Silent protest held in Sri Lanka over cremation of Muslim victims of coronavirus

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Colombo, Dec 23 (PTI) A silent protest was held in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo against the government’s policy of cremating the bodies of Muslim victims of COVID-19 pandemic despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) approving burials.

Sajith Premadasa, the main Opposition leader, led the protest, which was also attended by civil society groups.

Muslim groups allege their community’s coronavirus victims were being forcefully cremated against their religious belief. They say some of them have been buried secretly.

The process of cremation is forbidden within Islam and Judaism, which require members of the faiths to be buried.

The authorities claim that burials may lead to further spread of the pandemic.

The government has appointed an experts' panel to make recommendations on the issue of burials, but it has yet to come up with any recommendations even after 9 months, the Muslim civil society groups say.

Despite international bodies including the World Health Organisation (WHO) advising there is no public health need to cremate coronavirus victims, the government has continued to burn the bodies of coronavirus victims.

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.

Sri Lanka has reported 38,059 coronavirus cases so far with 183 deaths. PTI Corr NSA