The United Nations (UN) reiterated their concerns with Sri Lanka's mandatory cremation policy as "the only method for the disposal of bodies suspected of COVID-19 infection," in a letter to Sri Lanka's prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
"I deem it important to inform you that I have received impassioned appeals from within and outside the Muslim community that perceive the current policy on burials as discriminatory," UN Resident Coordinator, Hanaa Singer wrote.
The Sri Lanka government has made cremations compulsory for all coronavirus victims, disregarding advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and going against Islamic tradition as racist false rumours against the island’s Muslim community continued to circulate.
"I fear that not allowing burials is having a negative effect on social cohesion and, more importantly, could also adversely impact the measures for containing the virus as it may discourage people to access medical care when they have symptoms or history of contact," she added.
Singer called on the Prime Minister to uphold the rights of all communities and revise the current policy as "the negative consequences of not allowing burials seem to outweigh any potential epidemiological benefit."
Read the full letter here.