The letter sent to HE President by NFGG

Date: 4th April 2020
His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksha,
President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,
Presidential Secretariat,
Colombo 1.
Your Excellency,
Disposal of bodies of Corona Virus Victims
We thank and appreciate Your Excellency for the measures being taken by doctors and  health workers, police and the security forces etc under your able and intelligent leadership to arrest the spread of Corona Virus in the country.The WHO’s vouching of the precautions taken by the Sri Lankan government is a clear evidence for that. We should all be grateful to those doing vital work that leaves them exposed. It’s not just everyone working in health care, though they are certainly the front line, but a bevy of others keeping our society functioning.

The virus attacks all communities and people belonging to all religions and sects equally irrespective of villages, towns, cities, districts, provinces, counties, prefectures, states and nations. Hence protecting the country is the topmost priority before all else.

Whatever measures taken for this have to be essentially collective and inclusive of every citizen of Sri Lanka without considering their ethnicity, religion and identity. It also must be ensured that no citizens feel they are discriminated or overly exposed or sidelined by any measure in the fight against  Covid-19 threat.

Our genuine concern here is about the procedures for disposal of bodies of Covid-19 victims clearly deviating  the WHO’s standard guidelines which allows either burial or cremation. It has to be noted  that these guidelines are being followed by more than 150 countries including worst affected ones like Italy, Spain, UK,USA, Iran and the Philippines in the disposal of the dead, and nowhere is it proved that such burials poses the risk of spreading of virus through ground water contamination or through other means.  

Earlier guidelines published by the government were in keeping with these internationally and scientifically accepted standards. However, unfortunately, a victim’s body was cremated against the wishes of his family members despite the fact that the circular at the time of his death cexplicitly allowed the burial.

Later on, the circular was hurriedly amended to remove the clause about the burial option. This has created a lot of concerns and disappointments among a sizeable section of the Sri Lankan people. This unilateral  removal of the said clause from the circular has affected their religious practices while it disregards and disrespects the dignity the soul of the victim deserves. We observe with deep regret the manner of changing the guidelines lacked transparency and consultation of the important stakeholders.   For example, if there was any doubt about the spread of the virus when the bodies are buried the scientific opinion of microbiologists and virology experts should have been sought and obtained. 

However, we understand the decision was made without any such consultation or obtaining expert opinion. In the meantime, the Government Medical Association (GMOA) had also expressed their opinion that no harm will be caused to the public health in any manner when the victims’ bodies are buried according to the guidelines of the WHO.      

While we do reiterate the fact that all citizens must extend their fullest cooperation to fight the pandemic, we emphasize the religious and cultural rights and dignity of everyone should be protected in every measures taken as long as such those measures are not causing any risk to public health.

Hence, we urge Your Excellency to appoint a committee of experts mainly with practicing microbiologists to study this issue and formulate clear guidelines in disposing the bodies succumbed to the Corona Virus in line with WHO guidelines and scientifically proven standards.  We believe appointing such an expert committee will ensure the transparency and convince everyone to accept the guidelines in the larger interest of the country.

We learn number of representations to Your Excellency and the Honourable Prime Minister and health authorities in this regard have been made by various stakeholders. 

We believe Your Excellency will consider the pleas positively and take suitable action to resolve the issue satisfactorily at your earliest.

Yours most respectfully,

Siraj Mashoor 
National Front for Good Governance(NFGG)

ALM Sabeel 
General Secretary 
National Front for Good Governance(NFGG).

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