Sri Lanka bans women from covering faces in public

A Sri Lankan Muslim woman returns from market with her son, in Colombo on Monday. (AP)
Updated 29 April 2019

Sri Lanka bans women from covering faces in public

  • “We are not satisfied with the security arrangements and urge authorities to ensure our safety,” Malcolm Ranjith Archbishop of Colombo

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government has introduced measures banning women from covering their faces in public.

The move was imposed by President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday, following a series of deadly bomb blasts in the country last week. 

It will mean religious wear like the niqab (full face veil) cannot be worn, and will apply to female citizens and visitors

Several Sri Lankans, including those from the Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities, welcomed the government’s decision after 268 people, including 40 foreign tourists, were killed in attacks on churches and hotels in Colombo last week.

Muslim women from all walks of life were in agreement with the new rule, saying that in times of national emergency, women should contribute toward maintaining law and order.

Rozmin Farhard, a schoolteacher from Colombo, told Arab News that only a small number of Muslim women in the country would be affected.

“They will not like to expose themselves following the rule, those working may relinquish their jobs and would prefer to stay indoors to exposing their faces since it is very sensitive to them,” she said.

The directive claims all forms of face covers, which may hinder people from being clearly identified, are a threat to national security and public safety. Sirisena tweeted on Monday that the security measures were being put in place to maintain order and stability.

Western Province Gov. Azath Salley said that under the rule, even motorbike riders would be banned from wearing fully covered helmets on the roads. “It is a rule to enable the law enforcement officers to identify people easily at a glance.”

All-Ceylon Jamiyaathul Ulema President Shaikh Rizwie Mufthi claimed the government has no alternative but to introduce the law to eradicate extremism and terrorism from the country, whilst the Sri Lankan Muslim Council president, N. M. Amin, said that as a community Muslims had to accept the president’s decision for the sake of national unity and security.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera, meanwhile, said that the government had intensified its search operations across the island, and had apprehended the wife and brother of Zahran Hashmi, the suspected mastermind of the attacks.

The attacks have also instigated a number of senior changes in Sri Lanka’s judiciary and in high-level defense roles.

The former head of the army, Gen. S. H. S Kottegoda (Rtd) has been made secretary of defense in place of Hemasiri Fernando, who submitted his resignation on Friday. 

The former Inspector General of Police (IGP) N.K. Illangakoon has been appointed as an adviser to the Ministry of Defense, whilst Senior Deputy Inspector C. D Wickramaratne has been made acting IGP after incumbent IGP Pujith Jayasundara was placed on compulsory leave over the attacks.

Meanwhile, Attorney General (AG) Jayantha Jayasuriya was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new chief justice on Monday morning, while Solicitor General Dappula de Livera was made acting AG.

Car bomb targets Indian army vehicle in Kashmir, 2 killed

Updated 48 min 36 sec ago

Car bomb targets Indian army vehicle in Kashmir, 2 killed

SRINAGAR, India: The Indian army says two soldiers have been killed after a car bombing targeted an armored vehicle in disputed Kashmir.
The bombing late Monday hit the vehicle as it passed through southern Pulwama area and wounded more than a dozen soldiers and two civilians.
The two critically wounded soldiers died in a hospital on early Tuesday.
The attack came days after Pakistan reportedly shared information with India and the United States about a possible militant attack in the Pulwama area. None of the rebel groups fighting against Indian rule since 1989 immediately claimed responsibility.
Also Tuesday, two rebels and a soldier were killed in a gunfight in southern Bijbehara area.