economically difficult time due to COVID-19 pandemic and other image related challenges faced by the country at the international fora, such divisive steps in the name of security, besides accentuating economic difficulties, will only serve as fillip to further strengthen wider apprehensions about fundamental human rights of minorities in the country. Minister of Public Security Rear Admiral (Retd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera said today that in addition to banning the burqa, the cabinet proposal would also include banning the niqab which covers the face of the wearer except the eyes. The...
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  • යුරෝපයේ රටවල් 8 කින් හිස්බුල්ලාට සහාය
    මානව හිමිකම් වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටින ප්‍රමුඛ නීතිඥවරයකු වන හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මහතා වැනි මානව හිමිකම් ආරක්ෂා කරන්නන්ට ගරු කරන ලෙස ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජයෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටිමින් යුරෝපීය රටවල් අටක මානව හිමිකම් තානාපතිවරුන් ඒකාබද්ධ නිවේදනයක් නිකුත් කර තිබේ. නෙදර්ලන්තය, ජර්මනිය, එංගලන්තය ස්වීඩනය, එස්ටෝනියාව, ලිතුවේනියාව, ලක්සම්බර්ග් සහ ෆින්ලන්තය...
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  • Eight EU HR Ambassadors raise concern over Hejaaz Hizbullah
    In a statement issued today, Eight Human Rights  Ambassadors of Europe including the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden called on the Sri Lankan government to " respect human rights defenders such as Hizbullah". The statement issued by the Ambassadors of the United Kingsdom, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and the Netherlands said that after ten months of Detention, Hejaaz Hizbullah was being accused of speech related offences. Prominent Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department on the 14th of April 2020. He was thereafter accused in the media of various activities related to terrorism. He was thereafter produced on the 18th of February 2021 where the Attorney General informed court that the entire case against Hizbullah was to be based on purported statements made by children. Hizbullah...
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To Burn Or To Bury? The Deadly Question

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To burn or to bury? That has become the bedeviling Covid-19 question in Sri Lanka with no respect for the dead and no empathy for those who are left to mourn. According to WHO guidelines, Covid-19 victim’s bodies are not infectious, unless other complications are involved – such as hemorrhagic fevers (Ebola, Marburg) or cholera. In general, dead bodies themselves are not infectious, but body fluids are and they secrete even after death. So, there is universal insistence on and compliance with the protocols for handing dead bodies, not only by funeral workers but also by families. But the question, whether cremation or burial, is a redundant question and it has been unnecessarily overwrought. But only in Sri Lanka, and chiefly by the  government itself.

For perspective, there have been public protests against cremating Covid-19 victims in Kerala and in West Bengal. So, one can argue either way if being argumentative is the be all and end all of patriotism. To their credit, the Indian federal and state governments have allowed both cremation and burial, leaving it to the family but with all hazmat protocols and precautions.
In Sri Lanka, it gets ridiculous. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has apparently asked the Maldivian government if Maldives could help by providing burial funerals for Sri Lankan Muslims who die from Covid-19 infection. That would be a first for any country. Already four UN Special Rapporteurs, not counting the ones at UNHRC, have called on Sri Lanka not to ban Muslim burials but allow them in accordance with WHO guidelines. Is Sri Lanka on course to run afoul of every UN Rapporteur? And why?

Fear Mongering

The fear mongering, not the prudent concern, about groundwater contamination is another fallopian nonsense. As with Caesarian sterilization, as with the Millennium Compact (which the US has now revoked), the government has dug itself another hole while banning graves for Covid-19 victims. If it is feared that graves will contaminate groundwater, it is fair to ask, what about contamination from sceptic tanks? Sanitary flows, landfill leachate, open defecation are potential pathogen carriers, but not necessarily of the coronavirus. Are drones going to be flown around to catch people answering the nature’s call in the most natural way?

Whether burial or cremation, there are safety protocols to be followed even in normal circumstances. There should be a sense of proportion. If a thousand non-infected, non-Covid-19, bodies are cremated at one location, over one week, and not far from a residential area, no one is going to be amused. In fact, there will be hellish fury. Even a hundred bodies will cause concerns, petitions, and protests. Similarly, if a thousand bodies are buried in a very short period, in a small cemetery, and close to wells or surface waterbodies, that would be a matter for grave concern. No one is talking about mass burials or mass cremations in Sri Lanka. The numbers are small, but the shouting is deafening.

Until late October, even while the burial debate was already in full flames, the total number of Covid-19 deaths was still under 20. Even if all of them were buried in one cemetery, that should not have been a matter for concern. The current death total is 160 and rising. But not all of Covid-19 victims are Muslims, or Christians, requiring a burial. They are a minority in life, in Sri Lanka, and so in death. And not all burials are going to be at the same location. In fact, it will not be a good idea to select a central location for all burials. So, if burials are allowed to take place the way they have been for centuries, the sky will not fall and the ground water is not going to be poisoned.

Proportionality and risk assessment are among the key considerations that guide the selection and location of public facilities, and that includes cemeteries and crematoriums. While cemeteries and crematoriums serve a spiritual purpose, their operations and maintenance come under more mundane considerations like public safety and environmental protection.

The Environmental Agency in England has addressed these matters in the context of Covid-19 and the potential risks from increased burials. Notably, the agency has waived the normal permit requirement for local authorities or cemetery operators undertaking new cemetery development or expanding existing cemeteries to accommodate the increased burials during Covid19. It has only provided guidelines for addressing groundwater risks for new cemeteries, but risks due to the increased number of burials, not due to Covid-19. The Agency is not concerned about Covid-19 infection in burials, but only the number of burials relative to their locations.

England alone has had over 57,000 people die due to Covid-19 so far, and the vast majority of them have been buried. Sri Lanka’s death toll is 160, and a majority of them are cremated. What higher risk would Sri Lanka face by allowing a few dozens of Covid-19 burials at most, than what England and all other countries allowing vastly larger number of burials are facing and dealing with? How did Sri Lanka, and this government particularly, get into such a grave hole, while protesting burials?  

A cabal government?

According to the National People’s Power (NPP) MP Dr Harini Amarasuriya, “a cabal of state officials and their close associates in the business community have been making important government decisions bypassing the prime minister and the cabinet of ministers.” This has been evident for quite some time, and what is also clear is that there is more than one cabal, and that the cabals have got the ear of the President and isolated him from everyone else –  including cabinet of ministers (which is not saying much), even the Rajapaksa family, and most of all its political godfather – the Prime Minister himself.

The cabals are not limited to state officials and business eople, and include professionals who use their trade union muscle to compensate for their professional inadequacies. The GMOA is the most notorious villain of the piece, but it may not be the only one. In the upshot, the government is unnecessarily complicating matters more than what they already are and they may invariably have to be. The government has become its own arsonist, setting up more fires without putting down any. And letting crisis after crisis to crop up with no end in sight. The burn or bury question is one such crisis. Avoidable and unnecessary.

The latest manifestations of this cabal power are the ultra vires sacking of the national Medical Council, a statutory body established in 1926, and the upcoming electrocution of the Public Utilities Commission, another statutory body . Before these was the eruption out of nowhere of prison riots which were ministerially attributed to hidden hands; but there are no hidden hands, only the government’s bloodied hands. And in the most bizarre topping to this cabal state of governance, three government ministers, two of them medical professionals, have been publicly partaking in homemade potions of a purportedly Covid-19 vaccine or cure. All of this and more in the middle of a global pandemic and economic shutdowns.

Not surprisingly, the economy shrank by a whopping 16.3% in Q-2 of 2020, recovering to grow by 1.5% in Q-3, and contracting overall by 5.3% for the first nine months. Hardly the situation for making rosy projections for 2021. And Covid-19 is not letting up at all. It keeps its infections climbing with apparent vengeance after lying low, or undetected, till early October. Infections and deaths have since multiplied ten times and are at the fearsome inflection point for a potentially exponential breakout. This is not a call for panic, but for signs that the government understands what the stakes are and what it takes to get things under control. The signs are anything but!

https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/to-burn-or-to-bury-the-deadly-question/

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