UNP accuses government of oppressing people of one ethnicity

Ruwan Wijewardene

The United National Party has written to religious leaders on the cremation of those who die due to coronavirus infection against certain religious rituals.

Deputy Leader of the UNP Ruwan Wijewardene has, in a letter to the religious leaders, said that the cremation issue has got internationalised as the government has mismanaged it.

The Deputy Leader says that the end result of this delay is that various forces that seek to discredit Sri Lanka nationally and internationally by exploiting such issues are emerging in various guises to create crises in society.

“Therefore, immediate action should be taken with the intervention of the government to defeat these objectives and to strengthen mutual trust and commitment among the people,” Wijewardene has said.

Following is an English translation of the letter sent to the religious leaders:

On the situation regarding the cremation of the corpses of people who died due to corona infection.

The crisis over the cremation of corpses of Muslims who died of corona infection is now being discussed not only in Sri Lanka but also internationally.

We have decided to send this memorandum to inform you of the UNP’s position on the current situation regarding the corona bodies and to request your immediate intervention in this regard.

The government should take a quick decision on the corpses of people who die due to corona.

We would also like to inform you that it is the position of the UNP that a consensus should be reached after discussions with all communities.

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing the Working Committee Meeting held on the 23rd under his leadership presented the relevant proposal and we would like to inform you that the Working Committee unanimously approved the idea.

Wickremasinghe suggested that it was the right of the relevant communities to decide whether to cremate or bury their dead, and that the government should consult with Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic and Muslim religious leaders before making a decision on the matter.

We are of the view that all people can be addressed only if they are represented by responsible religious leaders representing all religions.

The UNP, as a party that has always given priority to Buddhism and is committed to protecting the rights and values of other religions, and recognizes inter-ethnic reconciliation, looks at this crisis from a broader perspective.

It must be acknowledged that not only Muslims but also Catholics bury their dead. On the other hand, there are occasions when both Buddhists and Hindus bury their dead. There are also times when they cremate corpses. We must recognize that right as well.

In this issue, we are of the stance that “by no means should people be segregated based on race, religion or caste and the real situation that exists must be discussed with religious leaders and no individual or group should be allowed to use such sensitive issues for narrow racist or religious purposes.”

It is also important to look at how Korea, India and Germany have acted in this regard, as recommended by the World Health Organization.

We are of the view that the recommendations made by the health sector should be highly regarded. It is imperative to pay close attention to the needs of the health sector. What needs to be done is to call all the religious leaders and the health authorities and take a quick decision

Accordingly, we propose that the Department of Buddhist Affairs, the Department of Hindu Affairs, the Department of Christian Affairs and the Department of Islamic Cultural Affairs to hold preliminary discussions with the mediation of the Department of Health, and then take steps to hold discussions with religious leaders in coordination with the relevant departments.

The UNP is of the view that instead of negotiation with all parties and reaching a final solution, the government’s procrastination acting unilaterally, rabidly and oppressing people of one ethnicity and allowing this sensitive issue to become a national and international issue, will only indirectly help the forces that are trying to create negative attitudes towards our country in the international arena.

Therefore, we take this opportunity to respectfully request you to intervene in this matter.

(Source: The Island)