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Friday May 14th, 2021
Health

Muslim COVID-19 burials: Maldives prez considering President Rajapaksa’s request for assistance

ECONOMYNEXT – Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, on a request from his Sri Lankan counterpart Gotabaya Rajapaksa, is looking to assist Sri Lanka with the burial of Sri Lankan Muslim COVID-19 victims, Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said.

Shahid tweeted this afternoon that his president is consulting stakeholder authorities of the Maldives government to assist Sri Lanka in facilitating Islamic funeral rites in the Maldives for Sri Lankan Muslims succumbing to the pandemic.

“President Solih’s decision is based on the close, long standing bilateral ties between Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and to ensure help to face the challenges of the pandemic. This assistance will also offer solace to our Sri Lankan Muslim brothers and sisters grieving over burial of loved ones,” Shahid said in a second tweet.

The foreign minister’s tweet confirms media reports earlier today that the Maldives had offered to bury Sri Lanka’s Muslims who died from the novel coronavirus.

A Sri Lankan Health Ministry official told EconomyNext this morning that though the Maldives had indeed made the offer, a feasibility study should be conducted in order to work out issues pertaining to the safely transportation of COVID-postive dead bodies. Currently, airlines are not accepting such remains, the official said. Sending the bodies via ship would also present practical difficulties as Muslim last rites must be held within 24 hours, the official added.

Meanwhile, the Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Union told EconomyNext that the ongoing cremation of all COVID-19 victims will continue as no changes have been made to the gazette pertaining to it.

This was in the wake of reports that the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) was instructed today to temporarily suspend the cremation of unclaimed bodies of COVID-19 victims.

PHI Union President Upul Rohana said the union has not received an official communication to stop cremation of Muslim victims. The pandemic was spreading rapidly among the Muslim population, he added.

Sri Lanka’s insistence on cremating Muslim novel coronavirus victims has been controversial, with rights activists vociferously condemning the move as being unjust and uncalled for. Official claims of groundwater contamination from buried COVID-positive bodies have been received with increasingly vocal scepticism and despair from commentators representing various communities.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held a discussion with health sector officials last Thursday (10) to examine the possibility of allowing burials. Reports said Rajapaksa had advised the officials to look for a dry plot of land where the groundwater level is deep enough for the purpose.

The PHI Union president said he and his colleagues met State Minister Sudarshani Fernandopulle today who had told them that discussions are still ongoing with environmental and health officials.

“There is no final decision yet. Therefore, we are still following the gazette and cremation of COVID-19 bodies will continue,” he said. (Colombo/Dec14/2020)

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