Muslims in Sri Lanka will make an urgent appeal to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, to find a suitable land for the burial of Muslim COVID-19 victims, instead of burying them in the island of Iranaitivu, in the Gulf of Mannar, stating it was not a practical solution to bury the victims there.
The Daily Mirror learns that the trustees of the Maradana mosque have written to the Director General of Health, Dr. Asela Gunawardena requesting the Kupiyawatta Muslim burial ground in Colombo to be utilized for the burial of COVID-19 dead as a ground water table test report was carried out recently by the Department of Geology, University of Peradeniya, where it was determined that the water table was detected at a depth of 2.5 to 3 meters which is suitable for COVID-19 deceased burials according to the Health Ministry's expectations.
In the letter, a copy which was seen by Daily Mirror, the trustees have also confirmed that if permission is granted for burials in the Kupiyawatta burial grounds, any additional guidelines issued by the Health Ministry would be complied with when undertaking the burials.
An official from the trustee board said this ground water table report had been handed over to the Health officials as soon as the report was received, but there had been no word from the authorities who he claimed even failed to discuss it or table it at the task force meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
On Monday, the trustees of the mosque handed over the letter, addressed to the Director General of Health along with the ground water report, to Temple Trees, in an urgent attempt to seek Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's intervention.
A letter will also be sent to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa this week, attaching the ground water table report, urging him to reconsider and grant permission for burials in the Kupiyawatta grounds.
Chairman of the Sri Lanka Islamic Center, Mohammed Hussain told Daily Mirror that while they will make an urgent appeal to the President and Prime Minister, if necessary they will also go to the OIC and World Muslim Council urging for a suitable land to be allocated.
He said it was disappointing that the groundwater level report conducted by the University of Peradeniya on the Kupiyawatta burial ground was not even tabled at any official discussions and urged for immediate redress. "We will not protest but we appeal the government to reconsider," he said.
The Iranaitivu Island which is located in the Gulf of Mannar is located 10 kilometers away from the mainland and requires a boat to access it. Presently 12 to 15 families are residing on it and it also has a navy facility.
Once the fresh guidelines are issued by the Director General of Health, the navy's assistance will be sought to transport the bodies on to the island from the mainland.
Army Commander General Shavendra Silva said the families residing there will continue and things will be organized once the fresh guidelines are issued by the Health Ministry.
Cabinet Spokesperson, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told Daily Mirror that the idea to select Iranaitivu Island was made by the expert committee, taking into consideration all the scientific criteria as well as the new strains of the COVID-19 virus.
Rambukwella dismissed claims that it was a political decision stating that the decision was made by the experts and not politicians.
He said a special vehicle which will include a container with a freezer, and where the driver's compartment will also be seperate, will be utilized to transport the bodies on the long journey, from hospitals and two family members will be able to attend the funeral and give the victims a dignified burial. All health guidelines issued by the Health Ministry will be followed.
Rambukwella said that all suggestions over the land, which came in from the Muslim community was also taken into consideration.
Meanwhile the inhabitants of Iranaitivu Island will launch a protest on the island today against the government's decision to bury the COVID-19 dead there.(JAMILA HUSAIN)