The Ministry of Health issued the circular containing the guidelines on the burial of victims to the Covid 19 yesterday (3).
It is mentioned in the circular that the burials of the deceased due to Covid 19 will be done in the Iranativu Island, confirming the Cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella’s statement on last Tuesday (2) that the Iranathivu island has been identified as a site to bury those who die of Covid 19.
Following the Minister’s statement, heated discussions arose all around the country and the residents of Iranathivu launched a series of protests throughout yesterday, claiming that they have no interest in allowing to bury Covid 19 victims in their home soil, and alleging that the government is trying to damage the bond between the Christians and Muslims, the media reported.
The circular issued by the Ministry of Health provides guidelines on the standard operational procedure in transportation and burial of deaths infected with Covid 19 virus.
Here are some key guidelines from the circular,
*The relatives of deceased should inform the Director/Head of health care institution (where the death has occurred) of their desire to bury the corpse without delay.
*The Director of the hospital/Head of health care institution should obtain a written request from relatives for burial.
*Director/ Head of health care institution should make arrangements to include the place of burial as Iranathivu island in death declaration form by coordinating with the nominee of Director.
*If an inquest is held, the burial site has to be included by Inquirer in to sudden death (ISD)/Magistrate in the document issued by them.
*The relatives have to provide the coffin as soon as possible.
*It is the duty of the director/ Head of health care institution to transport the corpse in a coffin provided by the relatives to a designated location in Colombo Institute of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology (office of JMO Colombo) / B.H. Welikanda where the corpse will be received by the designated officer.
*The vehicle transporting the corpse to”Nachchikuda pier” will leave daily at 5.30 a.m. from the designated receiving center nominated by the DGHS. Corpse carried by authorized personal will be handed over to respective authority at the “Nachchikuda pier” which is supervised by the area MOH/ representative PHI.
*Burial will take place by the facilitation and coordination of the Police/Security personal at an Island earmarked by the Government of Sri Lanka in the presence of two relatives, MOH/ his representative PHI of the area of burial.
*Before departure of the corpse, designated health staff of the hospital wearing PPE should bring the corpse from the pre designated area to the viewing area for relatives to view the corpse.
*Religious activities are permitted only at this point according to the guidelines provided by DGHS.
*The corpse inside the coffin is placed in the transportation carriage and hand over to MOH/representative PHI and police to be carried to the designated place of receiving corpses in Colombo.
* The relatives or unauthorized persons are not permitted to obtain photographs, video and video calls in the health care institution/s.
*Two of the relatives who visited the hospital where death has occurred and identified the deceased, allowed to be present at the Nachchikuda pier in the Kilinochchi district on the following day for witnessing the burial at Iranathivu island.
*At the final destination, the corpse inside the coffin is received by the area MOH/ representative PHI of the area of burial.
*After receiving the corpse, it will be taken to the site of burial by the designated officers with necessary health precautions. Only two relatives are permitted to be present at the burial along with area MOH, representative PHI along with Police and security personal handling the burial process.
*The coffin should not be opened and relatives/next to kin shall not be permitted to handle the coffin under any circumstance.
What is Iranathivu?
Iranathivu is an island in the Gulf of Mannar, belonging to the divisional secretariat divison Poonakary in Kilinochchi district. This small island of 08 square kilometers consists of 3 villages, Iranaithevu, Palaithivu, Sonnathivu. According to the report by the Kilinochchi District Secretariat (2019.12.31), there are about 1248 residents of 359 families and all of them are Tamil-Christians.
“Iranathivu is not the place”
When inquired, the Minister of Fisheries Douglas Devananda told with MediaLK that, Iranathivu is not the place for the burial of Covid 19 victims. The Minister further stated that he discussed with the President and the Prime Minister to reconsider this decision to bury the Covid 19 victims in the Iranathivu island.
“I have already discussed this with the President and the Prime Minister over the phone, to reconsider this decision. And I hope a good response from them. Iranathivu is not the ideal place for such a thing. There are people living there and they oppose this. And there’s an ongoing cultivation of Sea Cucumbers which has a potential to bring in $26 millions to the country. Therefore Iranathivu can not be considered as an isolated island anymore.”
Pathetic racism prevails!
Commenting on the issue, MP Rauff Hakeem had tweeted that there is no end to the Government’s sadistic pleasure in harassing a traumatized community and that the racism within the country prevails.
“Banish the bodies to Iranathivu! They created the false narrative and wish to prove they were right all along. There is no end to their sadistic pleasure in harassing a hopelessly traumatized community. Pathetic racism prevails!”
Sri Lanka’s reputation abroad has been tarnished by the racist mismanagement of the burial issue and that foreigners who spoke about tourism, cricket and Ceylon tea now speaks about racism in our country, MP Imthiaz Bakeer Markar also had expressed his view on the platform.
Expected to begin burials from tomorrow
The Nominated Official by the Director General of Health Services for Corona Burial is the Director of Medical Technical Services of Ministry of Health and In-Charge of Covid-19 Operations, Dr. Anwar Hamdani.
When inquired about issue, Dr. Hamdani told with MediaLK that this decision has been taken after considering the necessary health factors and in a way to avoid any harm to the people.
How was Iranathivu was selected for burials?
A lot of places for were suggested for the burial of Covid 19 victims. The Ministry of Health decided it has to Iranathivu. As many opposed and protested the decision, a divisional committee was A committee had been appointed for that. It is also mentioned in the circular. That committee took the decision to bury the victims on Iranathivu. The committee has said that this is the most suitable place from all the other proposed places. This committee has taken this decision after looking at the water level and the locations of people’s residents, in order to avoid any harm to them. This place is on the corner of the island. So nobody is affected by this.
Is it true that the burial has already started?
No. No burying has been done so far. Discussions with the Iranathivu people are still ongoing. It is intended to commence from tomorrow.
The people of Iranathivu say that pits were dug there even without informing them. What is the truth about that?
When inquiring about lands, it is done straight away after going there. It is not something that is needed to inform to everyone.
It will take more than 300 km from Colombo for this purpose. What do you think about that?
This is a process is a must. We can’t really worry about the distance at a time like this.
Burial right to the people after 331 days.
Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health on March 30, 2020, stated that it is possible to cremate or bury the bodies of people who die of corona infection. But in less than 24 hours later, the decision was revoked and the guidelines were amended, stating that all those who died of the virus should be cremated.
The bodies of all those who died of corona infection after that mandate were cremated with or without the consent of relatives. In some instances, there have been even court cases in this regard.
As a result of continuous effort of the communities and the pressure exerted on Sri Lanka by the international bodies including the United Nations Human Rights Council, on 25th February, the government issued a gazette notification amending the laws issued regarding cremation, approving the burial of deceased due to Covid 19, which revoked the long prevailed mandate that corpses infected with corona should be cremated.
Earlier, many in the government had suggested that Mannar, an area with deep groundwater levels, was suitable for burial of Covid 19 victims. Many Muslims also asked for permission to bury in Mannar or in a Muslim-majority area. The media had reported that a person was preparing to donate five acres in Mannar for the burial of Covid 19 victims.