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ECONOMYNEXT — A controversial decision by Sri Lanka under the presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2020, 2021 to cremate victims of COVID-19 including Muslims and Christians was built on a lie propagated by two individuals using the media, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said stopping short of a mea culpa and claiming that the entire cabinet had opposed the move.

“It was unfortunate Sri Lanka chose to deny burial of COVID-19 victims when all the evidence suggested otherwise. It was a decision that was devoid of logic, science and empathy, and one that should not have been made,” Sabry tweeted on Wednesday November 30.

The minister has faced harsh criticism from human rights defenders and from members of the Muslim community for what they claim was his silence in the face of the inhuman, unscientific decision.

The government’s stubborn insistence on cremating Muslim and Christian victims of the virus, going against the religious believes, drew widespread condemnation and the concern of Muslim countries and leaders.

Related:

International concern that Sri Lanka continues to cremate Muslim Covid dead

In a speech made in parliament on Tuesday, Sabry claimed that the cabinet at the time had been united in its opposition to the decision. He did not, however, explain why no minister went on record speaking up against it at the time, or even later.

“There were many allegations levelled against me, especially from the Muslim community, that I did nothing. But I know I brought this up at cabinet meetings on five occasions.

“Everyone in the cabinet was of the view that if everyone in the world was [allowing burials], if the WHO had recommended it, why wouldn’t we? We would be seen as a barbaric country,” said Sabry.

“Let’s not blame everything on politicians,” he added. A doctor and a known female academic had gone on the media claiming that if COVID-19 bodies were buried, the virus could leak out millions of years from now, the minister said.

“But the 11th grade science book tells us that for a virus to be alive for more than 24 hours, it needs a live cell.

“Who lied and made a thing out of it? It was the media that did it. Some media personnel were our personal friends. We called them and asked them why they were propagating this lie. But they too were powerless to reverse the narrative,” the minister said.

In his speech, Sabry bemoaned what he called the “complete loss” of support from the Middle East.

“We cannot go it alone in this complex world. We need to connect with everyone,” he said. (Colombo/Nov30/2022)

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