Sri Lanka allows burial of COVID-19 victims

Just weeks before the scheduled crucial session of the UNHRC, Sri Lanka has decided to allow the burial of COVID-19 victims, Colombopage reported. Significantly, the permission comes almost ten months after the COVID-19 pandemic affected the world

Feb 10, 2021
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Just weeks before the scheduled crucial session of the UNHRC, Sri Lanka has decided to allow the burial of COVID-19 victims, Colombopage reported. Significantly, the permission comes almost ten months after the COVID-19 pandemic affected the world.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahindra Rajapakshe announced the change in the policy in a response to a question posed by an MP in parliament. A report on Colombopage said another minister responded, saying the virus doesn’t spread in water.

The decision comes ahead of a scheduled session of the United Nation Human Rights Council where, much to the chagrin of the Sri Lanka government, a strong resolution is expected on deteriorating human rights conditions in the country.

For months, Sri Lanka refused the burial of COVID-19 victims in the country and permitted cremation. Various groups belonging to religious minorities resented the policy and took out protest rallies.

Many human rights organizations also criticized the decision. Later the issue- which should have been dealt with purely scientific basis- turned into a political, and contentious issue in the country. The policy left the country deeply divided on religious lines.

Earlier, the Sri Lankan government constituted committees to provide scientific recommendations to the government on the issue. Contrary to all the standard procedures used by other developed nations around the world, all committees in Sri Lanka recommended cremation as the way of disposing of COVID-19 infected bodies.

For a brief time, the issue also created a political controversy in neighboring Maldives. Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapakshe had written a letter to Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih. In the letter, Rajapakshe asked for his assistance in the burial of Sri Lankan Muslim victims of COVID-19 in one of the Maldivian islands.

Being a Muslim neighbor and close trading partner of Sri Lanka, a section of the Maldivian leaders supported the idea while others vehemently rejected it saying, the government shouldn’t allow bringing the dead bodies of foreigners just to bury it there. In the end, no decision was taken on the Sri Lankan request.

The almost a year-long controversy is unlikely to fade away soon with today’s announcement in the Sri Lankan parliament. Earlier also, a certain section of the Sri Lankan society had taken out protest rallies opposing allowing burial in the country. The possibility of the same could not be ignored now. 

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