After Muslim backlash, Sri Lanka ends forced cremations of people who’ve died of coronavirus

Sri Lanka on Friday ended forced cremations of people who have died of coronavirus, after visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan urged Colombo to respect the funeral rites of the island’s minority Muslims. 

The government first banned burials in April over concerns – which experts said were baseless – by influential Buddhist monks that the practice could contaminate groundwater and spread the virus.

The policy was decried by members of the South Asian nation’s Muslim community, who constitute 10 per cent of the 21 million population.

While health minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi did not give a reason in her announcement reversing the ban, official sources said Mr Khan had raised the subject with both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during his trip earlier this week.

Dozens of demonstrators had used Mr Khan’s visit as an opportunity to call attention to the Sri Lankan government’s disregard for Islamic burial customs and carried a mock coffin.

In response to the policy change, Mr Khan thanked his Sri Lankan counterparts.

“I … welcome the Sri Lankan govt’s official notification allowing the burial option for those dying of Covid 19,” he said on Twitter.

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation had also raised the forced cremation policy at the United Nations in Geneva this week.

Traditionally, Muslims bury their dead facing Mecca. Sri Lanka’s majority Buddhists, who are strong backers of the current government, are typically cremated, as are Hindus.

In December, authorities ordered the cremation of at least 19 Muslim COVID-19 victims, including a baby, after their families refused to claim the bodies from a hospital morgue.

Muslim community leaders say more than half the country’s 459 COVID-19 victims were from the Muslim minority.

They attribute the disproportionate number of fatalities to a fear of seeking treatment, and in particular, to the fear of being cremated should they die of the disease.

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Sri Lanka Scraps Japan-India Port Deal

Sri Lanka said Tuesday it had pulled out of an agreement with Japan and India to develop a deep-sea container terminal viewed as an effort to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

The East Container Terminal in Colombo port is being built next to a controversial $500-million Chinese-run container jetty, and was to be developed as a joint venture — with India and Japan owning 49 percent.

But the government in recent weeks has faced opposition from hardline nationalists within its coalition who are against the sale of national assets to foreigners.

The deep-sea jetty deal was signed in May 2019, a few months before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power.

The government said in a statement that it would instead develop the site “as a wholly-owned container terminal of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority” for US$800 million.

The decision marks a u-turn from the statement made by Rajapaksa over two weeks ago, when he said the project would go ahead, citing “regional geo-political concerns”.

Sri Lanka pulls out of a join-venture agreement with Japan and India to build a deep-sea container terminal in Colombo port

It also comes the day after the Indian High Commission in Colombo called on the government to honour its obligations on the deal.

When Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s brother Mahinda — who is now the prime minister — was president between 2005 and 2015, Colombo borrowed billions from China, accumulating a mountain of debt for a string of infrastructure projects.

With credit agencies cutting Sri Lanka’s debt ratings as the island nation reels from the economic impact of its pandemic lockdowns and the 2019 deadly Easter bombings, the government is expecting more Chinese loans this year.

In December 2017, unable to repay a huge Chinese loan, Sri Lanka allowed China Merchants Port Holdings to takeover deep-sea port in Hambantota, which straddles the world’s busiest east-west shipping route.

The deal, which gave the Chinese company a 99-year lease, raised concerns at home and abroad.

India and the United States are both concerned that a Chinese foothold at Hambantota could give Beijing a military advantage in the Indian Ocean.

India lodged protests when Chinese submarines made unannounced visits to the Colombo terminal in 2014. Since then, Sri Lanka has not given permission for further submarine calls.

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England in Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews hits century on first day of second Test

Mathews’ hundred was his third against England in Tests
Second Test, Galle (day one)
Sri Lanka 229-4: Mathews 107, Chandimal 52; Anderson 3-24
England: Yet to bat

Angelo Mathews ground out a century for Sri Lanka as England’s bowlers battled hard on the first day of the second Test in Galle.

The hosts were 7-2 when James Anderson claimed two early wickets, and 76-3 when the seamer struck after lunch.

But, on a flat pitch in gruelling heat, Mathews hit a measured 107 not out as Sri Lanka closed on 229-4.

Mathews put on 117 with captain Dinesh Chandimal, who made 52 before being trapped lbw by Mark Wood.

Niroshan Dickwella finished the day 19 not out with Sri Lanka in a position from which they will believe they can post a telling first-innings score.

However, England limited the scoring on a pitch offering little movement for their fast bowlers or turn for the spinners.

Anderson, brought into the team in place of Stuart Broad in England’s only change from their first-Test victory at the same venue, ended the day with exemplary figures of 19-10-24-3.

Quick wickets on day two would leave England in charge as they bid for a victory that would see them take the two-Test series 2-0.

Mathews grits it out for Sri Lanka

Angelo Mathews
Mathews hit 11 fours in his 228-ball innings

When Anderson dismissed Kusal Perera for six and Oshada Fernando for a duck in his third over, there were echoes of Sri Lanka’s dismal batting effort on the first day of the first Test.

Perera edged an inexplicably-rash drive to Joe Root at slip and Fernando, who has replaced out-of-form Kusal Mendis at number three, chopped a ball he could have left onto his stumps.

However, having come to the crease at 7-2, the experienced Mathews held firm – albeit on a surface easier for batting than on day one of the first Test.

Mathews, a veteran of 380 matches for Sri Lanka in an international career spanning more than 12 years, did not offer a chance and milked England’s spinners in a controlled knock.

The 33-year-old put on 69 with Lahiru Thirimanne before his century stand with Chandimal, which wore down England in a baking hot afternoon session.

While in the nineties he weathered an excellent spell from Wood and eventually brought up his 11th Test hundred, third against England and first at Galle.

Crucially, he survived seven overs with the new ball at the end of the day to give himself the chance to add more runs on day two.

Evergreen Anderson impresses again

James Anderson
Anderson’s three wickets took his Test tally to 603

Anderson was left out of England’s side for the first Test – Stuart Broad selected instead as England manage their two most experienced bowlers’ workload throughout the winter.

As a result, eight overs in an intra-squad warm-up match were the 38-year-old’s only overs since the third Pakistan Test in August.

After play he said we was “pretty nervous”, both as a result of the break and to be replacing Broad who excelled in the first Test. It did not show.

Anderson probed the batsmen’s technique throughout and made the most of the minimal movement on offer, like when left-hander Thirmanne nicked the second ball after lunch which slightly moved away off the seam.

He and Broad now have combined figures of 6-58 from 45 overs with 24 maidens across the three innings, in conditions supposedly to their disadvantage.

With spinners Dom Bess and Jack Leach largely ineffective it was the extra pace of Wood that backed up Anderson.

Early in the day he unsettled the batsmen – he hit Chandimal on the grille with a bouncer – and an energy-sapping spell of eight overs after tea gave his side the breakthrough they required.

He bowled fast, found a hint of reverse swing and trapped Chandimal in front with a ball delivered from wide of the crease.

Wood’s relief was clear in his celebration as he held his arms wide and looked to the sky, having bowled 38.5 wicketless overs to that point in the series.

Mark Wood celebrates wicket
Wood has been rested for the first two Tests of the four-match series against India which follows the tour of Sri Lanka

‘Sri Lanka have just edged the day’ – reaction

England bowler James Anderson on Test Match Special: “As a group, the seam bowlers in particular, we put in the hard yards today. To keep them down to 230 on a flat wicket is good, we’re in the game, but we’ve got to bowl well tomorrow when we come back.”

Sri Lanka batsman Angelo Mathews: “I got into a rhythm in the second innings of the first Test [he scored 71 from 219 balls], so I thought ‘if I can get a start I’m not going to give it away’.

“I had to work extremely hard. They gave us nothing, but we are 229-4 and we cannot give it away now.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “For me, Sri Lanka have just edged the day, because they’ve got runs on the board.

“Runs on the board are going to be absolutely crucial. Anything over 350 will be very difficult for the England team, but they’ve kept chipping away nicely.”

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Ukrainians cancel visit to Sri Lanka over PCR concerns – NewsIn.Asia

Colombo, January 22 (Daily Mirror) – Over 200 Ukrainian tourists who were expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on a charter flight on January 19 under the Government’s pilot project, backed out of visiting the country while a further 100 tourists who were expected to arrive today, have cancelled their plans. 

They have cancelled their plans following Sri Lanka’s health protocols which require every tourist to undergo three PCR tests if the stay is more than seven days, the Daily Mirror learns. 

The charter flight which was expected to arrive with at least 214 tourists from Ukraine on January 19, flew into the country empty to take back the returning tourists while today, another flight is expected to arrive, but the number of arrivals have been reduced from an estimated 240 to 100. 

Sri Lanka’s former ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga, who was part of the government’s pilot project told Daily Mirror that following the new health guidelines released for tourists on January 6 many tour operators in Ukraine and Russia had been reluctant to take fresh bookings simply because tourists were reluctant to undergo so many PCR tests during a short span. 

Weeratunga said that in addition to undergoing a PCR test in their respective countries within 96 hours before flying to Sri Lanka, upon arrival here, tourists were required to undergo another PCR test upon their check-in at their hotel, another test on their fifth to seventh day and another test during their 14th day. 

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England vs Sri Lanka Test match scores, day one batting slammed by greats

Former England captains Nasser Hussain, Mike Atherton and Michael Vaughan led the outrage after Sri Lanka capitulated in disgraceful fashion on day one of the First Test in Galle.

The hosts were rolled for 135 as spinner Dom Bess took five wickets despite admitting he hadn’t bowled very well.

Almost every batsman fell to an innocuous delivery, including being caught off long hops and while attempting reverse sweeps.

“I think abysmal is being kind – it was absolutely ridiculous,” Hussain said. ”You think of some of the greats Sri Lanka have had – what must they be thinking looking at a batting performance like that? It was farcical.

“I’d love to know how many of those Sri Lankan batsmen walked into the dressing room and thought ‘I got out to a decent delivery’, it was none of them. It was a joke by the end.

“There were people diving in, people reverse-sweeping – that was the most farcical 46 overs of Test cricket I have seen in my life and if Sri Lanka lose this game it‘s because of how abysmal they have been.”

Atherton described it as “some of the worst Test match batting I have ever seen”.

“It’s great for Dom Bess that he’s got a five-for but he’s never going to get a cheaper one than that because he really didn’t bowl all that well,” Atherton said.

Vaughan was similarly dismayed, tweeting: “Those 46.1 overs have been the worst possible advertisement for Test Cricket … it’s supposed to be the pinnacle … that was utter garbage Sri Lanka.”

Bess, who returned figures of 5/30, combined with paceman Stuart Broad, who took three wickets, as Sri Lanka were all out in two sessions as the two-Test series resumed in Galle after the original tour was aborted over the coronavirus in March.

But the off-spinner admitted he got away with a few easy strikes. “I probably haven’t bowled as well as I could have done, and probably got away with one or two, but that’s cricket,” Bess told reporters after the day’s play.

“Flip it and look how well Broady and Sammy (Sam Curran) bowled at the top. It was exceptional and certainly set the tone early on.”

Bess got wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella caught out at point on a long hop after the batsman played a sloppy shot and the off-spinner said it “isn’t my best wicket”.

Dasun Shanaka’s wicket was also lucky after his shot caught Jonny Bairstow’s boot at short leg and lobbed off for an easy catch to gloveman Jos Buttler.

England lost their openers early but skipper Joe Root, on 66, and Bairstow, on 47, steered the tourists to 127 for two at close of play. They still trail Sri Lanka by eight runs.

The batting duo put on an unbeaten partnership of 110 after Dom Sibley, for four, and Zak Crawley, for nine, fell to Lasith Embuldeniya’s left-arm spin.

Root, who successfully reviewed an lbw call in his favour after being given out by the on-field umpire on 20, reached his 50th fifty in 98 Tests. He has 17 centuries.

Bess remained the hero of the day with his second five-wicket haul in his 11th Test as the venue witnessed its lowest first-innings score, well below Sri Lanka’s 181 against Pakistan in 2000.

Sri Lanka suffered a pre-match jolt when skipper Dimuth Karunaratne was ruled out of the first of the two Tests with a fractured thumb.

Stand-in-captain Dinesh Chandimal scored 28 and put up some resistance in a 56-run stand with Angelo Mathews, who made 27 on his return from a hamstring injury.

Broad struck twice in an over to send back opener Lahiru Thirimanne, who had scored four, and Kusal Mendis for nought – his fourth straight duck – to spell early trouble for the hosts.

Spin was introduced in the 11th over and Bess, with his second ball, got Kusal Perera for 20 when the batsman top-edged a reverse sweep to England captain Joe Root at first slip.

Sri Lanka had slumped to 25 for three but Mathews and Chandimal stood firm till lunch.

Broad came back in the second session to break the stand as he got Mathews caught at slip and Chandimal, who survived a dropped catch by debutant Dan Lawrence before lunch on 22, departed two balls later off Jack Leach.

Mathews, whose hamstring injury kept him out of the 2-0 Test series defeat in South Africa, went past 6,000 Test runs during his knock before Bess soon ran through the middle and lower order.

“I have been with the team for a year and that’s the worst batting I have seen from the team,” Sri Lanka batting coach Grant Flower said. “It’s purely mental I think, I don’t see another other reason to explain that.”

– with AFP

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England cricketers undergo further Covid-19 testing in Sri Lanka ahead of two-day warm-up match


ngland were tested for Covid-19 again in Sri Lanka as they prepared for a two-day intra-squad warm-up match on Friday.

Every member of the touring party except Moeen Ali has tested negative twice since arriving on Sunday.

A clean bill of health on Thursday would see England begin a two-day intra-squad warm-up on Friday, before travelling to Galle on Saturday evening. 

The format of the game has yet to be confirmed, but England have had 21 players in training over the last two days. The exceptions are the isolating Moeen and Chris Woakes, who was deemed a close contact.

Sri Lanka are due to return from South Africa, where they recently lost 2-0, on Friday. 

The First Test is due to begin next Thursday, but there are still a few hoops to jump through before we can be fully confident it will take place.

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England in Sri Lanka: Touring party retested for Covid-19 after Moeen positive case

England’s touring party were sprayed with disinfectant upon their arrival at Hambantota airport

England’s touring party in Sri Lanka has been retested for coronavirus after all-rounder Moeen Ali returned a positive result on Monday.

All of the players and staff had a lateral flow test and PCR at England’s base in Hambantota.

The results are expected on Wednesday morning, with England hoping to train for the first time in the afternoon.

Moeen will leave the Hambantota base on Tuesday afternoon to continue his 10-day quarantine in a hotel near Galle.

Fellow all-rounder Chris Woakes was deemed as a possible close contact, having shared a car to the airport with Moeen in the UK, and is observing a period of self-isolation and further testing.

The touring party must remain in their hotel rooms until the results are returned.

Meanwhile, BBC Sport has learned Sri Lanka, who lost the second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg on Tuesday, will not face a 10-day quarantine period upon their return to the country.

They will fly back on a chartered flight and, as they are transferring from one bio-secure bubble to another, a quarantine period has been deemed unnecessary.

They are expected to have PCR tests before being cleared to play in the two-Test series that starts in Galle on 14 January.

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England cricketers Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes in isolation after Ali tests positive for COVID-19 on Sri Lanka tour

England all-rounder Moeen Ali was isolating in Sri Lanka on Monday after testing positive for coronavirus upon his arrival in the south Asian country for the team’s two-Test cricket tour.

Pace bowler Chris Woakes has been deemed a possible close contact of Ali and was also observing a period of self-isolation in developments which have cast an early shadow on the tour, which takes place weeks after a white-ball trip to South Africa was derailed by a spate of positive COVID-19 results.

The whole squad was given a clean bill of health prior to departure and again after quick turnaround testing on arrival in Hambantota on Sunday.

However, the more sophisticated PCR process then revealed Ali was carrying the virus, according to the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Ali is due out of isolation on January 13, the day before the first Test starts in Galle on the south-west coast.

Woakes is being advised to isolate for a minimum of seven days.

England’s players were sprayed with disinfectant after disembarking their charter flight, before being kept in 48-hour solitary quarantine in a hotel.

They will undergo testing for a second time on Tuesday, with plans to begin training delayed until Wednesday at the earliest.

Ali, 33, will be transported from the current team hotel to a private establishment in Galle from Tuesday.

England hopes spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali can be ready to play in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.(Reuters/Action Images: Andrew Boyers)

Being unable to take part in any training sessions until the day before the first Test leaves the spinning all-rounder as a major doubt to start.

That is a blow to England, with spin sure to play a major role on one of the world’s most renowned turning tracks. Dom Bess and Jack Leach are the spinners likely to play if Ali is not selected.

Woakes has a better chance of building up to match fitness and will remain on site in Hambantota, where he will be monitored by medical staff.

The second Test starts January 22 in Galle.

England captain Joe Root said before flying to Sri Lanka that confirmed cases of coronavirus would not be a threat to a series that had been rescheduled from March, when England left Sri Lanka following the initial outbreak of the virus.

“It’s a really dangerous virus and wherever we will be, we will be in contact with it in some shape or form,” Root said.

“If so, we have to manage it as best as possible. We’re as best prepared as we can be for it and we’re fully aware of what we’re getting ourselves into. I don’t think (a confirmed case) will end in an automatic end of the tour.”


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England in Sri Lanka: Joe Root targets World Test Championship final

England’s tour of Sri Lanka was scheduled to take place in March 2020 but was halted during the warm-up games because of the coronavirus pandemic

England captain Joe Root says his side must “play out of our skin” to reach the World Test Championship final.

Their two Tests in Sri Lanka and four in India between January and March are England’s last chance to earn points.

“We’ll do everything we can to get there,” said Root.

“We’ve just got to try and win as many of the next six Tests as possible and see where we are at the end of that. It’s definitely something that we talk about.

“We know we’re not best seated at the moment and with the points structure as it is now, and us playing more Test cricket than anyone else, we’ve almost got to play out of our skin to get into that final.”

The concept, first approved by the International Cricket Council in 2010, started in 2019 and sees the nine main Test sides earn points for a win and draw with the top two ultimately reaching the final.

The points system has been altered for this edition, with around 15% of the games due to be incomplete when the tournament ends because of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning positions will now be calculated by the percentage of points earned in completed matches.

New Zealand will overtake India to go second if they beat Pakistan in their second Test next week, but Virat Kohli’s side have six Tests left to play and remain favourites to reach the final, alongside Australia.

ICC World Test Championship standings showing Australia, India, New Zealand, England, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh
The scores show the side’s PCT, which is points earned v points available

Positive case would not automatically end tour

England’s last overseas tour ended prematurely with their white-ball side leaving South Africa in December after the bio-secure bubble at their Cape Town hotel was breached.

Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand and Sri Lanka’s of South Africa have since both continued despite positive cases.

Root, who turned 30 on Wednesday, says he does not expect their tour of Sri Lanka to be cancelled by one or two isolated cases of coronavirus.

“I don’t think it would automatically mean the end of the tour,” said Root.

“Those decisions will have to be made by the medical staff and the people entrusted in making those decisions – I don’t think that’s a player decision.

“We have to put trust and faith in those people.”

All members of England’s tour party tested negative before their departure from London on Saturday morning.

England’s decision to leave the South Africa tour was criticised by some, including former captain Nasser Hussainexternal-link, but Root said it felt like “there was no way out”.

“I think the anxiety of that building up over a period of time was significant and the guys didn’t feel safe,” said Root, who became Test captain in 2017.

After that series the England and Wales Cricket Board director of cricket Ashley Giles said more attention would be paid to players’ mental wellbeing and they would be offered screenings before future tours.

“There will be a little bit of extra support there for the players, in terms of psychologists on the ground at all times, making sure there’s somebody to talk to,” explained Root, who is expected to play his 100th Test during the tour of India.

“Everyone is very aware that if, at some stage, it becomes too much then they are entitled to get out.”

‘Rotation will be a really big part’

After the six Tests in Sri Lanka and India, England play five Twenty20s and three one-day internationals in India before a summer which includes home series against both opponents and Pakistan.

The T20 World Cup in India follows in October and November, before the start of the Ashes in Australia at the back end of 2021 going into 2022, and Root says rotation and rest will be an “integral part” of managing the next phase of fixtures.

“It is unrealistic for people to get through the whole winter, from start to finish,” he said. “Everyone is aware of that.

“We are going to have to be quite flexible and adaptable with that, in terms of selection, but that’s going to create good opportunities for people to stand up and stake a claim.

“It’s another way that we can develop as a squad and as a team.”

The last time England toured Sri Lanka they won a three-Test series 3-0 but Root expects this series to be “slightly different”.

“To win 3-0 last time round was a brilliant achievement,” he said.

“It would be a bit naïve to go in and expect the same. We’ve got to be smart and see what is there in front of us, and we’ve got to play to our strengths as a group.

“We’re very confident that we can get two brilliant wins, but also we’re very mindful of the talents and challenges that Sri Lanka will throw at us.”

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India Calls On Sri Lanka For Early Release Of 40 Fishermen

The issue came at the fourth meeting of the joint working group on fisheries. (Representational)

New Delhi:

India on Wednesday called on Sri Lanka to ensure the early release of fishermen arrested recently on the charge of poaching in Sri Lankan waters.

According to a statement by Ministry of Fisheries, the Indian side also reiterated the need for releasing all fishing boats in Sri Lankan custody in line with the commitment given by Sri Lankan President during his state visit to India in November 2019.

This issue came at the fourth meeting of the joint working group on fisheries through virtual mode, during which the entire gamut of issues related to fishermen and fishing boats was discussed.

Referring to the recent ”apprehension” of 40 fishermen and 6 boats by Sri Lanka Navy, the leader of the Indian delegation called on the Sri Lankan side to ensure their early release and till such time, to provide necessary facilitation including consular access and necessary assistance, the release said.

The Fisheries Ministry said that two sides also exchanged views on the status of cooperation between Navy and Coast Guard of both countries in patrolling, existing hotline between the Coast Guards and related operational matters, cooperation in preservation of marine environment as well as the schedule for the fifth meeting of the JWG. The Indian side conveyed its sincere determination to work in a constructive spirit with the Sri Lankan side for convening an early meeting of the Fisheries Ministers on both sides.


Earlier this year, during the virtual bilateral Summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held on 26 September, both leaders agreed to “continue engagement to address the issues related to fishermen through regular consultation and bilateral channels.”

The Indian side highlighted the initiatives being taken by India under the new Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana and other schemes of Government of India and governments of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to diversify and reduce fishing pressure in the Palk Bay.

The first meeting of the Joint Working Group was held on December 31, 2016, in New Delhi. The Second Joint Working Group was held in Colombo on April 7, 2017. Meanwhile, the third meeting was held in New Delhi on October 13, 2017.

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