Sri Lankan Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella refused to issue an apology for the government’s internationally condemned policy of forced cremations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
This policy was widely rebuked by international community and health experts which maintained that this was a violation of Muslim and Christian burial rights.
At the time Amnesty International called on the Sri Lankan Government to “respect the right of religious minorities to carry out the final rites of their relatives in accordance with their own traditions unless they can show that restrictions are needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
maintained that authorities “must respect the right of religious minorities to carry out the final rites of their relatives in accordance with their own traditions unless they can show that restrictions are needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) further added: “Here it is pertinent to recall that the measure of forced cremation by the Sri Lankan authorities is not covered under any health advisory prescribed by World Health Organization to enhance governmental responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Hence, there is no reasonable justification to enforce cremation as an obligatory measure"
Rambukwella’s refusal follows demands by Sri Lanka Muslims Congress leader, Rauff Hakeem, for a public apology from the Health Ministry describing the decision as akin to a hate crime.
After lengthy delays and uproar from the international community, the government reversed its ban on burials after forcing many Muslim families to violate their religious burial rites.
Rambukwella claimed there was a need to appoint a committee to study the decision before making any statement on the matter.
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