Sri Lanka to lift lockdown as government devises ways to recover from pandemic

Firefighters spray disinfectants along a street in Colombo as the Sri Lankan government expects to reopen the country after almost two months locked down. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 May 2020

Sri Lanka to lift lockdown as government devises ways to recover from pandemic

  • Sri Lanka imposed a total lockdown on March 22 to counter the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, which was traced to a Chinese tourist from Wuhan who traveled to the country in late January

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka said it will lift its 49-day lockdown from tomorrow, but the government has urged people to adhere to all anti-virus guidelines to ensure the curve stays flat.
“When you go out of your home, please be determined that you come home safely without contracting the virus,” Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of the Army and Head of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO), said during a TV interview on Sunday.
Sri Lanka imposed a total lockdown on March 22 to counter the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, which was traced to a Chinese tourist from Wuhan who traveled to the country in late January.
More than a month and a half later, the lifting of the curfew will allow public and private sector offices to resume work on Monday, with a decision on the reopening of schools and universities to be taken next week, Education Minister Dulles Allaperuma told Arab News.
Commending the progress made in tackling the crisis, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the curfew was being relaxed since the situation was under control due to the help extended by the health authorities, armed forces and the police.
“The spread of the coronavirus has now been brought under control to a great extent. The public needs to adhere to the strict health safety guidelines to ensure the systematic eradication of the deadly disease from Sri Lanka,” Dr. Anil Jasingha, director general of health services, said.


Officials urge residents to continue with anti-coronavirus practices.

As of Sunday, 847 coronavirus patients were being treated at various hospitals, with 321 recoveries and nine deaths reported thus far.
In a statement released on Sunday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that the country’s economy had plummeted due to the lockdown while the tourism industry had also been severely hit.
With the curfew lifted, it could provide the country with “new opportunities to attract tourists from countries where the COVID–19 virus has subsided.”
“Medical tourism can be promoted by highlighting the capabilities of an indigenous medical system which was used for the treatment of virus-infected people. To encourage high-spending tourists, visas will be issued supplemented by an internationally recognized certificate,” he said.

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 32 min 36 sec ago

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”