Sri Lanka makes cremations compulsory for coronavirus deaths

Muslim communities, rights groups angered by government decision announced on Sunday.

    Sri Lankan authorities have cremated the bodies of seven people who died from coronavirus in the country [Al Jazeera]
    Sri Lankan authorities have cremated the bodies of seven people who died from coronavirus in the country [Al Jazeera]

    Sri Lanka has made cremations compulsory for coronavirus victims, ignoring protests from the country's Muslim population which says the rule goes against Islamic tradition.

    Three Muslims are among the seven people who have so far died from the infectious disease in the country. Their bodies were cremated by the authorities despite protests from relatives.

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    "The corpse of a person who has died or is suspected to have died, of ... COVID-19 shall be cremated," Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said on Sunday.

    The decision has also been criticised by rights groups.

    "At this difficult time, the authorities should be bringing communities together and not deepening divisions," Amnesty's South Asia Director Biraj Patnaik said earlier this month.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) said people dying from coronavirus "can be buried or cremated".

    More than 200 people have tested positive for coronavirus so far in Sri Lanka, where an indefinite, nationwide curfew has been imposed.

    The country's main political party that represents Muslims, which make up 10 percent of the 21 million-strong national population, has accused the government of "callous disregard" for religious rituals and the families' wishes.

    SOURCE: AFP news agency