Animal sacrifices at Hindu temples could be banned in Sri Lanka under new plans announced Wednesday, after growing protests over the rituals from the country’s Buddhist majority as well as moderate Hindus.
The cabinet approved a proposal put forward by the Hindu Religious Affairs minister to outlaw the ancient practice that is still observed at several temples across the country.
“The legal draughtsman was asked to prepare a bill to ban animal and bird sacrifices at Hindu temples,” the government said in a statement.
During religious festivals, some devout Hindus sacrifice goats, chickens, and buffalos, expecting good fortune in return.
But the practice has offended animal rights activists, as well as many other Sri Lankans.
Although there is currently no clear law prohibiting animal sacrifices at places of worship, Sri Lankan courts from time to time have issued temporary bans on such practices.
Hindus constitute about 12 percent of Sri Lanka’s 21 million population, which is mainly Buddhist.
Muslims, the third largest religious group in the country, also conduct ritualistic animal sacrifices — although it appears the law would apply only to Hindus.
The country has experienced waves of religious tension in recent years, with anti-Muslim riots in March leaving three people dead and hundreds of mosques, homes, and businesses reduced to ashes.
Sri Lanka’s ex-president Mahinda Rajapakse is to be questioned over the 2008 abduction of a newspaper editor, police said Wednesday, as authorities investigate the former leader and his family over allegations of murder and fraud.
Investigators believe a group of military officials behind the abduction of the Nation news editor Keith Noyahr was also responsible for the assassination of another newspaper editor fiercely critical of Rajapakse.
The Criminal Investigations Department has told Rajapakse he will be questioned at his home in Colombo on Friday, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told AFP.
Noyahr’s abduction, which prompted widespread criticism, came after he published an article criticising a top military commander.
He was snatched from outside his home near Colombo as he returned from work, and was released — battered and bruised — in the streets of a suburb of Colombo a few hours later.
Prosecutors allege he was taken away in a white van and beaten up at a safe house run by the Directorate of military intelligence (DMI).
Noyahr has since moved to Australia.
Investigators also believe the DMI was behind the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga, an editor who had accused Rajapakse’s defence secretary and brother Gotabhaya of taking kickbacks for arms purchases, and was due to testify in court when he was killed.
Major General Amal Karunasekera, the DMI’s chief at the time, is currently in custody over the case.
During Rajapakse’s tenure, 17 journalists and media workers were killed.
The former president and members of his family are under investigation for murder and large-scale financial fraud during his decade as president.
All deny any wrongdoing and in turn accuse the current government of pursuing a political vendetta.
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal denied tampering with the ball by using a sweet in his pocket before helping to rescue his team with the bat in partnership with Kusal Mendis on the fourth day of the second Test against the West Indies on Sunday.
Following the controversy of day three, when the start of play was delayed by two hours with the Sri Lankan captain refusing to lead his team onto the field for the continuation of the West Indies first innings, the International Cricket Council confirmed a charge of “altering the condition of the ball” — effectively ball tampering — against Chandimal.
Match officials charged Chandimal after television footage from the final session’s play on Friday appeared to show the captain taking sweets out from his left pocket and putting these in his mouth, before applying the artificial substance to the ball which the umpires viewed as an attempt to change its condition.
Chandimal will face a hearing at the end of the Test on Monday.
The allegations echoed a 2016 controversy when South Africa captain, Faf du Plessis, was fined 100 per cent of his match fee after being caught on camera applying sugary saliva from a mint in his mouth to the ball during a Test in Australia.
It is understood that the Sri Lankans were angered by the umpires, Aleem Dar and Ian Gould, only informing them of the charge and applying a five-run penalty just ten minutes before the scheduled start of play on Saturday.
It resulted in lengthy discussions involving match referee Javagal Srinath and Sri Lankan team officials and an intervention by Sri Lanka Cricket authorities in Colombo before the tourists took to the field for the continuation of the match.
SLC confirmed support of their players in a subsequent release — saying their team was continuing the Test “under protest” — while Chandimal has formally denied the charge as laid by the umpires. Despite being at the centre of the storm, the Sri Lankan skipper put aside that immense distraction in supporting the in-form Kusal Mendis in a fifth-wicket stand of 117 runs that lifted the visitors from the depths of 48 for four in their second innings on Sunday.
Chandimal eventually fell for 39 in the afternoon session, caught behind off Kemar Roach.
Roshen Silva was in partnership with Mendis, who was unbeaten on 85 when rain forced an early tea interval with Sri Lanka at 194 for five, a lead of 147. Both Mendis and Chandimal had their moments of luck in the morning session.
Mendis touched a leg-side delivery from Jason Holder through to wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich when on 14 but was reprieved as the West Indies captain had overstepped the front crease. Shannon Gabriel, who appeared to have solved his perennial no-ball problem in his first innings haul of five for 59, committed the indiscretion again when he should have had Chandimal, on 21, fending a lifting delivery to Shai Hope at gully.
That incident actually would not have transpired had the West Indies reviewed a not out verdict by umpire Gould to a leg-before appeal by Gabriel to Chandimal just two deliveries earlier.
Television replays showed that the on-field decision would have been reversed with a challenge from Holder.
Yet all was going the way of the West Indies at the start of the day with Gabriel lifting his innings haul to three and match haul to eight with the wickets of nightwatchman Kasun Rajitha and Dhananjaya de Silva in quick succession.
Roach then had opener Mahela Udawatte caught at cover and from their overnight position of 34 for one, Sri Lanka were in danger of being obliterated given that they were just one run ahead of the West Indies at that stage.
A man who threatened to detonate a fake bomb aboard a Malaysia Airlines flight from Melbourne while under the influence of drugs was jailed Thursday for 12 years by an Australian court.
Kuala Lumpur-bound Flight MH128 was turned back to Melbourne in May last year shortly after take-off when Sri Lankan national Manodh Marks falsely claimed a portable speaker and battery pack he was carrying was an explosive.
The 25-year-old who had taken methamphetamine, commonly known as “ice”, on his way to the airport and was experiencing delusions, tried to enter the cockpit while threatening to “destroy” the plane with a bomb.
“The passengers and the crew certainly were not only concerned but convinced, that you were indeed in possession of a bomb,” Victoria County Court judge Michael McInerney said in handing out the sentence.
Several passengers tackled Marks to the ground and bound his hands and feet with plastic ties.
The judge found there was no suggestion of pre-planning or a terror-related motivation from Marks.
“However that psychotic state was induced by his own actions,” the judge said. “Given the serious nature of this crime, there is a need for general deterrence and also specific deterrence.”
“This crime is clearly and obviously at the very serious level,” McInerney added.
The catering student had been released from a psychiatric institution the day before the flight.
He pleaded guilty to attempting to take control of an aeroplane and was sentenced to 12 years and will serve a minimum of eight years.
It was the first time anyone in Australia has been sentenced for the offence.
Marks started using ice after arriving in Australia in 2016 and had entered treatment facilities suffering drug-induced psychosis a number of times, the court heard.
There were 220 people on the plane, which was dramatically stormed by armed police officers when it got back to Melbourne.
Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday reinstated his justice minister, who was sacked nine months ago for publicly criticising a billion-dollar deal to lease a loss-making harbour to China.
Former justice minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe was sworn into cabinet with the higher education and culture portfolios, in a reshuffle prompted by the resignation of six ministers last month.
Sirisena’s office did not say why Rajapakshe was brought back into the fold despite his sacking last August.
Rajapakshe had been forced out of the cabinet after criticising the controversial $1.1 billion lease of a loss-making deep sea port to China.
He was also accused by his own party of delaying the prosecution of former government figures accused of murder and corruption under former president Mahinda Rajapakse, who led the country through the conclusion of a decades-long civil war until his ouster in a 2015 poll.
Sirisena won that election with the support of current prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe but the relationship between the two men has since broken down, with Sirisena accusing Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) of corruption.
Wickremesinghe, who stared down calls for his resignation after a disappointing showing in February local elections, also survived an impeachment attempt last month.
Despite tensions between the two men, both kept their respective portfolios in Tuesday’s reshuffle, with Sirisena helming the defence ministry and Wickremesinghe retaining his economic affairs responsibilities.
Former president Rajapakse, whose family continues to wield enormous influence in Sri Lanka, won a decisive victory over members of the ruling coalition in the February polls and has demanded a snap general election.
Vandals attacked a Muslim-owned restaurant in Sri Lanka on Sunday in an alleged “hate crime”, police said, as tensions remain high across the island following a week of violent riots.
The restaurant in Anamaduwa — 130 kilometres (81 miles) north of the capital Colombo — was targeted despite police being on high alert after a spate of anti-Muslim attacks.
The government declared a state of emergency last week as 11 mosques were torched and 200 Muslim-owned businesses destroyed in riots by Sinhalese mobs that left at least three people dead and around 20 wounded.
A curfew was lifted in the central district of Kandy, the epicentre of the violence, but soldiers remained on the streets, equipped with emergency powers to detain people to maintain law and order.
Some social media networks including Facebook remain blocked across Sri Lanka. Officials say this was done to prevent the spread of hate speech against Muslims.
A senior police official said disciplinary action would be taken against officers in the Anamaduwa area for failing to prevent the restaurant attack.
“We are treating this as a hate crime. An investigation is on to identify those responsible,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.
President Maithripala Sirisena announced Saturday that he will appoint a three-member panel of retired judges to investigate the unrest that drew concern from rights groups and the international community.
Police were deployed to mosques across Sri Lanka on Friday to guard worshippers from the island’s minority Muslim community during weekly prayers. There were no reports of violence.
Muslims make up 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people. The majority are Sinhalese, a largely Buddhist ethnic group.
Hundreds of Buddhist monks and activists staged demonstrations in Colombo Friday, denouncing violence and urging authorities to punish those responsible.
Police said nearly 150 people were arrested over the violence, including the suspected leader Amith Weerasinghe, a Sinhalese man known for anti-Muslim activism and outspoken social media posts.
Sri Lankan police said petrol bombs were hurled at a mosque on Thursday as hundreds of troops patrolled a troubled central district where anti-Muslim violence has left three people dead.
Muslim-owned businesses were set on fire and vandalised in several parts of Sri Lanka, police said, days after an island-wide state of emergency was imposed to curb riots in Kandy.
Police announced 85 people had been arrested for rioting in the hill district, including the leader of a radical Sinhalese Buddhist group known for agitating against Muslims.
“We have arrested 10 key suspects, including Amith Weerasinghe, who orchestrated and led these attacks,” police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters in Colombo, adding that another 75 were detained.
Armoured vehicles and heavily-armed troops guarded Kandy, the epicentre of the violence where internet services remain suspended and an evening curfew is in place.
The government ordered the internet blackout after police discovered mobs of Sinhalese rioters were using social media to coordinate attacks on Muslim establishments.
More than 200 homes, businesses and vehicles have been torched in three days of violence by mobs from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority.
A 24-hour curfew was imposed on Wednesday afternoon after a hand grenade exploded in the hands of an attacker, killing him and wounding 11 others, officials said.
The day-time curfew was eased following a calm night but schools were shuttered as tensions remain high in the tourist hotspot.
In Kuruvita, 125 kilometres (78 miles) south of Kandy, police said petrol bombs were lobbed at a mosque. Little damage was inflicted and three suspects are being pursued.
In Weligama, 240 kilometres south of Kandy, a Muslim-owned business was attacked, police said, while Muslim establishments were pelted with stones in at least two other locations outside Kandy.
Sri Lanka’s telecoms regulator asked internet providers to block access to Facebook and other social media platforms to prevent the spread of anti-Muslim hate speech.
Police have already identified anti-Muslim messages being shared on social networks, including a video posted by a hardline Buddhist monk urging violence against Muslims.
Muslims in Kandy complained that security forces and police — equipped with special powers to detain under the emergency provision — were slow to react as the violence unfolded.
“The main junction is going up in flames. At the same time, the authorities are folding their arms and watching,” said Muslim businessman M. Jaffer, as quoted in Thursday’s DailyFT newspaper.
– Appeals for peace – Former Sri Lankan cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara alluded to the island’s history of ethnic violence in urging his countrymen “to say no to racism”.
“We have to make sure that in Sri Lanka anyone and everyone feels safe, loved and accepted regardless of ethnicity or religion,” he said in a video posted to Twitter.
President Maithripala Sirisena toured Kandy on Wednesday and ordered security forces to use the full force of the law against troublemakers.
Military officials said more reinforcements were sent to the area on Wednesday night to assist police who resorted to teargas to disperse rioters the previous evening.
The United Nations has condemned the violence and urged Colombo “to ensure that appropriate measures are swiftly taken to restore normalcy in affected areas”.
The Kandy region, 115 kilometres (72 miles) east of the capital Colombo, is popular with tourists as well as Buddhist pilgrims.
“Shops are opening, and more people can be seen on the roads since the curfew was lifted,” a police official in the area said by telephone.
Holidaymakers have been urged to avoid the hill resort, which is home to Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist shrine, the Temple of the Tooth Relic.
The chief custodian of the UNESCO-listed temple, Pradeep Nilanga Dela, said foreign tourists and pilgrims were flocking to the shrine despite the tensions.
The unrest began Monday after a Sinhalese man died following injuries sustained at the hands of a Muslim mob last week. Conflict escalated when a Muslim man was found dead in a burnt building on Tuesday.
Sinhalese Buddhists are the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, making up 75 percent of its 21 million people. Muslims make up 10 percent of the population.
Parliament on Tuesday issued an apology to the island’s Muslim minority for the latest violence targeting them in the Indian Ocean island.
Mobs also set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country last week. Last November riots in the south of the island left one man dead and homes and vehicles damaged.
In June 2014 riots between Buddhists, led by radical monks, and Muslims left four dead.
The family of a newspaper editor murdered in Sri Lanka criticised the government for failing to bring his killers to justice as they marked the ninth anniversary of his death on Monday.
Lasantha Wickrematunga, a prominent critic of the former administration, was stabbed days before he was due to testify in a corruption case involving the then defence minister Gotabhaya Rajapakse.
The killing sparked an international outcry and shone a light on human rights violations in Sri Lanka under former president Mahinda Rajapakse, Gotabhaya’s brother.
President Maithripala Sirisena promised to bring the perpetrators to justice when he came to power in 2015 after ousting Rajapakse, but no one has yet been prosecuted.
In a statement, Wickrematunga’s brother Lal accused the government of using the case as a political tool without ensuring justice was done.
“What about bringing the perpetrators to book,” he said, adding there was a “sense of hopelessness” over the government’s handling of the case.
“Justice needs to be done not as a favour. Justice needs to be done to prevent repetition.”
Wickrematunga had accused the former defence secretary of taking kickbacks in arms procurements, including the purchase of second-hand MiG jet fighters.
Gotabhaya Rajapakse has been accused of giving orders to a shadowy military outfit allegedly involved in murdering journalists and political dissidents during Sri Lanka’s long-running civil war, an allegation he denies.