OIC Gen Secy Yousef Al Othaimeen – Image credit: Facebook
OIC Gen Secy Yousef Al Othaimeen – Image credit: Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT – The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) raised the issue of Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 cremations at the 46th United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva yesterday.

Speaking at the sixth meeting of the high level segment, OIC Secretary General Yousef Al Othaimeen said the OIC is “concerned with the situation of Muslims in Sri Lanka as they are denied the right to be buried.”

Calling for the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to allow Muslims to bury Muslims who die of COVID-19 to according Islamic rites while adhering to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, Al Othaimeen urged the GoSL to take swift action to guarantee and respect the rights of the country’s Muslim community.

The OIC had last expressed its concern over the burial issue in December last year. The organisation, which has long maintained friendly relations with Sri Lanka, also wrote to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in May last year regarding the issue.

The OIC comprises 57 member states with a collective population of over 1.8 billion as of 2015. The organisation refers to itself as the collective voice of the Muslim world and has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union.

Sri Lanka’s refusal to allow the burials of COVID-19 victims has been controversial both locally and internationally. The government recently back-tracked on an assurance provided by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in parliament, claiming that a decision on allowing burials will depend on the recommendations of an expert committee.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan who is currently on a two-day official visit in Sri Lanka had also welcomed Rajapaksa’s statement. It is unclear at present whether he will raise the matter in his talks with Sri Lanka’s leaders today.

A protest was organised in Colombo coinciding with Khan’s arrival to draw the visiting PM’s attention to the issue. According to Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader MP Rauff Hakeem, the Pakistan prime minister has agreed to meet Sri Lanka’s Muslim MPs before he departs the country today. (Colombo/Feb24/2021)