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Govt defends Thondaman funeral; says every measure was taken to prevent outbreak

ECONOMYNEXT – The government took every possible measure to avoid a spread of COVID-19 at late Minister Arumugam Thondaman’s funeral last week, former MP Susil Premajayantha said.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, the ex MP said the government had issued guidelines to be followed by attendees and “even announced curfew” on Saturday (May 30) in the Nuwara Eliya district along with the all-island curfew that followed the next day.

Premajayantha’s defence of the government’s action – or alleged lack thereof – comes in the wake of widespread criticism that a double standard was applied to the late minister’s funeral, at a time when strict pandemic prevention measures are enforced on the rest of the population, forcing them to hold their funerals in as short a time as possible with minimal family participation. Images and footage of large crowds gathered at the different venues across multiple districts that the body was displayed was shared widely online.

Premajayantha, however, maintained that the situation was under control. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who took part in the final day’s ceremony, ensured that everyone who participated maintained a one-metre distance between each other and wore a face mask, said the former MP, adding that security forces personnel had ensured tight security at the premises.

“I would say the government took all the measures to control that situation,” he reiterated.

Commenting on a controversial video showing a group of people rehearsing crying for the funeral, Premajayantha denied any government involvement. It might have been due to a cultural trait that existed among plantation workers in how they express grief, he said. (Colombo/Jun3/2020)

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