Youth activists decry forced cremation

By Hiranyada Dewasiri


Mandatory cremation of the Covid-19 deceased is generating unrest among communities, and is reversing the progress made by youth activists in the last decade, claimed the Youth for Justice coalition yesterday (7).

Holding a media briefing urging the Government to follow scientific evidence and thereby end the policy of forced cremation, the coalition said that the cremation-only policy is shortsighted, and will have repercussions that will affect generations to come. They held that this is an issue faced by both Christian and Muslim communities, but that the Muslim community is affected more, as their faith prohibits the cremation of the deceased.

They further commented that the scientific community, including the Expert Committee of virologists, microbiologists, and immunologists – led by Prof. Jennier Perera attached to the University of Colombo Department of Microbiology – have recommended both burial and cremation by adhering to safety precautions.

Member of the coalition, Senel Wanniarachchi said: “We suspect that there are political motives behind this. If there is no scientific basis to this decision, what is this decision based on?”

Nabeela Iqbal, another member of the coalition, said that when the issue of mandatory cremation is raised, her community has always been labelled as being unreasonable, fussy, or angry. “But we are in pain, and it is a collective sadness that we share as a community,” she said.

Iqbal said that Muslims share a bigger fear of death as opposed to contracting the virus, because they know that cremation is going to be the end. She claimed that families no longer communicate about family deaths to other family members, because they do not want to let each other know that a cremation took place in the family.

Also a coalition member, Suchith Abeywickrama observed: “As a Buddhist, I know that Buddhists don’t place value on the body of the dead, but we cannot expect other faiths to share the same views.”

Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi in her parliamentary speech yesterday (7) said that there is no change in the mandatory cremation policy. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has however prepared guidelines to allow safe burials during the Covid-19 pandemic.