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Sunday February 25th, 2024

Sri Lanka foreign minister claims entire cabinet opposed COVID-19 cremations, blames media

File photo of Minister Ali Sabry with former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

ECONOMYNEXT — A controversial decision by Sri Lanka under the presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2020, 2021 to cremate victims of COVID-19 including Muslims and Christians was built on a lie propagated by two individuals using the media, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said stopping short of a mea culpa and claiming that the entire cabinet had opposed the move.

“It was unfortunate Sri Lanka chose to deny burial of COVID-19 victims when all the evidence suggested otherwise. It was a decision that was devoid of logic, science and empathy, and one that should not have been made,” Sabry tweeted on Wednesday November 30.

The minister has faced harsh criticism from human rights defenders and from members of the Muslim community for what they claim was his silence in the face of the inhuman, unscientific decision.

The government’s stubborn insistence on cremating Muslim and Christian victims of the virus, going against the religious believes, drew widespread condemnation and the concern of Muslim countries and leaders.


International concern that Sri Lanka continues to cremate Muslim Covid dead

In a speech made in parliament on Tuesday, Sabry claimed that the cabinet at the time had been united in its opposition to the decision. He did not, however, explain why no minister went on record speaking up against it at the time, or even later.

“There were many allegations levelled against me, especially from the Muslim community, that I did nothing. But I know I brought this up at cabinet meetings on five occasions.

“Everyone in the cabinet was of the view that if everyone in the world was [allowing burials], if the WHO had recommended it, why wouldn’t we? We would be seen as a barbaric country,” said Sabry.

“Let’s not blame everything on politicians,” he added. A doctor and a known female academic had gone on the media claiming that if COVID-19 bodies were buried, the virus could leak out millions of years from now, the minister said.

“But the 11th grade science book tells us that for a virus to be alive for more than 24 hours, it needs a live cell.

“Who lied and made a thing out of it? It was the media that did it. Some media personnel were our personal friends. We called them and asked them why they were propagating this lie. But they too were powerless to reverse the narrative,” the minister said.

In his speech, Sabry bemoaned what he called the “complete loss” of support from the Middle East.

“We cannot go it alone in this complex world. We need to connect with everyone,” he said. (Colombo/Nov30/2022)

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  1. Thambiya says:

    Do you call yourself a Muslim? Blaming the media for cremation?
    Never utter word about your former racist boss.

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  1. Thambiya says:

    Do you call yourself a Muslim? Blaming the media for cremation?
    Never utter word about your former racist boss.

Sri Lanka could get US$500mn from ADB in 2024

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka could receive 500 million US dollars in support from the Asian Development Bank in 2024 based on the progress of policy reforms, Country Director of the Manila-based lender, Takafumi Kadono said.

The ADB expect to go to its Board around March or April with a 100 million US dollar power sector loan subject to the cabinet of ministers of approving a revised electricity reform bill.

A 100 million dollar loan to support SMEs could also be approved in the early part of the year. Sri Lanka is setting up a credit guarantee agency to support credit for small firms.

A 200 million dollar credit for financial sector was also slated for the year. The ADB gave the first tranche of the financial sector policy loan late last year.

A $100mn for the water sector could also be approved later in the year.

Sri Lanka could get around 200 to 300 million US dollars a year at the lowest rate, or concessional ordinary capital resources (COL) rate of 2 percent.

The balance of would come at the ordinary capital resource rate linked to SOFR.

The ADB has also started work on a ‘Country Partnership Strategy’ for Sri Lanka covering the 2024-2028 period, Kadodo said. (Colombo/Feb25/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy based on friendship: Min

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none, its Minister of Foreign Affairs has said.

“Non-alignment means not becoming a bystander. Non-alignment means you are not forced or coerced into a camp to take sovereign decisions… you make your own choices. Whether it is commercial, security, regional or otherwise,” M U M Ali Sabry said on X (twitter).

“I have repeatedly stressed that sovereignty is the right to have your own opinion on what’s right and wrong, and to stand by your principles. Our multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none,” Sabry was quoting from his speech at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) Foreign Policy Forum, on the theme ‘Reassessing Non-Alignment in a Polarised World’.

Sri Lanka is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The strategically located island has been increasingly walking a fine line between opposing global factions as it seeks to come out of a financial crisis. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank Dec net down on tax provisions

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank of Ceylon reported profits of 6.9 billion rupees from the December 2023 quarter down 21 percent, despite an improvement in net interest income and lower provisions, amid a change in tax provisions.

Pre-tax profits were 8.89 billion rupees up from 2.4 billion rupees. There was a 6.4 billion tax reversal last year compared to a 1.7 billion rupee tax charge this year.

Commercial Bank reported earnings of 5.26 rupees for the quarter. For the year to December 2023 earnings were 16.07 rupees per share on total profits of 21.1 billion rupees, down 11.3 percent.

Net fee and commission income was down 1.2 percent to 6.1 billion rupees.

Net interest income went up 16.8 percent to 25.5 billion rupees, with interest income rising marginally by 1.3 percent to 73.0 billion rupees and interest expense falling 5.45 percent to 47.5 billion rupees.

Loans and advances to customers grew 4.06 percent to 1.17 billion rupees in the year to December. Debt and other financial instruments fell 10.5 percent to 649 billion rupees.

Financial assets measured and fair value through other comprehensive income was at 287 billion rupees, up from 117 billion rupees.

Impairment charges were 13.1 billion rupees, down from 19.6 billion rupees last year.

Gross assets were up 6.45 percent to 2.36 billion rupees. Net assets were up 5.51 percent to 214 billion rupees. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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