If you repeat a lie often enough, it will be accepted as truth
Around twenty Muslim families, whose loved ones died after being declared positive for COVID-19, have refused to claim the bodies. The state has borne the expenses and cremated these bodies against the wishes of the families. According to the Muslim faith, cremating a dead body of a Muslim is sacrilegious. Yet the Government of Sri Lanka cremates all those who die after being tested positive for Virus. Burning Muslims without consent and against the wishes of their families has caught the eye of the international media. Almost all of the major international networks have reported on this issue.
The World Health Organization (WHO) allows either burial or cremation of the corpse of a person who dies from the virus. According to pathologists and virologists, there is no possibility of the virus spreading via water from a body that is buried. A number of medical experts in Sri Lanka have expressed the opinion that burial does not contaminate the soil or the water ways and could not lead to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The President, whom the viyathmaga gleefully hailed as the ‘technocratic philosopher king’ does not seem to be swayed by that kind of expert opinion, by the least. If that were the case would it not have been sufficient that Prof. Malik Pieris, a renowned and respected pathologist and virologist and Sri Lankan born, who was the first scientist to isolate the SARS virus and also warned in advance about an outbreak of COVID-19 on a global scale, answers clearly in the on the negative when asked whether burial of corpses could lead to contamination of waterways and soil?
That is not only the opinion of Prof. Malik; any expert on pathology or virology would vouchsafe to the safety of burial. That is what the WHO says. WHO is the World Health Organization, with the middle word being HEALTH! That is the international practice, even in countries where, unlike here thousands are dying daily. It was in April in the UK, that ten Muslims were not only buried, but also next to each other after dying from the virus. Even India, which is being run by a pro-Hindu government which is seen as being hostile to Muslims in general, allows burial of persons who die of COVID-19.
"The WHO allows either burial or cremation of the corpse of a person who dies from the virus. According to pathologists and virologists, there is no possibility of the virus spreading via water from a body that is buried"
Yet the Government seems to be persuaded by some other logic. It is a logic that has nothing to do with science or objectivism or researched and found out truth. Yet who can deny that it is a logic that allowed the present government to come to power? It is something that always triumphs in banana republics like Sri Lanka. It is bigotry, islamophobia, racial disunity and mythology. But it works, does it not?
The entire COVID-19 episode from the start has been a process of fault-finding of the Muslim community. It all started when the Army Commander, who is the ‘boss of the pandemic’, stated on TV that Muslims were being detected from Akurana and Ampara with Corona. It was as early as late March this year, in the wake of the first wave of the pandemic that Shavendra Silva went on national TV and unequivocally connected the spread to Muslims. What happened afterwards is common knowledge. As always, rather than addressing the issue on an objective and fact-based approach, the Sri Lankan society, the majority in particular went head-long into criminalizing the Muslim community for the pandemic.
Then came the Maha Sangha or at least those who are influential with the government and as always, light years away from reality and modernity. They urged that all those who die after being tested positive be cremated as burial could lead to contamination of water. Although there was no scientific proof whatsoever, the government quickly went ahead to ban burials. The result was clear; the religious sentiment of the Muslims and Christians, too, was to be hurt. It was discriminatory and a violation of the fundamental rights of humans. Yet, the Maha Sangha, thought otherwise. So did the military Boss! Of course fundamental rights and civil liberties are not their cup of tea, we acknowledge!
The Health Ministry Technical Committee appointed to look into the issue, after banning burial beforehand, does not have a single virologist in the team. Prof. Tissa Vitarana, on media expressed concern over the state of affairs with the professional qualifications of the committee members. As usual, all his urgings were water on a duck’s back. Not surprisingly, the Committee, after months of being appointed, is yet to come up with a finding. One wonders how long it will take them to come up with something. A gut feeling says very, very long!
The fundamental rights applications field challenging the government decision to cremate people against their wishes and religious dictates, while bodies kept being cremated at the protest of the relatives, was dismissed by the Supreme Court, after taking months. The fact that no reason was given for the decision did not go unnoticed as international media emphasized the lack or reasoning given for the dismissals. Yet, even a five-year-old will not find it difficult to figure out the reasoning!
"So the distance between government policy and scientific truth keeps getting wider as all kinds of myths, voodoos and cranks with ‘Kali potions’ and ‘pirith pots’ replace medical and expert opinion"
In the meantime, criminalization and victimization of the Muslim community continues. In the face of failure of the government to address many burning issues such as economic collapse, a looming debt crisis and a new level of abuse of power and corruption, including pillage of national resources such as forests, reserved land and river banks, this islamophobia serves to distract the attention of the populace. It keeps the support for the government alive, even in the face of abysmal failure. If Joe Biden assumes office as the US President on January 21 next year, one of the main items in their foreign affairs agenda is to revisit the US-sponsored Joint Resolution in the HRC on Sri Lanka, which was ditched during the Trump administration. Once that happens, the anti-minority frenzy is bound to hit a new pitch as a means of maintaining support for the government.
The iron fences surrounding the General Cemetery, Borella are being covered with thousands of white handkerchiefs and ribbons as people from all religions and races, come to protest forced cremation. What triggered this manifestation of public outrage is the forced cremation of Mohamed Shaykh, a 20-day old infant of a Muslim family. The authorities claimed that the infant had been tested positive for COVID-19. The fact that it was only an antigen test and not the more reliable PCR, despite the appeal of the parents and that not even the mother was allowed to be with this toddler has raised many an eyebrow. The innocent toddler died hours after the parents were forced out of hospital, all alone. To put icing on the cake, the parents were forced to agree to have the body cremated. Although the parents had refused to agree to the demand, the infant’s body was cremated by the State.
So the distance between government policy and scientific truth keeps getting wider as all kinds of myths, voodoos and cranks with ‘Kali potions’ and ‘pirith pots’ replace medical and expert opinion. As the regime of Gotabaya Rajapaksa awaits the advent of a bleak 2021, reason and logic are surely going to be replaced by illusion and frenzy.
But it works, does it not? So why bother?