National Peace Council
of Sri Lanka
12/14 Purana Vihara Road
Tel: 2818344,2854127, 2819064
E Mail: email@example.com
CONSULT WITH AFFECTED COMMUNITIES ON BURIAL OF COVID VICTIMS
The rapid spread of the Covid virus throughout the world has infected more than 2 million people and led to over 150,000 deaths at the present time. The understanding of the spread of the virus, which is highly contagious, is still evolving. It is in these circumstances that a controversy has developed in Sri Lanka regarding safety issues on whether persons whose death is due to the Covid virus could be buried or cremated. The government has decided that those whose deaths are caused by the Covid virus should be cremated and the Ministry of Health has issued a regulation to that effect.
The government decision is not in accord with the religious beliefs and practices of a section of the people of the country and is hurting them immensely. The Muslim community in particular has asked for reconsideration of this decision. The National Peace Council believes that it is incumbent upon the government to give its consideration to the scientific position, as it evolves, on the spread of the Covid virus. The government decision is contrary to present recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is that either burial or cremation are suitable as methods of disposal of Covid fatalities and which are a practice in nearly all countries.
One of the key recommendations of the WHO is that countries should be unified in their response to the Covid virus and there should be collaboration across party lines and between communities. The cooperation of all is vitally necessary as it will be difficult to ensure anyone’s security from the virus until all are secure from the virus. WHO has also pointed out that the regulation on the disposal of bodies of victims of the COVID virus may lead to reluctance of families and communities to report COVID virus cases in fear that they may be unable ensure proper funeral or burial rites for their loved ones.
We are in agreement with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka which stated that if the government wished to move away from the WHO regulation and its own previous regulation which permitted both cremation and burial, the government should have consulted community leaders of the Muslim community including medical professionals and scientists of the faith. This would have dealt with religious sensitivities in a participatory manner. We request the government to be open to revising its regulation on the disposal of Covid victims in consultation with representatives of affected communities and in keeping with the latest scientific findings as they emerge.
The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.