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Letters


Readers please note it is essential that all Letters to the Editor carry the full name and address of the writer, even if it has to appear under a pseudonym. This applies to all email letters as well.

 

Executions of innocent Sri Lankans in Saudi Arabia

The chapter on the execution of four Sri Lankan migrant workers in Saudi Arabia is not closed. From time to time the press focuses the miscarriage of justice and the apathy of our government to seek justice, or for that matter compensation, for the families of those who were executed. The Sri Lankan government, dependent on Saudi Arabia for employment opportunities, is too weak to demand anything from the authorities in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia is covering itself with the Shariah (Islamic Law) to justify the executions. This is subterfuge. There was no murder of anyone to justify execution. Further the public display of the dead bodies of the victims who were innocent was, to say the least, sadistic.
 
In this case, the four Sri Lankans were executed for mere theft, whereas earlier two British nurses convicted of murder were released from jail and sent home! The Saudis who claim that they are the guardians of the two principal mosques in Mecca and Medina have a bizarre sense of justice which has nothing to do with the Divine Shariah.
 
Amnesty International pointed out “…court proceedings fall far short of international standards for fair trial and take place behind closed doors. Defendants do not have the right to formal representation by a lawyer and in many cases are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them. They may be convicted solely on the basis of confessions obtained under duress, torture of deception.”

The system in Saudi Arabia, which is being flaunted as the Shariah, is in fact a tribal and traditional system drawing its legitimacy from the pre-¬Islamic Jahili system of tribal and clannish rule.
As there is clear evidence that there has been a cruel miscarriage of justice where the four migrant workers have been murdered, it is the bounden duty and responsibility of the Rajapaksa government to pursue the matter with the authorities in Saudi Arabia to at least obtain compensation for the families of the victims.
The Rajapaksa government’s silence on this crucial matter amounts to selling its soul so that employment of housemaids and other labour will continue. Apparently our government is not concerned about its own people, but only of remittances from Saudi Arabia.

If the government in Britain negotiated with the Saudis and obtained freedom for two British nurses convicted of murder, why can’t the Rajapaksa government at least appeal for compensation for the families of the unfortunate migrants who were illegally executed?

Although the media has not highlighted the fall-out from these executions, it is no secret that communal feelings among the Sinhalese against Muslims over this incident have occurred and hatred for Muslims too has risen. If some compensation is granted, the negative and bad feelings towards Muslims in the island will be forgotten, promoting communal harmony in our strife torn island.

Saybhan Samat
Rajagiriya

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Time is precious – Justice Marsoof

Excerpts from an address delivered by Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Saleem Marsoof at the Islamic Day held at Zahira College:
In Sura Al Asr, Allah swears by the token of time, which is so precious that it is a crime to waste it. Every day, nay every minute, of our school life is precious, and unless we add value to it by maximising its use we will be at a loss.

Ibnu Sina, one of the most learned men the Islamic world has ever produced, was an illustrious practitioner of time management. By the age of 10, Ibnu Sina memorised the Holy Qur’an and went on to study medicine. By the age of 16, he had mastered the study of medicine, but he had simultaneously studied philosophy, and by the age of 21, Ibnu Sina had become accomplished in all branches of formal learning, and started to serve as a jurist, physician, doctor and administrator.
 
Coming back to Sura Al Asr, where Allah swears by the token of time, to say that: Innal Insana Lafi khusr “Verily, man is in loss”, Illallazina amanu wa amilussalihathi wathawasaw bilhakki wathawasaw bissabr, “Except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and join together in mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and consistency.” So, if we do not have strong iman, if we do not perform salah on time, if we do not fast during the month of Ramadhan, if we do not give zakath, if those of us who are able do not perform hadj, and generally if we do not practice thakwa or piety, we are definitely at a loss, and we will regret in our later life and hereafter.

Our Holy Prophet, practiced time management so effectively that while he was busy leading his ummah from the front, so to speak, from a suppressed minority in Mecca to a powerful nation, he had time not only to perform the 17 compulsory rakaths per day, but he actually performed about 60 rakaths per day. As you know, salah helps us to keep our body fit and the mind clean, teaches us punctuality, puts into practice notions of equality and brotherhood, makes us remember our creator five times a day, and keeps us away from all sin and helps us to meditate and gain peace of mind, so necessary to keep us in the straight path.
Indeed, it was the need to preserve the Islamic way of life and maintain Islamic values, which brought Zahira College into existence more than a century ago. Zahira really blossomed during what has been described as its ‘golden era’ under Marhoom Dr. T.B. Jayah, Marhoom Senator A.M.A. Azeez, and Marhoom Shafie Marikar. Not only did Zahira become the premier educational institution of the Muslims of Sri Lanka but it was one of the best schools in Sri Lanka.Inspired by this success Zahira Colleges were established in not only Gampola, Aluthgama, Slave Island and Matale but practically in every nook and corner of Sri Lanka.

It is unfortunate that after this golden era, Zahira had a long period of turmoil, but we are now in the wake of a great reawakening, what the present Chairman of the Board of Governors, Al Haj Fouzul Hameed calls the “Renaissance of Zahira.” The Group of 60 is in the process of procuring a vehicle for our teams to travel for their matches.

Apart from the properties in Maradana itself, there are two other properties, one in Maharagama and the other in Sagara Road, Bambalapitiya which could be developed as branch schools or as source of income for the college, which unless we do something now may be taken over by squatters or unscrupulous persons and will be lost to Zahira forever.

So, there is a great deal more that can be done, not only by the Board of Governors and the constituent bodies such as the Trustees of the Maradana Mosque, the Welfare Association, the Parent Teachers Association and the Old Boys Association and various groups such as the Group of 60 and the Group of 80 but by every one of you present here today whether as a teacher, a parent, or a student. We can rally around the college successfully only if we act in unison and not in confrontation, and if all concerned follow Islamic values and practice thakwa and fear Allah the Almighty.

Islam places a great deal of emphasis on education. Nurtured in the Islamic spirit, every one of us too should be willing to face any challenge to develop Zahira to be the best school of all.

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Stop being cruel to animals


The puppies in these pictures were taken from us on June 16, 2007 by someone living in Biyagama. They were in
excellent condition. The man who took the puppies had 15 dogs. We suspected something was going on

because he lived in a lonely house adjoining a tourist hotel. What we discovered was worse than what we suspected!
We were told that this man worked in Colombo. Each day he gives the dogs a meal of rice but no water to quench their thirst. He would return late at night without any food for the animals. The dogs were starving. Since this was unbelievable we cooked up a story and got one puppy back. When handing it over to me in a box he muttered something about it not being sick. He said the dog just needed worm treatment. So saying, he beat a hasty retreat leaving me to face the horror inside the box.
It was literally a bag of bones as the pictures show. We then requested him to bring the others he had taken from us forthwith, which he did. They too were equally starved and skinny, hardly able to stand, leave alone walk, unaided; their eyes were popping out of their thin little skulls. Their every breath accentuated the ribs and their legs were very thin and long. They didn’t look anything like they did 40 days before.
When offered food, they gobbled it like they’d never seen food in all their lives; but didn’t touch the water offered to them. Instead when one of them was passing urine the others would wait patiently, watching intently and waiting for him to finish and then fight each other to drink it. The water
they passed was thick and orange, more like Linseed oil.
We went to Biyagama and waited outside his house in the dark like detectives, and when he finally arrived at about 11 pm we demanded that we be given the other dogs. He was taken off guard so he gave us 3 more dogs. We now had 6 of them back and all of them had a severe obnoxious smelly diarrhea and had to be given a drip and antibiotic injections. They suffered with skin rashes as a result of being malnourished.
Since this man went to India the following day we had to suspend the rescue operations but were told that there were 3 more starving in a cage in his rear compound. Eventually when he returned after 10 days they were missing. Either they had died or been disposed of in some other way.
In Sri Lanka, being a predominantly Buddhist country, these kinds of cruel incidents should be unheard of. Yet we hear about them almost on a daily basis. We hear of dogs being operated on for experiments; being sold to foreign nationals as food; being beaten and ill-treated.
As a nation where the majority practices a religion which advocates kindness and compassion to fellow creatures, we have to ask ourselves why we allow such things to go on, and often turn a blind eye on them and keep mum about such incidents?

Nadine Ratwatte
6B3 Capitol Residencies
Dharmapala Mawatha
Colombo 7
0773412805

Manel Bibile
5 Galpotha Road
Nawala
0112863866

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Statement on the proposed National Media Policy

We, the undersigned organisations, welcome the government’s recently announced initiative to establish the enabling structures and a culture for media freedom and social responsibility.
It is our collective opinion that the responsibility of the state is to ensure an environment where the freedom of expression is guaranteed. In order to achieve this we feel it is the duty of the state to create the proper legal framework that guarantees these rights and also safeguards the people’s right to information.
For its part, the media should be bound by Codes of Practice which will ensure ethical and professional conduct of all media practitioners. These codes are best formulated and agreed upon by media practitioners themselves. Regional and International experience has taught us that these codes are best practiced when they are self-regulated.
Attempts by governments to impose ethical guidelines on the media in a democratic state go against international practice and the very spirit of the freedom of expression. We, the undersigned will strongly oppose such attempts to bring in guidelines which are backed by punitive laws, under any pretext.
This is also the time to reiterate that we oppose the imposition of strictures on the media through the Regulation Emergency (Prevention and Prohibition of Terrorism and specified Terrorist Activities) Regulations No. 07 issued on December 6, 2006.
We propose to the government that it should immediately implement the following to create the proper environment so that a free, responsible and vibrant media will serve the people will flourish in Sri Lanka:
1. Enact the proposed Right to Information Bill which has been approved by cabinet and drafted in consultation with the media.
2. Amend the existing laws to transform the state owned electronic media: Rupavahini, SLBC, ITN and Lakhanda into genuinely independent public service broadcasters
3. Broadbase the ownership of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., in accordance with the spirit with which it was vested in the state and ensures its editorial independence.
4. Revive the All Party Lakshman Kadirgamar Parliamentary Select Committee with a view to bringing in a Contempt of Court Act on the lines of a similar Law in the UK and India.
5. Amend the Parliamentary (Powers and Privileges) Act as asked for in the Colombo Declaration.
Signatories,
Free Media Movement, The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, The Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, Federation of Media Employees Trade Union, Tamil Media Alliance, SAFMA Sri Lanka Chapter, Sri Lanka Press Institute

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Please note that letters to the Editor must be limited to a maximum of 500 words, or they may not be published.

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