Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sri Lankan authorities remain insensitive about the funeral rights of even the youngest COVID-19 victim

"What was the sin committed by this innocent 20-day-old newborn baby for his body to be forcibly cremated?" former State Minister and former MP for Batticaloa District Ali Zahir Moulana tweeted with a photo of a 20-day old baby whose body was cremated by the authorities without the permission of the parents. 

Baby Shaykh of Colombo 15 was admitted to Lady Ridgway Hospital in the night of December 7. Dr. G. Wijesuriya, the Director at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital said that at the time of admission the infant had been in critical condition with severe pneumonia. The baby was transferred to Intensive Care Unit and connected to a ventilator. The hospital authorities say they had done their level best to save the life of the baby.  

His antigen test was reported positive by the afternoon but the antigen tests of his parents was negative. After that, they were sent to home quarantine. Baby's father Fahim demanded a PCR conducted for the child but they had been asked to do it privately. Fahim, a three wheeler taxi driver from a isolated area in Colombo city had no money for the test.  

The baby died in the evening and the father said that the hospital had given the news to media even before informing him. 

Fahim was called to the hospital and asked to sign some documents. The distraught man said he would sign only if the body was given for burial. The hospital authorities rejected his appeal and took fast actions to cremate the body of the baby under quarantine regulations. 

The health officials could keep the body in the mortury until the matter was explained to the bereaved parents. But the authorities did not bother and proceeded without caring the parents would come or not to the crematorium. 

The authorities of Sri Lanka's national children's hospital are criticized for being insensitive to the grief of the parents of the country's youngest person who died of COVID-19. The family has another daughter who is six years older than the dead brother.

Sri Lanka government continue their unconcern about the human rights of the COVID-19 patients and especially about the funeral rights of the dead persons. Muslims have raised their issue and some reject to accept the bodies of the dead relatives in protest of the government policy. They do not pay for the cremation which is ultimately conducted at the expense of the government. 

Christians, some of the Hindus and some of the Buddhists also do not creamate the dead bodies. However, the majority Sinhala Buddhist community has no cultural issue against cremation of dead bodies. Sri Lanka government does not follow the guidelines of the WHO in terms of the dead bodies of the COVID-19 infected persons and continue to cremate them forcibly if the families protest. 

Sri Lanka government issued a gazette notification on April 11 making cremations mandatory for COVID-related deaths. Twelve Muslim petitioners challenged the regulation in the Supreme Court, claiming it impinged on the fundamental rights of theMuslim minority. However, the petition was rejected. 

(Photo: Baby Shaykh)

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