Even you, Minister Ali Sabry?
Posted on December 31st, 2020

By Rohana R. Wasala


Media secretary Viraj Abeysinghe of the Ministry of Health has issued a press statement warning against spreading false information concocted by certain politicians and websites regarding the subject of whether to bury or burn the bodies of persons who have succumbed to the COVID-19 infection (lankacnews-Sinhala/December 28, 2020). It notifies that the Ministry is turning its attention to some ‘politically motivated fake news’ stories featuring powerful politicians connected with the government. The statement further says that for the time being (daenata) cremation alone is done on the instructions of all the expert reports received by the Ministry so far. Very much the same news was carried in Hiru TV News (9:55 pm/December 27, 2020). Let’s hope that this is signalling an end to needlessly prolonged dilly-dallying on the part of the authorities about an issue where evidence-based science, not a particular religion out of the many, ought  to have the last word.

Interviewed recently by two You Tube channels (Hari TV/Lahiru Mudalige/December 16 and Konara Vlogs/Avishka Konara/December 23) Ali Sabry PC, Minister of Justice, stressed that his struggle is to build bridges rather than walls between the communities. For over eight months now he has been advocating burial of bodies of Muslims who have died of Covid-19 ignoring the decree of the competent authority, the DHS (Director of Health Services). The DHS is acting on the advice of the local experts who know best what is suitable for our country in the current context, i.e., cremation. The reputed lawyer was the legal consultant of (current president) Gotabaya Rajapaksa at least for fifteen years from the latter’s defence secretary days; he has successfully defended the latter against false charges of various kinds fabricated by political opponents. Sabry’s aim of establishing intercommunal harmony is laudable, and he may be sincere in his efforts in that direction, but how sincere is yet to be demonstrated. This is because it is puzzling that he repeatedly warns that young Muslims are likely to be pushed towards extremism by what they’d perceive as a denial of their right to freedom of religion if the health authorities do not allow the burial of bodies of Muslims claimed by Covid-19. His totally senseless stand on the sensitive issue (that must be left for science, but not religion, to resolve) is likely to give a fillip to extremists and other miscreants opposed to the government to create trouble.

During the first interview mentioned above, Ali Sabry made the patently false claim that the Aluthgama and Digana incidents drove young Muslims to extremism, whereas the truth was the reverse of that. (These incidents must be investigated even belatedly to discover the factual situation that then obtained. The disastrous policy of political correctness that led to the submergence of the truth on those occasions then seems to be at work once again.) Sabry referred to how the UK responded to incidents of Islamic extremist violence as a model to follow in dealing with the same problem in Sri Lanka: the UK government reached out to the mainstream Muslim minority and acted to win their confidence and support in order to contain Islamic extremism in that country. He implies that Sri Lanka must do the same (as if Sri Lanka has not been doing exactly that for centuries) or ‘we must kill all Muslims and put them into the sea!’ (The violent imagery in his speech is an indication of the commotion in his own mind resulting from his subliminal awareness of guilt as he feels forced to lie in this situation for political expediency within his own community. He probably fears violent retaliation from extremists for what they might interpret as collusion with infidels in attacking Islam.) He’s been sounding the warning mentioned above since early April 2020. He believes that he is undergoing a sort of public trial by being blamed by both the Muslim community on the one hand who feel aggrieved by the compulsory cremation rule imposed on all citizens by the health authorities for the safe disposal of bodies of Covid-19 victims and the electorally successful nationalist faction on the other led by the monks, who insist that the rule should not be relaxed to satisfy the whims of one particular group of people thereby endangering the lives of the whole population through the possible release of the still inadequately understood novel coronavirus from the interred bodies to the country’s water table, which, in many places in Sri Lanka, is not very deep, and lies close to the surface. 

Ali Sabry should  know better than most that there has been no lack of reaching out to the mainstream Muslim minority either by the majority community or by the successive governments. Muslims as a community are mainly engaged in business. Seventy-five per cent of their customer base comprises Sinhalese, making it possib;e for Muslim businesses thrive normally, though there’s been just condemnation, among the citizenry including the majority Sinhalese, of worsening Islamist extremism in recent years. Be that as it may, it is not simply because Sabry has served president Gotabaya in the past as his implicitly trusted personal legal service provider that he was made a national list MP by the SLPP and honoured and empowered with such a very important key portfolio. It is certain that Gotabaya Rajapaksa believes in the Buddhist teaching that ‘a trustworthy person is the best kinsman’, but he is the last to allow personal relationships or personal prejudices to sway governance decisions improperly that affect the national interest (or at least that is what people still believe about Gotabaya). ‘One country One law’ was the rallying cry that inspired patriotic Sri Lankans at both the presidential and parliamentary elections to vote for the SLPP, which won with the largest margins. As minister of justice Sabry has been entrusted with the task of supervising the making of a new constitution that is designed to achieve that epoch making change (namely, One Country, One Law) among other things. Gotabaya made no bones about the fact that he won the presidency almost exclusively on the strength of Sinhalese votes; most Muslims and Tamils chose not to respond positively to his call for support at the presidential election. His bluntness is a reflection of his characteristic candour, which has not been compromised by the hypocrisy of political correctness, his older brother’s unfailing weapon, that fails more often than succeeds.  But Gotabaya holds no grudge against those who rejected him, for in the same breath president elect Gotabaya said that he was elected as president of all the citizens of the country and that he would serve in that post without discriminating against any citizen. There is no doubt about the fact that he means what he says. By appointing Ali Sabry to the all important post of Minister of Justice, the president incidentally reassured the Muslims that he will not exclude them from his vision of prosperity and splendour for the nation. 

Ali Sabry  has not budged an inch from his original unqualified opposition to the mandatory burning of bodies of Muslim victims of Covid-19 over which he expressed his disappointment in a Facebook post mentioned in an Al Jazeera news report/April 3, 2020, with the authorities’ decision which, he alleged, ignored the WHO guidelines that allow both burial and cremation. Are we to believe that our experts overlook WHO guidelines without a rational explanation? Sabry deliberately ignores the various reservations that clearly qualify the WHO guidelines, leaving the authorised specialists of any member country to modify those recommendations as appropriate for local conditions and ground realities. The basic assumption that he seems to be operating on, regarding the burial problem, is wrong. For all intents and purposes, he pretends to wrongly believe that the health authorities insist on making no exception for Muslim dead in this case because that is what the monks want.  Ali Sabry is the last person that rational people would expect to demand that Muslims should be allowed to bury their loved ones dead from the novel coronavirus while cremation is the only method legally prescribed by the Director of Health Services (DHS). 

This is not a happy thing to say about arguably the most important and powerful minister in the cabinet, being the closest companion of the president, next to the prime minister, who is the president’s own brother. It is inconceivable how Ali Sabry is capable of (no doubt unintentionally) justifying the berserk behaviour of some virus-infected Muslims (as seen in their show of insubordination, noncooperation, physical harassment of the health workers trying to help them including spitting at them (with the malicious intention of spreading the infection); cases were reported of some Covid-19 positive tested individuals spitting out of the windows of buses carrying them to quarantine centres in vicious attempts to spread dreaded infection). Such demonstration of unprovoked anger is based on the false pretext of alleged discrimination against them by the government in the matter of mandatory cremation of Corona dead as prescribed by the responsible health experts to prevent the escape of the deadly virus with many unknowns into the environment. The virus is no respecter of people’s religious sensitivities. If the Director of Health determines that cremation is the only option for Sri Lanka in the current emergency, citizens are obliged to accept that and act accordingly. 

Why doesn’t Ali Sabry make an effort to explain to the agitating Muslims and to the misinformed Muslim world in general, who have never been enemies of Sri Lanka, that this blown-out-of-proportion controversy over the burial or cremation issue has nothing to do with the monks or the government or the health authorities or the army and police officers (the last mentioned having been co-opted into the Covid containment operation only as ancillary personnel employed for a strictly logistical purpose to serve under the director of health services, DHS, the government appointed competent authority who gives leadership to the whole enterprise, which involves every single citizen of the country). The cremation imperative is not an arbitrary decision taken by the government to spite the Muslim minority under pressure from the monks as misleadingly suggested by the hostile foreign NGO elements, Islamists, a handful of misguided Muslims, and the irresponsible SJB-led opposition. The DHS is not acting capriciously either; his recommendations are based on a scientific rationale collectively defined by a group of experts belonging to a number of different relevant fields of study in the best interest of all resident Sri Lankans and foreign visitors. Ali Sabry seems to be more concerned about remaining in the good books of the handful of Islamists and their sympathisers than the feelings of the ninety-five per cent of the population who are against them. Is he in the thrall of the five percent? Or could it be the case that Ali Sabry needs to be saved from disguised Islamist apologists and opportunistic schemers, who are at present busy striking while the iron is hot? But one thing is clear: The goal of One Country One Law will be a non-starter so long as Ali Sabry remains Minister of Justice. That is my opinion for what it is worth. 

One Response to “Even you, Minister Ali Sabry?”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    Who are good Muslims, bad Muslims, moderate Muslims, peaceful Muslims and radicalised Muslims?

    No they are all the same.They follow the same book. Muslims are like water: at one time they are frozen ice, another time delicate snow, water – stagnant, bogs, fast flowing rivers and then steam , fog , mist and even high temperature super saturated steam. Then the basic constituent is the same water molecule.

    Likewise, Muslims behave differently under different circumstances. Whether peaceful, moderate or jihadist genocidal they all follow the same book – the Koran. When it suits them they read different verses from it. Those of the early period of the Prophet they are peaceful and for coexistence. Those from the later years Medina and afterwards more warlike and genocidal.

    Therefore it is an exercise in futility to categorize Muslims, for one can find in the same family so called ‘good Muslims, radicalised jihadist and murderous Muslims and all shades in between. The family of the Shangrila and Cinnamon Grand Hotel terrorist family is a good example. They all have one common goal – to make the whole world Islamic. For this they are willing to die, they are willing to sacrifice their own sons and daughters. They follow the Al Taquiyya Doctrine of shameless lying to hide the truth, deceive and evade justice.

    Madrasaas are the incubators dessiminators of the Jihadist germ. They must be stopped at all costs if nations around the world are to live in peace.

    How Islamists behave under different circumstances is explained succinctly by Dr Subramaniam Swamy of India. Listen to the following:


    Most Asian countries who are majority Hindu / Buddhist are under threat from Islam on warpath. These include Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Myanmaar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. It is high time these countries met, along with China and Japan to discuss the scourge of militant Islam and came with solutions to stop it before being sorry later – that is if there is any left to be sorry!

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