The Inter-Religious Committee of the Amarapura and Ramanna Nikayas has written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to convene an urgent meeting of medical and virology experts, and experts in related fields to review the mandatory cremation of persons who die due to COVID-19.
The Chief Secretary of the Sanga Sabha of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya Pallekande Ratanasara Anunayake Thera and the Ramanna Maha Nikaya Chief Secretary Atthangane Sasanaratne Thera said in the letter that the burial of a dead body is a revered religious practice followed by adherents of certain religions, including Islam and Christianity, and religious practices are protected as a Fundamental Right by the Constitution.
The letter said that while Fundamental Rights can be restricted in the time of a public health crisis, and while the gazette notification was issued in April, making cremation mandatory as a precautionary measure necessitated by the lack of knowledge regarding the nature of COVID-19, research has now shown that there is no danger of the virus spreading from a dead body after burial.
“Now more than eight months later, and with a considerable body of research available regarding COVID-19, and results indicating there is no danger of this virus spreading due to burial of COVID-19 dead bodies, we are of the opinion that there is no longer a justification for the mandatory cremation of persons who have died due to COVID-19,” the letter said.
The prelates said that the burial of COVID-19 victims should be allowed, subject to certain conditions which would protect the health of the people on one hand and the religious practices of Muslims, Christians, and other religious communities on the other.
“Conditions of burials of COVID-19 victims should include the use of sealed coffins and of durable and impervious material placed in water-sealed concrete graves or prefabricated water-sealed concrete graves in specified burial grounds with approvals from the designated authority,” the letter added.
They suggested that such burials be carried out on a test basis, and called on the President to summon a meeting of the relevant experts to review the issue.
The letter was also signed by Dr. Madampagama Assaji Nayaka Thera, Dr. Valeboda Gunasiri Nayaka Thera, Sri Lanka Methodist Sabha former Bishop Rev. Asiri Fernando, Devadharma College, Ampitiya Rev. Jayalath Balagalla, Sanathana Darma Research Centre Secretary Swami P. Sivalogananatha Kurukkal, All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) Acting General Secretary Ash-Sheik M.S.M.Thassim. ACJU former Co-Member Moulavi Musni Yoosuf Haniffa, and Zam Zam Foundation Director Moulavi Amhar Hakamdden.