THE GOVERNMENT OF Sri Lanka has today announced that it will respect the right of Muslims to have a burial in accordance with their religious practices and obligations and will no longer take the bodies of those who have died from Covid-19 for forced cremation.
The Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF) has welcomed the news. It spoke out about the forced cremations in Sri Lanka when they came to light at the end of last year. The world was shocked to learn that the Sri Lankan Government was not allowing grieving relatives to wash the bodies of their relatives, shroud them, say traditional funeral prayers and then bury them.
It seemed that the Sri Lankan Government feared that Covid-19 could leech into the water if victims of the virus were buried – although the World Health Organisation (WHO) had advised that there are no health risks from the burial of the victims.
The Muslim Professionals Forum wrote to the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in the UK before Christmas, urging them to stop the policy of forced cremation and to respect Muslims’ religious practices – but received no answer.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the policy reversal in Parliament today, in response to questions raised by opposition MP SM Marikkar. The announcement came a day after the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle told Parliament that Coronavirus does not spread through water.
MPF Chair, Cllr Khaled Noor, said, “The policy of forced cremation has caused great anguish and suffering – at a time when families are in grief. Victims have been denied a dignified burial and families have been deprived of the chance to observe the religious obligations due to their loved ones. We are sad that the Sri Lankan Government adopted the policy of forced cremation in the first place – but happy that they have now changed their minds.”
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