Appeal for policymakers to listen to scientific views and avert inter-community tensions
Youth for Justice Sri Lanka, a coalition of youth-led organisations and youth activists, yesterday called on the Government to revise its ongoing policy of mandatory cremations for COVID-19 deaths and permit burials as supported by scientific evidence.
Releasing a statement they said the current Government policy was causing tremendous hurt and distress to many Sri Lankans. “This distress is experienced by our Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters, with the weight being more on the Muslim community as their faith prohibits outright the cremation of the deceased.”
Youth for Justice pointed out that in the past week, authoritative voices from within the scientific community have made statements to suggest that cremations are not mandatory for COVID deaths. The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA), the College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka (CCPSL) as well as world-renowned Sri Lankan Professor Malik Peiris and Member of Parliament Professor Tissa Vitharana have publicly announced that based on the available scientific evidence, burials of the COVID-19 deceased can be permitted.
Most importantly, the recent report by the expert panel of virologists, microbiologists and immunologists led by Professor Jennifer Perera has recommended both cremation and burial for the COVID-19 deceased, by adhering to safety precautions, they said.
“In the post-war years, we have all worked in various capacities to engage youth from all ethnic and religious groups, and walks of life, to build mutual trust and healing. The policy of mandatory cremations has generated growing unrest among communities and can have serious implications for Sri Lanka’s future, with developments that could derail the work we have done with young people in the last decade.
“We are the generation that was brought up amidst a brutal civil war and suffered its consequences to varied ways. We believe that if necessary steps are not taken to rectify the situation immediately by allowing the Muslim and Christian communities to perform their last rites in line with their religious beliefs, the youth of this country will have to suffer the repercussions of these decisions which appear to be both short-sighted and racially motivated.”
The organisation said they did not wish for the cycles of violence that Sri Lanka has already witnessed to repeat themselves for another generation as a result of the decisions taken by Government leaders in responding to the pandemic.
“We therefore call on the Government to act on the advice of the scientific community and immediately end the ongoing policy of mandatory cremation.”