Sri Lankan civil society is silently but strongly marking their protest against the government's inhuman forcible cremation of a 20-day old baby against the wishes of the parents.
For about two weeks, small groups of civil society activists wearing masks and keeping social distances silently tie white handkerchiefs on the iron wall of the general cemetery of Colombo 08 where the babies body was forcibly cremated.
This activism has become a protest against the government's adamant rejection of WHO directions on the disposal of dead bodies of the COVID-19 patients and the disrespect to the people's right for a respectable funeral. Sri Lanka government cremates all COVID-19 dead bodies as a policy. Although the majority Sinhala community cremates their dead bodies, Muslims and some groups in all ethnic communities including some Sinhalese bury the dead bodies as a tradition. A large number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Sri Lanka are of the Muslims.
Baby Shaykh of Colombo 15 was admitted to Lady Ridgway Hospital on 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 the 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 the next day but the antigen tests of his parents were negative. After that, they were sent to home quarantine. The lactating mother was also separated from the baby. 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 an isolated area in Colombo city had no money for the test.
The baby died in the evening of December 8 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 mortuary 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.
- Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe
(Photo: former Minister of Foreign Affairs participates in the protest)