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Controversy ensues as Prime Minister Imran’s inaugural speech in Sri Lanka is canceled

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Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was due to address the Sri Lankan parliament on his next visit to the island country, will no longer be able to do so as the foreign government canceled the event, citing coronavirus restrictions as the reason for the decision.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Jayanath Colombage told the Daily Express that President Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had asked the government to cancel the speech because it could not ensure full participation due to the pandemic.

However, another form of speculation emerged, according to which it was rumored that the Sri Lankan government was concerned that Prime Minister Imran was talking about the rights of Muslims in Sri Lanka, who were abused by of the Buddhist majority, the rise of anti-Muslim sentiments and biased government actions.

Regarding Covid-19, it is important to mention that the mandatory cremation rule issued by the island government for those affected by the disease had also been imposed on Muslims.

Previously Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa assured his parliament that the burials of the victims would be authorized after a persistent campaign by the Sri Lankan Muslim community.

At this, the Prime Minister had welcomed the declaration of Rajapaksas. We welcome the assurance of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksas given to the Sri Lankan Parliament today allowing Muslims to bury those who have died of Covid-19, he said.

However, more than a week since the announcement, no reversal of the cremation law has been observed.

On the other hand, Shan Wijetunge, the parliament’s communications chief, told Arab News on Wednesday that the speech was canceled due to the demanding schedule of visiting prime ministers.

To make the issue even more controversial, the Hindustan Times reported that the island government had to rethink its invitation to Khan to speak in parliament during a two-day visit as officials discussed the implications of the Pakistani prime minister raising the sensitive issue of Kashmir, and how this can upset Dehli.

It is relevant to mention here that the last foreign leader to address the Sri Lankan Parliament was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015. Only two Pakistani leaders, President Ayub Khan (1963) and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto ( 1975) had addressed the Sri Lankan Parliament before.

Prime Minister Imran was said to have been the first world leader to visit the island nation since the pandemic struck last year.

The plot thickened when the Pakistani high commission in Colombo, contacted by an Indian publication, told The Hindu: [Sri Lankan] parliament was not confirmed in the first place, it was under discussion.

However, Sri Lankan President Abeywardena told a meeting of party leaders earlier this month that Prime Minister Imran would address the house.

To this end, the Department of Government Information, in an itinerary dated February 16, 2021, announced the arrival in Parliament on February 24, as well as the participation of Prime Minister Imrans in a conference on trade and investment and the inauguration of a sports institute on the same day. .

The prime minister was also due to meet Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. President Rajapaska knows Pakistan well, where he has taken courses in military training establishments.

The two countries have enjoyed extensive relations in the areas of commerce, commerce, culture and defense for decades. In 2009, the Pakistani armed forces had supported Sri Lanka by providing high-tech military equipment and intelligence support in its fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Separately, Foreign Ministry (FO) spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said on Thursday Prime Minister Imran was due to visit Sri Lanka later this month at the invitation of his Sri Lankan counterpart. .

The visit is expected to take place later this month, he told media in response to a question. The spokesperson added that the two sides are currently working on elements of the program of the Prime Ministers’ visit, taking into account the health security protocols related to Covid-19.

He said the prime minister would be the first head of government to visit Sri Lanka after President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Rajapaksa took office last year, reflecting the importance the two countries attach to this important relationship.

The spokesperson said that Pakistan and Sri Lanka have a close cooperative relationship, deeply rooted in history, and high-level exchanges on both sides are a hallmark of this friendly relationship.

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