Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa today appeared to put an end to one of the most controversial COVID19 policies which had prevented burial of remains of Covid victims. The Prime Minister informed Parliament today that permission will be granted for burials in the future.
Responding to Opposition MP SM Marikkar as to why burial is still not being permitted, after State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics, and COVID Disease Control, (Dr.) Sudarshini Fernandopulle announced in Parliament yesterday that the coronavirus does not spread through water.
The move had deeply upset Muslims, because according to Islam, the dead should be buried.
Christians bury their dead, too, and some in Sri Lanka have also been hurt by the move, which came despite World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines which permit burials for people who die from COVID.
Sri Lanka’s government had insisted and stuck to its policy several times on the cremation of all coronavirus victims, rejecting international pleas and recommendations from its own experts to allow the Muslim minority to bury their dead in line with Islamic custom.
The government first banned burials in April amid concerns — which experts say are baseless — by influential Buddhist monks that burying bodies could contaminate groundwater and spread the virus.
A group of Muslim families is to launch a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) about Sri Lanka’s policy of enforced cremation of all those confirmed or suspected to have died with Covid, saying it breaches their religious rights and is causing “untold misery”.
The case seeking interim relief is being brought on behalf of the families by the Muslim Council of Great Britain and with the support of the British law firm Bindmans. It is alleged that the Sri Lankan government is enforcing hundreds of cremations despite international and Sri Lankan medical experts saying there is no evidence that Covid-19 is communicable from dead bodies.
UN special rapporteurs have written twice to the Sri Lankan government – in April last year and January this year – urgingit to respect the wishes of those who seek burial, and to recognise that the disregard of Muslims’ feelings may lead them not to present bodies for cremation.
It is alleged that as many as 200 Muslims have been cremated in Sri Lanka. In January a Sri Lankan expert committee in January accepted that burial was permissible, but the government had taken no action.