Sri Lanka to bury Covid-19 victims on remote island

Colombo, Mar 2 (efe-epa).- Sri Lanka Tuesday said Covid-19 victims from the minority Muslim community would be buried on a remote island of the Indian Ocean country.

The announcement came days after the government reversed its decision to forcibly cremate those who die of the coronavirus because it believed that burying the bodies of Covid-19 victims would contaminate the groundwater.

The country’s Muslim community and human rights defenders had for months urged the government to revoke the controversial decision because cremation is prohibited in Islam.

Government spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella said the health ministry had now chosen Iranaitivu Island off the Gulf of Mannar in the Northern Province to bury Covid-19 victims from the Muslim or Christian communities.

The island houses the fishermen community battered by hardships due to the nearly three-decade-long war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

“The island was selected on scientific basis and according to health guidelines,” Rambukwella told reporters, asserting it that was not a political move.

He said bodies would be buried according to the existing guidelines, and the government would bear the cost.

“All parties (concerned) were informed about this,” he said.

The decision has enraged the Muslim community.

“This is disgusting,” Vice President of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka Hilmy Ahamed told EFE.

“This is totally opposite to what we expected and what the expert committee recommended.”

He said that there was no need to bury the bodies on the remote island.

“It is nonsense. We will fight this in court if necessary,” Ahamed added.

He said the panel had approved that Muslim Covid-19 victims should be buried in their graveyards following quarantine rules.

“Science has proven beyond any doubt that the coronavirus cannot contaminate ground water sources. The dead cannot spread the disease while waste water from quarantine centers would certainly do,” he said.

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. EFE-EPA


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