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Politics

Sri Lanka stokes Muslim and Christian ire with COVID burial rules

Rajapaksa's forced cremations of minority victims worsen human rights record

COLOMBO -- Predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka's ultranationalist government is forcing families of the country's Muslim and Christian minorities to abandon their faith-based burial rites for relatives who die of COVID-19 -- consequently inviting fresh international scrutiny of the nation's already troubled human rights record.

As the country's death toll from the pandemic inches toward 200, the government of the hawkish President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is sticking to a policy backed by hard-line allies from the majority Sinhala-Buddhists, the political constituency that helped Rajapaksa secure two thumping electoral mandates over the past year. The official policy is for COVID-19 victims to be swiftly cremated. It has sent religious minorities already grieving for lost kin into deeper anguish.

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