Sri Lanka to Continue with Cremation of Covid-19 Victims Amid Opposition from Muslims
Sri Lanka amended a law in April last year to make cremations compulsory for people dying from coronavirus to prevent any potential threat even as the World Health Organisation (WHO) approves the burials.
- PTI Colombo
- Last Updated: January 07, 2021, 20:01 IST
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Sri Lanka will continue to cremate those dying from the novel coronavirus as per the recommendation by an experts' panel, the country's health minister said on Thursday, despite strong opposition from the minority Muslim community. Sri Lanka amended a law in April last year to make cremations compulsory for people dying from coronavirus to prevent any potential threat even as the World Health Organisation (WHO) approves the burials.
The government appointed an experts' panel to give it recommendations if the deceased be buried. Health minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi told parliament that the panel reported that cremations would be the ideal method for the deceased.
"We have no intention to deviate from the report based on any ethnic or religious considerations, Wanniarachchi said. She was answering a query from the opposition legislator Gajendra Kumar Ponnambalam who noted that virologists had certified that burials did not lead to the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Muslim groups have been protesting that COVID-19 victims from their community were being forcibly cremated against their religious belief. The process of cremation is forbidden within Islam and Judaism, which require members of the faiths to be buried. Muslim civil society groups said at least 60 per cent of the current 200 plus deaths were from their community. They say that some of the deceased were buried secretly as they did not want to be cremated.
The authorities claim that burials may lead to further spread of the pandemic with the contamination of the water table. The UN has also appealed to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to allow burials as Muslim funeral rites were among the WHO guidelines on disposal of the COVID-19 dead bodies.
Rajapaksa has said he has instructed the authorities to find suitable land for the burial of coronavirus victims. Sri Lanka has reported 46,248 coronavirus cases so far with 219 deaths.