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Jeevan Thondaman Apologizes for Mandatory Cremation Policy Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

April 05, Colombo (LNW): During an Ifthar gathering in Hatton Town on Tuesday (2), Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development Minister Jeevan Thondaman issued an unexpected apology to the Muslim community for the mandatory cremation policy implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic under the previous government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Expressing regret for the distress caused to the Muslim community, Minister Thondaman took responsibility for the policy despite assuming office in January last year. He acknowledged the importance of accountability, regardless of the government in power at the time.

The forced cremation policy, driven by concerns about contaminating water supplies with the COVID-19 virus, has been refuted by new scientific findings. Research led by experts from Sri Jayewardenepura University, supported by the Water Supply Ministry, concluded that there was no risk of groundwater pollution from properly conducted burials during the pandemic. A subsequent review by the Joint Research and Demonstration Centre for Water Technology at Peradeniya University affirmed these findings, highlighting the absence of environmental contamination from burial practices.

The Minister’s apology signals a commitment to evidence-based decision-making and respect for cultural and religious practices. He announced plans to submit a Cabinet Paper, accompanied by the study findings, to formally apologize to the Muslim community for the harm caused by the forced cremation policy. This gesture represents a significant step towards healing the wounds inflicted by divisive policies during the pandemic.

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