Sri Lanka ends cremation-only policy to allow Muslims bury Covid-19 victims

Colombo, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- Sri Lanka has ended its controversial policy of forcibly cremating Covid-19 victims that banned minorities, including Muslims, from burying their dead in line with their religious norms.

The decision to ban the burial of those who die because of the coronavirus had sparked international criticism and various anti-government protests.

On Friday night, the government said it was amending its Covid-19 gazette notification issued in April last year.

The new notification substitutes the words “cremation of corpse” to “cremation or burial of the corpse.”

“We are very happy. We should have been given this in March but it is better late than never,” Hilmy Ahamed, the vice president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told EFE.

Ahamed, the first petitioner against the forced cremation, said he hoped that the government would stay firm as it would face opposition from Islamophobic groups.

The government had, in the last 10 months, refused to amend the cremation-only policy, drawing protest from human rights and Muslims, who account for about 10 percent of the island’s population of 21 million.

The decision came a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s two-day visit to the island.

Khan welcomed the decision in a tweet.

“I thank the Sri Lankan leadership and welcome the Sri Lankan government’s official notification allowing the burial option for those dying of Covid-19,” the Pakistan prime minister said.

Ahamed said Khan’s visit and an ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva could have pressured the government to overturn its decision.

“Imran Khan could be lobbying with Muslim countries to support Sri Lanka during the session. However, the rights violation of Muslims over the cremation issue was against the Sri Lankan government,” he said.

The Geneva session is probing Sri Lanka’s involvement in human rights violations and its reluctance to prosecute the accused. EFE-EPA


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