Sri Lanka allots remote island as burial site for Covid-19 victims from Muslim and Christian communities

The Sri Lankan government chose a remote island as the burial location of Covid-19 victims from the minority Muslim and Christian communities.

The government previously forced minorities to cremate their dead in line with the practice of the majority Buddhists. It claimed burials would contaminate ground water.

But the government backed down months after international pressure.

Islam prohibits cremation.

Iranathivu island in the Gulf of Mannar is the designated site for burials. The island  some 300km away from the capital, Colombo, and was chosen, the government says, because it is thinly populated.

Muslims were angered by the ban, introduced last April, and said there was no scientific basis to it. Muslims make up nearly 10% of the population.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, and the United Nations had also raised objections.

The government’s decision has angered people among the minority Muslim and Christian communities. Critics say they have to travel far away from their homes to bury their dead and it will be difficult to pay homage to their buried relatives during festivals and anniversaries.

More than 450 people have died with Covid in Sri Lanka so far and around 300 are from the minority communities.