Sri Lanka’s 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 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.
Sri Lanka’s Muslim community and human rights defenders had for months urged the government to revoke the controversial decision because cremation is prohibited in Islam.
Tamil and Muslim politicians have strongly condemned the government’s move as an expression of racism and an act of confrontation between Tamil and Muslim people.
Parliamentarian and leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Rauff Hakeem strongly condemned the government’s decision.
“Banish the bodies to Iranativu! They created the false narrative and wish to prove they were right all along. There is no end to their sadistic pleasure in harassing a hopelessly traumatized community. Pathetic racism prevails! “ Hakeem said a Twitter message.
“This is disgusting,” Vice President of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka Hilmy Ahamed told media.
“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.
Meanwhile, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP S. Sritharan has said that the government’s decision to bury the bodies of Muslims in the Tamil-inhabited district of Kilinochchi is an attempt to create discord among Tamils and Muslims.
TNA MP T. Sitharthan said the government should reconsider the decision and that it was aimed at disrupting the unity between the Tamil and Muslim communities.
The people of Iranaithivu, who have strongly opposed the government’s decision, have decided to lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and hold protests from tomorrow.