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Sri Lanka Muslims question why cremation of COVID 19 victims is mandatory

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS – Three of the seven who have died of COVID 19 in Sri Lanka were Muslims and all were cremated against their religious beliefs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Muslim community is continuing to question the country’s insistence on cremating the remains of COVID 19 victims despite most countries in the world permitting burials.

Muslims, Jews and Christians believe that their remains should not be cremated according to the dictates of their faith.

This comes after the government Gazetted regulations making it compulsory to cremate the remains of people who die from being infected with COVID 19.

The Gazette was issued last night by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi.

In the Gazette, issued under the provisions of the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance state that “Notwithstanding the provisions of regulations 61 and 62 the corpse of a person who is suspected to have died of Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID 19) shall be cremated.”

It also says the cremation should be done at temperatures between 800 to 1,200 degrees Celsius at a government-authorised crematorium.

The regulation makes it compulsory to cremate the bodies of the victims disregarding the dictates of his or her faith.

Lawyer Farman Cassim PC is asking why Sri Lanka is still insisting on not allowing burials when 182 countries around the world are burying the remains of COVID 19 victims.

“Is there something that health experts in Sri Lanka have discovered that no-one else has so that only cremation is permitted?” he asked.

Cassim told EconomyNext that the initial guidelines issued to Judicial Medical Officers at the outbreak of the disease did not mention burial. However subsequently these Standard Operating Procedures were changed and burial included in accordance with international standards.

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This permitted both cremation and “deep burial” of COVID 19 victims’ remains in accordance with the recommendations of various bodies including that of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Sri Lankan Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA).

The Director-General of Health Services Dr Anil Jasinghe is on record that cremation or burial is allowed. He told reporters two weeks ago that burial is allowed as long as the contamination of the water table does not take place.

Three of the seven victims of COVID 19 have been Muslims and the corpses of all of them have been cremated.

The family of the first victim, a 64-year-old man from Negombo did not get the opportunity to pay their last respects, media reported.

The second Muslim victim’s family had been quarantined, although religious observances had ben performed. In the case of the third victim, the hospital had arranged for a space for a limited gathering and prayers to be said before the cremation.

All three families had asked for burial but had been refused.

Political leaders including Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauff Hakeem condemned the fact that the remains of the second person to die from COVID 19, were cremated as it is against the teachings of the Islamic faith.

The former Minister in a posting on Facebook said it is “unfortunate, regrettable and of course reprehensible that the Janaza of the Negombo Victim of the COVID 19 virus had been cremated without permitting the burial as is ordained in our faith.” (Colombo, April 13, 2020)