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Sri Lankan Buddhist monks demand Sri Lanka continues forced cremations

Photos of the Buddhist protests are provided by Pradeep Dilrukshana

Sri Lankan Buddhist monks staged a protest near the Presidential Secretariat today, demanding that the government continue its draconian policy of forced cremations, despite international backlash and guidance from World Health Organisation officials stressing that this was not needed to prevent coronavirus.

The protests were organised by the Sinhala Ravaya and the Sinhale Api. The Sinhala Ravaya has previously protested against the establishment of a mosque in Kurgala and against the singing of the national anthem in Tamil. Organisers of the protest have handed Sri Lanka’s Health Minister, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, a petition demanding that government continue their policy of forced cremations.

Sri Lanka imposed its policy of forced cremations on 11 April despite the knowledge that this violates religious practice held by Muslims who would normally bury the bodies of their dead. The government has reported that there have been 124 deaths due to the coronavirus, 50 of which have been Muslim and have been forcibly cremated, against the wishes of family members. This includes the case of Shaykh, a 20-day old infant. There have also been numerous reports of Muslim bodies who had not had the virus that were forcibly cremated.

Sri Lanka’s government is reportedly considering shipping Muslim bodies to the Maldives for burial in exile. This policy has been widely panned with the Maldives, former Maldivian Foreign Minister, Dunya Maumoon, urging the government to “respect their Muslim minority’s wish to have last rites of Covid-19 patients as per our religion”.

Tamil politicians and civilian society across the North-East have rallied behind Muslims in opposition to the government’s policy.

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