Sri Lanka Ends Forced Cremation Policy, Allows Burial of Covid Victims After Long Standoff

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The new gazette notification of Sri Lanka allowed both burials and cremations.– Reuters

The government of Sri Lanka did not allow burials for almost a year despite protests from the country’s Muslim and Christian religious minorities and international criticism

Team Clarion

COLOMBO — After a long standoff and international criticism, Sri Lanka ended its forced cremation policy by allowing the burial of two persons who died due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were five more to be buried, Army Chief General Shavendra Silva said on Friday.

The government of Sri Lanka did not allow burials for almost a year despite protests from the country’s Muslim and Christian religious minorities and international criticism on the issue.

The cremation of bodies is forbidden in Islam.

However, under international pressure, Sri Lanka revised a controversial mandatory order to cremate the bodies of COVID-19 victims, which denied minority communities, including Muslims, their religious rights, reports PTI.

The government last month revised a gazette notification issued in April last year. The new notification allowed both burials and cremations.

He said the burials were allowed as per the guidelines for burials issued by the Director General Health Services on Thursday.

The policy of forced cremation was also condemned by international rights groups who urged the government to follow the guidelines on COVID-19 dead bodies issued by the WHO, which recommended both cremations and burials.

Government allowed burials late last month. However, the implementation was held back until the health authorities issued guidelines.

The government’s designated burial site at Iranathivu islet in the north eastern region faced opposition from the residents.

Friday, two Muslim-dominated local councils in the eastern region had come forward to provide a burial site and accordingly the two bodies were buried in the Ottamavadi area in the Ottamavadi area in the eastern Batticaloa district.

When the Iranathivu residents protested against burying the COVID-19 dead there, the government said they were also looking for alternative sites.

The Muslim and Tamil minority political parties had decried the government’s forced cremation policy against the Muslim religious funeral rites as racist.

(With agency inputs)

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