World Sri Lanka reverses 'anti-Muslim' cremation order
Sri Lanka Muslims protest Covid cremations as Pakistan PM arrives
Sri Lanka's minority Muslims demonstrated in Colombo Tuesday demanding an end to forced cremations of Covid-19 victims as Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived on an official visit. The demonstration was aimed at the visit of Khan who two weeks ago had weighed in on the plight of Muslims in Sri Lanka. Khan had welcomed an announcement by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on February 10 that burials would be allowed, but a day later Colombo backtracked and said there would be no change in the cremation-only policy.
Sri Lanka has reversed a controversial mandatory order to cremate the bodies of all those who died of Covid-19.
Critics had said the order was intended to target minorities and did not respect religions. The cremation of bodies is forbidden in Islam.
The government had argued that burials could contaminate ground water.
Thursday's reversal came after an official visit by Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, who welcomed the decision on his Twitter account.
Sri Lanka ends forced cremations after Imran Khan's visit
Sri Lanka on Friday ended forced cremations of people who have died of coronavirus, after visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan urged Colombo to respect the funeral rites of the island's minority Muslims. While health minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi did not give a reason in her announcement reversing the ban, official sources said Khan had raised the subject with both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during his trip earlier this week.Dozens of demonstrators had used Khan's visit as an opportunity to call attention to the Sri Lankan government's disregard for Islamic burial customs and carried a mock coffin.
Analysts say that the decision is likely to be influenced by the fact that the South Asian nation is seeking international support at a UNHRC session which began earlier this week.
The council is expected to consider a new resolution responding to mounting rights concerns in Sri Lanka, including over the treatment of Muslims.
Sri Lanka is being called to hold human rights abusers to account and to deliver justice to victims of its 26-year-old civil war, which killed at least 100,000 people - mostly civilians from the minority Tamil community.
The country had earlier come under intense criticism from rights groups, including the UNHRC, over the forced cremation order.
Sri Lanka's plan to bury Muslim Covid-19 victims on islet sparks outcry
A plan by Sri Lanka to bury Muslim coronavirus victims on a remote islet was slammed on Wednesday by locals and the minority community. Colombo banned burials of Covid-19 victims in April, despite expert assurances they would not spread the virus, implementing a policy of forced cremations. Sri Lanka's Muslims, who make up 10 percent of its 21 million people, challenged the policy, pointing out that cremations are forbidden under Islamic law. The policy was revoked last week after a visit from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who urged Colombo to respect Muslims' religious funeral rites.
They said it failed to respect the religious feelings of the victims and their family members specially of the Muslims, Catholics and some Buddhists.
The government had argued that burials could contaminate ground water, based on the say-so of an expert committee, the exact composition and qualifications of which are unknown.
But political, religious and community leaders had repeatedly questioned this, pointing to the more than 190 countries allowing burials, and World Health Organization advice
It even took its fight to the Supreme Court, but the cases were dismissed without any explanation.
Public debate intensified when a 20-day-old Muslim baby was forcibly cremated.
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