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Pakistan PM’s speech is cancelled as Sinhala protesters demand continued cremations

Sri Lanka has cancelled a speech from Prime Minister, Imran Khan, allegedly due to concerns of antagonising India as they fear Khan could raise the issue of Kashmir.

Khan’s visit has been met with fierce Sinhala nationalist backlash as protesters carried signs demanding that he return home and calling on the government to continue its internationally condemned policy of forced cremations.

In advance of Khan’s visit, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Rajapaksa had claimed that the government would repeal its draconian policy only for his statement to be withdrawn by one of the government’s ministers.

In January UN Special Rapporteurs Ahmed Shaheed, Fernand de Varennes, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule and Tlaleng Mofokeng issued a joint statement condemning Sri Lanka’s policy noting that was “based on discrimination, aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism amounting to the persecution of Muslims and other minorities in the country”.

US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Alaina Teplitz, has also issued a statement expressing disappointment over the government’s failure to repeal the policy.

Writing in advance of Khan’s visit and the start of the UNHRC session today, Shreen Saroor, a women’s rights activist and co-founder of the Women’s Action Network, raised concerns that Khan may “negotiate a deal with the Sri Lankan regime to restore Muslim burial rights while in turn offering Pakistan’s support to Sri Lankan diplomatic efforts to reject the (UN) Human Rights Council resolution".

The government’s decision to cancel Khan’s visit also follows from Sri Lanka’s unilateral withdrawal from the ECT agreement which provoked outrage from India.

Read more here.

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