COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Thursday ended a heavily criticised policy that required Muslim Covid-19 victims to be buried at a remote government-designated site in the absence of their families or final religious rites.
Only a year ago, Colombo reversed an initial policy of enforced cremations — prohibited by Islam — under intense international pressure, while still refusing to allow traditional burials at graveyards.
In Thursday’s new directive, the country’s top health official said the bodies of virus victims could now be handed over to relatives for burial at any cemetery of their choosing.
“The method of disposal, burial or cremation, at any cemetery or burial ground is at the discretion of relatives,” Health Director-General Asela Gunawardena said.
The shift came as a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva was set to discuss Sri Lanka’s treatment of religious minorities as well as Colombo’s overall rights record.
The forced cremations were halted a year ago after Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Colombo and urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a Buddhist, to respect Muslims’ funeral rites.
The government then allowed burials at the remote Oddamavadi area in the island’s east under military supervision, but without the bereaved family.