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Friday June 9th, 2023

Blame game in Sri Lanka parliament over detained MP’s DIY urinal

The sun sets over the Parliament at Shri Jayewardenepura

ECONOMYNEXT – Legislators in Sri Lanka traded charges on Thursday (07) over a claim that detained opposition MP Rishad Bathuideen is compelled to urinate into a bottle while in prison.

The matter came up when members of the opposition raised a point of privilege over Bathuideen’s ongoing detention which is now into its sixth month, claiming that he is undergoing much hardship.

Bathiudeen and his brother Riyaj were arrested on April 24 for alleged links to the 2019 Easter Sunday bombers. The government was under pressure at the time, particularly from the head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic church, to take action against purported masterminds of the attack.

The brothers were arrested under provisions of Sri Lanka’s controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for aiding and abetting and for maintaining connections with the attackers.

However, the MP has yet to be charged by the legal authorities.

“His cell is locked at 5pm every day and he has to urinate into a bottle,” Chief Opposition Whip and main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Lakshman Kiriella said raising the question of privilege.

Bathiudeen is also facing inconvenience in offering his two night-time prayers due to this issue, he added.

“This is an injustice. There is a government MP also in prison, but he is being allowed to bring his meal from his home,” Kiriella said referring to Premalal Jayasekara, a ruling party MP and murder convict who is in prison.

“This is what happens when police act according to government orders. This is politically motivated.”

Former minister Bathiudeen is also at the centre of a controversy surrounding a 16-year-old domestic aide employed at his residence who burnt to death in July this year.

Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando responding to Kiriella said it was the same fate Fernando underwent when he was arrested during the previous government.

“Even for us, they closed it at 5pm and opened at 6. We also did [urinate] into bottles,” Fernando told parliament.

However, Fernando said he has spoken to the prison commissioner and the commissioner has informed him that Bathiudeen was permitted to use the prison toilet and have his meal brought from outside, but COVID-19 restrictions have so far compelled authorities not to allow meals from outside until October 15.

“I urge Kiriella not to mislead parliament. None of Bathuideen’s lawyers has complained about this to the court,” said Fernando.

Early this week, former prime minister and opposition United National Party (UNP) MP Ranil Wickremesinghe also raised a question of privilege on Bathiudeen and asked the authorities to either present evidence against him or release him from prison.

On August 23, a medical doctor attached to the Welikada prison hospital lodged a police complaint against the detained MP for allegedly threatening his life.

Bathiudeen has denied all allegations against him. (Colombo/Oct07/2021)

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Sri Lanka’s police, health workers mostly violate rights of LGBTQ community – report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s law implementing police officials and health workers among the top in violating the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), according to a study, citing the complaints at the local Human Rights Commission and police.

A study conducted by Bridge to Equality, a civil rights group concerned over LGBTQ in Sri Lanka, shows that 160 rights violation cases reported to the police out of a total 235  during the 18 month period through March 31, 2023, are involved with police and health sector workers.

The data showed that police have been the perpetrators in 96 rights violation cases, while 64 cases are involved with health workers including medical officers.

“The analysis shows that some LGBTQ persons are reluctant to go to the authorities (such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka or the Police) due to the existing penal laws and various social stigmas that continues to exist in the society,” the Bridge to Equality said in the conclusion of the report based on the 235 complaints.

“These stigmas may include inaccurate perceptions that LGBTQ persons are psychologically unwell or that it is a trend or ‘lifestyle’ that conflicts with the Sri Lankan culture.”

The human rights violations have been involved with article 12 of the constitution which is involved with equality before the law and protection from discrimination, followed by article 11 which is linked to protection from torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.

The LGBTQ community also faces unlawful arrest, the report said.

Sri Lanka’s Penal Code, which states that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” is a criminal offence” makes gayism  and lesbianism against the country’s law.

Meanwhile, the transgender community has been targeted by another section of the Penal Code which criminalises “pretending to be some other person.”

Civil groups such as the Human Rights Watch and iProbono have said that individuals in the LGBTQ+ community have been subjected to forced anal and vaginal exams as well as being subjected to homophobic slurs from hospital staff.

The Health Ministry admitted that its workers have been violating the rights of LGBTQ.

“The LGBTQ+ community has been subjected to physical, verbal and sexual harassment by those in the medical field,” Anwar Hamdani, Director of Tertiary Care Services at the Ministry of Health, told EconomyNext.

Police Spokesman Nihal Thalduwa said only transgender people are legalized in Sri Lanka.

“Others are not legally accepted in the country. That’s how the police get included in this. Take lesbian as an example. There can be some who like it. However, even if there are people who are in favour of that, if some people complain about it, since it is not legally accepted then the police will have to take actions against it,” Thalduwa told EconomyNext.

“Since it is illegal, police will have to act on the existing law.  Police do not have anything against it if that is legal. Maybe because of that there may be a perception saying the police are harassing them. But it is not like the police are going after individuals and harassing them.”

“However, when it comes to transgender issues the Police commissioner has issued circulars asking all police officers to take necessary precautions to not to harm the individuals privacy.”

While the repeal of the Penal Code that criminalizes gayism and lesbianism is currently in the process of being debated in parliament, convictions against those in the community are being carried out by the police.

“Other than a transition between genders, LGBTQ+ activity is unlawful in the country,” Thalduwa said.

“Therefore, those who are against the LGBTQ+ community look to the police to curb these activities. Because of its unlawful nature, convictions are being carried out.” (Colombo/June 08/2023)


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Sri Lanka rupee close at 294.50/295.50 to dollar, bond yields up

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka spot US dollar closed weaker at 294.50/295.50 rupees and the bonds were up on Thursday, dealers said.

The Spot US dollar closed at 291.00/292.00 rupees rupees on Wednesday.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 23.40/60 percent up from 23.10/40 percent a day earlier, dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2025 closed at 26.75/27.00. percent, up from 26.25/60 percent on Wednesday.

(Colombo/ June 08/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s shares close higher on favorable macroeconomic prospects

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares closed higher on Thursday, as investor sentiments picked up on lowered inflation and policy rate cuts, after two consecutive losses in previous sessions due to selling interest and profit taking, an analyst said.

The main All Share Price Index was up 0.52 percent or 45.28 points to 8,767.34, this is the highest the index has been since May 18, while the most liquid index S&P SL20 was up 0.65 percent or 16.05 points to 2,479.87.

The market was seeing gains, due to lowered policy rates and low inflation stimulating buying interest and driving the sentiment up, an analyst said.

Sri Lanka’s inflation in the 12-months to May 2023 has eased to 25.2 percent from 35.3 percent a month earlier according to a revised Colombo Consumer Price Index calculated by the state statistics office.

The central bank cut the key policy rates by 250 basis points to spur a faltering economic growth as inflation was decelerating faster than it projected.

“There are gradual improvements in the market sentiment, with positive sentiments coming in from lowered policy rates and inflation,” an analyst said.

The market generated foreign inflows of 57 million rupees and received a net foreign outflow of 282 million rupees.

The market generated a revenue of 853 million rupees, this is the highest the turnover has been since June 01, while the daily turnover average was 1 billion rupees. From the total generated revenue, the banking sector contributed 120 million rupees, Diversified Banks contributed 115 million rupees and the Capital Goods Industry generated 78 million rupees.

Top gainers during trade were Commercial Bank, Hatton National Bank and Cargills. (Colombo/June06/2023)

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