COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Sri Lanka on Tuesday as Muslims protested near the president’s office demanding that the government allow people dying from COVID-19 to be buried instead of burned.
Sri Lankan Muslims hope Khan will take up the funeral issue when he meets with his counterparts on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Khan will meet with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his older brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, during his two-day visit.
As Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan’s Muslim-majority, began his visit, about 2,000 protesters gathered near the presidents’ office in Colombo demanding that burials be allowed for Muslims dying from COVID-19.
“He knows the situation and we think he will address this issue with the president and prime minister of Sri Lanka,” said opposition lawmaker Mujibur Rahman.
He said the government continues to challenge funeral calls despite a promise two weeks ago by Mahinda Rajapaksa to allow them. So far, the government has not allowed them.
Khan earlier welcomed Rajapaksas’s security in a tweet.
Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country where it is customary for Buddhists and Hindus, the second largest religious group, to celebrate the dead. Muslims make up about 7% of the country’s 22 million people.
The government has demanded the burning of all people dying from COVID-19, saying the virus in human waste could contaminate groundwater.
Muslims and non-Muslims have been protesting the rule over the past year, calling it unscientific and insensitive to Muslim religious beliefs. The United Nations and the United States have also raised concerns with the government.
The World Health Organization and Sri Lankan medical teams have said COVID-19 victims could be buried or cremated.
Sri Lanka has reported 80,516 cases of coronavirus, including 450 deaths.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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