Govt promised to permit COVID19 burials, SLMC MPs who voted for 20A claim

The sun sets over the Parliament at Shri Jayewardenepura

ECONOMYNEXT – The four Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) MPs who voted for the 20th amendment in October last year had been assured that the government would permit the burial of COVID-19 victims, SLMC Treasurer Faizal Cassim claimed.

Cassim told reporters yesterday that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had discussed the matter with the MPs.

“But because some people in the government are opposed to this, we have yet to receive any assistance in this regard,” he said.

Cassim’s colleague H M M Harees, referring to Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s statement in parliament last week that burial would be permitted, said: “After his speech, I spoke and thanked him. Even then he didn’t say a word against it. Some MPs are opposed to permitting burials.”

“We condemn this,” added Harees.

The MPs’ remarks come after confusion over the government’s position on burying COVID-19 victims. The prime minister’s highly publicised remark was welcomed by Muslim leaders both local and international, including Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan who is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka later this month. However, the government backtracked on the statement soon after, with State Minister Sudarshini Ferandopulle stating in parliament that the decision will depend the recommendation of an expert committee which had previously recommended cremating all COVID-19 victims.

The four Muslim MPs’ decision to vote for the 20th amendment was controversial. The main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), who they represent in parliament, voted against the amendment. SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem, too, voted with the SJB.

Eight SJB MPs had voted for the amendment, and the four SLMC parliamentarians were formally asked to give their reasons at a high level party meeting in the weeks that followed.

Meanwhile, Minister S M Chandrasena told reporters yesterday that PM Rajapakasa’s statement meant that burials will be permitted after the expert committee has given it

“The PM said the expert committee’s recommendation is on the way and that it will be given after that.  There is only a bit more left,” he said, adding that a decision will be announced soon. (Colombo/Feb15/2021)





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