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Tuesday September 26th, 2023

International concern that Sri Lanka continues to cremate Muslim Covid dead

IMPORTANT VISIT – Imran Khan Prime Minister of Pakistan champions Muslims around the world/

ECONOMYNEXT – Human Rights activists and Western countries are expressing concern that Sri Lanka is walking back on an apparent promise to allow Muslim victims of Covid 19 to be buried.

Currently, the remains of all victims of the pandemic are cremated whatever religion they and their families belong to.

The controversial stand taken by the government of Sri Lanka against scientific advice and World Health Organisation approved standards has brought about a storm of protest from many countries of the world as well as Human Rights organisations on the island.

Last week Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was heard telling Parliament that the government will allow burial, but the Leader of the ruling Sri Lanka Nidahas Podujana Sandhanaya was shot down a few days later by Cabinet Spokesman Minister Udaya Gammanpila who said the PM “was expressing his personal opinion.”

Gammanpila said the Health Department would take the decision on the matter based on a report from the expert committee convened to examine the issue. In fact, the expert committee has reported to the Health Minister that burial can be allowed on December 28, according to its Chair, Senior Professor Jennifer Perera.

Today US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz tweeted expressing disappointment “to see that the Government and PM are backing away from ending discriminatory cremation policy. People, including loved ones recently passed, deserve more respect for their rights from a democratic government.”

The Rights watch group South Asians for Human Rights also expressed concern over “the timing and purpose of the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s two days visit to Sri Lanka” next week which coincides with the virtual launch of 46th session of UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Broken glass outside Muslim shop trashed in Minuwangoda by mobs/EconomyNext

The Council is due to discuss a new resolution on Sri Lanka will be discussed based on a highly critical report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights mandated. The issue where the government of Sri Lanka has been criticised for forcibly cremating the corpses of COVID infected Muslim persons.

In a statement, SAHR said it “believes that the Prime Minister’s visit is to garner support from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to vote against a resolution on Sri Lanka that is due to come up on 23 February 2021. Further, Prime Minister Khan, during his visit, is expected to address the human rights concerns of Muslims and will hold talks with key government officials and party leaders.”

The organisation says it learns that Khan will address the issues faced by the Sri Lankan Muslim minority during his visit, “we are also apprehensive of the impact these talks would have on the Tamil minority in the country.”

In February 2020, Colombo withdrew its co-sponsorship of resolutions which calls for a process of transitional justice promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights, and instead, to pursue a domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process. “Support from Pakistan and other countries would permit the Sri Lankan government to deliberately bypass the proper process of transitional justice deserved by the victims who are mainly the Tamil and Muslim minorities in the country,” SAHR said.

“We believe that such bilateral occasions should not be used to address issues of one minority community while overlooking the concerns of another. Therefore, SAHR calls upon the Governments of Pakistan and Sri Lanka to respect the rights of all minorities guaranteed in the constitutions and to resolve and address their concerns while providing equal treatment to all,” it added.

A Muslim boy holds up a placard protesting the compulsory cremation of Covid dead/Journalists for Democracy

PM Khan is highly respected by Muslims around the world for taking up cudgels against Islamophobia, criticizing French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders for taking aim at Muslims.

He wrote a letter to Muslim countries around the world to join him in stopping Islamophobia.

As a result, Khan’s support for Sri Lanka was considered vital for Sri Lanka to get the support it needs in international fora to battle the Western countries support for the protection of the Human Rights of ethnic and religious minorities in Sri Lanka.

Today Pakistan’s leading newspaper the “Dawn” carried a column written by Amnesty International campaigner Rimmel Mohydin in which she said Khan should raise the issue of rampant Islamophobia in Sri Lanka and take it up with his counterparts.

Mohydin said on the issue of Muslim cremations Khan had publicly welcomed PM Rajapaksa’s statement that burials would be allowed. “He must now push them to gazette the step.”

“He must consider his responsibility as a Muslim leader. He must recognise that by not raising this issue with his counterpart, he would be seen as complicit in the indifference that often lets realpolitik trump standing up for what’s right. Otherwise, all of his promises will turn to ashes” she wrote.

Khan was scheduled to address the Sri Lankan Parliament, an honour that had been extended to PM Narendra Modi of India when he visited. However even though all arrangements were made, Parliament was abruptly told that what was to be the highlight of the visit had been cancelled due to a “tight schedule.” (Colombo, February 18, 2021)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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Future SJB govt to “refine” Sri Lanka’s agreement with IMF: Harsha de Silva

ECONOMYNEXT – A future government led by the incumbent main opposition party the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) will “refine” Sri Lanka’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), SJB legislator Harsha de Silva said.

The MP tweeted Monday September 26 morning that a closed-door discussion between the SJB and an IMF team that’s currently in Sri Lanka to review the ongoing programme was productive and had focused on governance, transparency and equity in the reform process.

“It was a good discussion. We were quite frank,” said de Silva in a clip he shared of him speaking to the privately owned NewsFirst network.

“Yes, we said we agree as the SJB that we need to work with the IMF, and that we accept that large-scale economic reform will have to take place. That was the baseline.

“However, the leader of the opposition said that, under our government, certain modifications will have to happen,” said de Silva.

The MP, who also chairs the parliament’s Committee on Public Finance (COPF), said this is because the people “obviously see that there is inequity in the implementation of this agreement”.

News footage of the SJB’s latest round of talks with the IMF team showed that SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa along with de Silva and a handful of his colleagues in the party were joined by former Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs who were vocal supporters of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. MPs Nalaka Godahewa and G L Peiris also seen joining a group photo with the IMF and the SJB lawmakers.

The SJB was among the first to demand that the then government of ex-President Rajapaksa approach the IMF before Sri Lanka’s currency crashed in 2022. Over the months since incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s administration embarked on an IMF-prescribed reform agenda, the opposition party has adopted a more critical position on the international lender.

In May,  SJB MP Kabir Hashim speaking at a public event in Monaragala alluded to a unique vision his party possesses with regard to macroeconomic development that doesn’t necessarily include the IMF.


Sri Lanka’s SJB no longer enamoured of IMF, promises new govt in three moons

The SJB’s position with regard to the IMF programme, Sri Lanka’s 17th so far, has been less than consistent. The party, which was among the first to call for a deal with the iInternational lender at the onset of the island nation’s worst currency crisis in decades, abstained from voting for the agreement in a vote taken in parliament in April.

While the SJB hasn’t quite had a drastic departure from its original pro-IMF stance, the party has been increasingly vocal of late about the socioeconomic impact of the deal.

SJB leader Premadasa earlier this year reportedly said a future SJB government would not be obligated to honour deals made by the incumbent government headed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe. MP de Silva explained later that what his party leader had meant was that Sri Lanka must negotiate terms favourable to the country when dealing with the IMF. (Colombo/Sep26/2023)

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Sri Lanka cabinet okays appropriation bill for 2024 budget

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers had approved a draft Appropriation Act for 2024, the state information office said.

The Finance Minister’s proposal to gazette the bill and table it in parliament was approved by the cabinet.

Presenting the appropriation bill is the first stage of presenting a budget for 2024,

The appropriation bills set outs the expenditure plans for each ministry.

The budget proposals, made in November is called the second reading of the Appropriation Act. (Colombo/Sept24/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s MEPA to get 28.5 mn rupees from Singaporean AEPW, for beach clean up

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) is to receive 5.7 million rupees a year, for five years, from Singapore-based marine waste solutions provider, Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), to maintain 8 beach cleaner machines.

The donation is meant to support MEPA clean coastal areas across Sri Lanka, using BeachTech Hydro Sweepy beach cleaner machines, previously donated by the organisation.

The oil industry-founded non-governmental organisation donated the 8 beach cleaners worth about US$180,000 to MEPA in the wake of the 2021 MV X-press Pearl ship disaster.

The machines manufactured by Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeug AG, a German company, are effective at cleaning up plastic nurdles and other types of potentially harmful non-biodegradable waste, minimising human contact with hazardous materials.

As a significant amount of money is spent for the deployment of these machines for beach cleaning activities, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste has agreed to provide the funds for the upkeep of the machines for a period of five years.

With this financial donation, the Maritime Environment Protection Authority will be able to continue using these machines without interruption to clean identified beaches in the future. (Colombo/Sep26/2023)

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